Vehicles with History
Historic Vehicle Association Road Trip Century Celebration Tour
The Historic Vehicle Association (HVA) is celebrating America’s Road Trip Century by following Edsel Ford’s epic 1915 journey from Detroit to San Francisco. The HVA will be driving a 1915 Ford Model T that is similar to the car Edsel Ford drove. The event incorporates the centennial celebrations of the Ford Estate at Fair Lane and Panama-Pacific International Exposition the historic departure and destination points for Edsel Ford’s trip. Follow the trip at drivehistory.org.
“The purpose of the trip is to elevate national awareness to the importance of our automotive heritage and how it helped shape American culture,” said HVA President, Mark Gessler. “Over the last century the road trip became an expression of American lifestyle and the Ford Model T helped make it possible for most Americans. With this trip, we hope to celebrate how it all began with developing roadways, the Model T and youthful adventure.”
In the summer of 1915, 21-year-old Edsel Ford and six boyhood friends were among the thousands of Americans that took to the road to visit the west and the world’s fair exposition in San Francisco. As war was raging in Europe, Americans looked west for travel. Early cross-country road systems like the Lincoln Highway and the National Old Trails Highway were becoming drivable and the U.S. Department of Interior was promoting travel to “See America First.” The year 1915 was the dawn of American road trip century.
There were many well-publicized trips such as Emily Post’s New York to San Francisco trip for Collier’s Weekly, and Packard Motor Company President Henry Joy’s trip from Detroit to San Francisco to promote the new Lincoln Highway. The Edsel Ford trip is special because it is one of the best-documented road trips that was taken purely for pleasure and provides a rare glimpse into the true conditions endured on early road trips.
Edsel Ford and his friends kept a detailed log of their trip and took hundreds of photographs. After the trip Edsel Ford created a “souvenir” photo book to commemorate the journey for each of the participants. The HVA has worked together with the Antique Automobile Club of America Library (Hershey, Pa.) to share this unique story with America based on one of the original Edsel Ford souvenir books that was donated to the library collection.
The 1915 Ford Model T Touring driven by Edsel Ford is unfortunately not known to exist. The HVA staff will drive a similar 1915 Ford Model T Touring that was recently acquired from the Leon Brown family estate (Bethesda, Md.). D.L. George Historic Motor Cars (Cochranville, Pa.) donated their time and expertise to prepare the car for the 3,500-mile trip. With a top speed of 35 miles an hour, the HVA hopes to cover 150 to 250 miles per day much like Edsel Ford did 100 years ago.
Departure will begin at the Henry Ford Estate at Fair Lane and the annual Ford Product Development Truck and Car Show (Dearborn, Mich.). In 1915 the Henry Ford Estate at Fair Lane was under construction when Henry and Clara Ford waved goodbye as their young son and his friends departed the farm to travel to California. “Today’s event is a unique opportunity to celebrate the preservation efforts underway at the historic Fair Lane property and the impact of the Ford Model T on American culture,” said Mark Heppner, Vice President, Historic Resources at the Henry Ford Estates.
The HVA road trip will end in San Francisco at the Palace of Fine Arts originally built for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (PPIE). Back in 1915, the Ford Motor Company had one of the most popular exhibits at the fair – a working Model T assembly line that produced about 18 cars each afternoon. Over 4,000 1915 Ford Model Ts were produced at the exhibition but none are known to exist.
“The Historic Vehicle Association is an official partner of the Centennial of San Francisco’s Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE100) that commemorates the PPIE’s historical significance and to reflect on its legacy, then, now and in the future,” said Adam Hirschfelder, Director, Strategic Initiatives for California Historical Society.