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Automotive Guide
Serving the tri-county area of McLeod, Wright, and western Carver

Weber's lifelong 'tinkering' came in handy with his Model T

By Julie Yurek
Staff Writer

When Charles Weber of Winsted brought home his latest purchase seven years ago, his wife, Rosemary, was not angry in the least, considering it was an unplanned buy.

The purchase was a 1921 Ford Model T, which Weber bought at an auction at Fred Radde and Sons in New Germany earlier that day.

Weber and his son, Mike, went to the auction to look at a tractor and loader, Weber said.

But when that black Model T was rolled out, Weber knew he wanted it. However, he figured it would go for a lot of money.

He threw in a bid, and only one other man bid against him, allowing Weber to purchase the truck for well below what he thought it would go for, he said.

The truck wasn't listed on the auction list advertisement, so that's probably why there weren't more bidders present, he said.

"Rosemary liked it right away ­ it ran, which helped," Weber said. "It ran beautifully. We fell in love with it."

For three years, Weber, his sons, and some of his brothers worked on restoring the truck until it was finished.

Weber has always had a "thing" for anything mechanical, he said. He likes to tinker with things, he added.

"I've always done my own repairs," he said.

Today, the Webers drive in the Winsted Festival Parade in Augusta and can be seen tootling around the countryside or to church in the Model T during good weather.

The four-cylinder, 20 horsepower semi-automatic Model T only goes about 25-miles-per-hour, so they probably won't be traveling on any highways anytime soon.

Although the engine was in great shape when Weber bought it, it was a different story with the body. When Weber took out the bench seat in the cab, the whole cab leaned over. Termites had "done a number" to the wooden frame, Weber said. The seat acted as a brace.

Weber researched photos of how Model Ts looked. He also received advice from the late Ted Fasching of Winsted, who had many books and photos of Model Ts. "He'd answer questions I had," Weber said.

Weber started the restoration by stripping the truck down to the frame, cleaning and wire brushing the remaining useable parts, repainting the frame, building a new firewall out of plywood, rebuilding the cab, putting in an exhaust and mufflers, installing windows, upholstering and finishing the inside of the cab, and rebuilding the box.

The box required a lot of labor. The wood had to be planed, tongued, grooved, and sanded. When it was all done, it took all five of Weber's sons to put the box on the truck, he said.

The original box was an enclosed grain box, but the Webers wanted it open with the intent of driving it in parades, Weber said.

Finding some of the parts was a scavenger hunt. It took a year to find the right size tires, however, part of that time commitment was due to the way the tires are sized.

It says "33 inches by five" on the tire. Weber thought that the size of the rim was 33 x 5, he said.

It turned out that 33 was the length of the tire from top to bottom, and to figure out the rim size, five inches needed to be subtracted from both the top and bottom, leaving a rim size of 23 inches.

Another part that forced Weber to get creative was the brake shoes. He took a 1963 brake shoe and narrowed it down a quarter inch. "It fit perfectly," he said.

Weber had difficulty finding an original starter and generator for the truck, but his search ended with a fellow in Young America who's hobby is Model Ts, Weber said.

A man from Howard Lake painted the license plate, which turned out to be a more difficult project than was intended. It was very hard to mix the right blue. Finally, upon Weber's suggestion, a little silver was added and the original blue was created.

He also replaced the windows with safety glass, and the upholstery was done by a lady near Hutchinson.

The few items that Weber changed from the original, besides the glass and upholstery, was the dashboard. The original dash was "crude looking," he said. Instead, Weber made a curved dash to give it a nicer look.

To make the wood bend, he put it into boiling water and formed it after he took it out of the water. "It was a challenge, but not hard to do. It took time," Weber said.

The cab is made almost entirely of wood, except the door panel, which is metal, he said.

Although Weber tried to keep the vehicle as original as possible, he did differ from the original paint scheme when it came time to paint the truck. He kept the engine and cab black, but decided to leave the box and a panel on each side of the cab wood.

His brother, Mark, who lives near Belgrade, painted the truck. "I don't know how he does it," Weber said about his brother.

Mark is a perfectionist when it comes to autobody painting, Weber said. He did a great job, he added.

Weber may also replace the writing that was on the doors of the cab when he bought it, "Valley City Produce."

Weber kept the kerosene lights on the truck, giving it a nostalgic feel. He's never used them. The truck also has electric lights.

Even though there are hours and hours of labor invested into the truck, it was enjoyable, Weber said. n

Automotive Guide
Published October 2003

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