Road Trip Century: Drivers to Retrace Edsel Ford’s 1915 Cross-Country Journey in Model T

1915-Ford-Model-T-Touring-National-Historic-Road“Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don’t be sorry.”

-— Jack Kerouac, On The Road

While the automobile may have spent the better part of the last century as an avatar for hope and a better tomorrow, it’s the road trip that serves as the catalyst for adventure and freedom. Back in 1915, nobody knew this better than a then 21-year-old Edsel Ford, who, along with a group of like-minded young men, all on the cusp of adulthood, saddled up in one of his pappy’s Model T touring cars for a road trip from Detroit to San Francisco. (Cadillac and Stutz vehicles accompanied the T, driven by some of Edsel’s similarly privileged peers.) In addition to sowing their wild oats, Edsel and company had semiprofessional business at hand, in the form of attending the San Francisco–based Panama-Pacific International Exhibition (PPIE)—the word’s fair held in conjunction with the celebration of the opening of the Panama Canal—where Ford exhibits would go on to take several top awards, lending an air of semilegitimacy to the proceedings.


“The Americans have found the healing of God in a variety of things, the most pleasant of which is probably automobile drives.” — William Saroyan, Short Drive, Sweet Chariot

In a build-up to the PPIE, public campaigns encouraged people to take to the still-emerging road system by automobile to “See America First.” Many heeded the call, including Emily Post, who traveled in a chauffeured vehicle, and Packard president Henry Joy. As such, the Historic Vehicle Association (HVA) identifies the year 1915 as the beginning of the “The Road Trip Century.” From that point on, the road trip wove itself into the fabric of American culture, the automobile offering travelers freedom to move at their own pace and determine destinations on a whim. 1915 Ford Model T Touring Road Trip Century

“That’s why I love road trips, dude. It’s like doing something without actually doing anything.”— John Green, An Abundance of Katherines

To mark the 100th anniversary of the Road Trip Century, members of the Historic Vehicle Association are re-creating the cross-country feat in a restored 1915 Ford Model T Touring, the same model Edsel Ford employed in his excellent adventure. HVA president Mark Gessler and HVA historian Casey Maxon are slated for the majority of the wheel time in the Model T. Through the aid of Edsel’s diary, the team has been able to largely reconstruct the route, with stops in Indianapolis, Saint Louis, Kansas City, Albuquerque, the Grand Canyon, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

No strangers to long-distance travel in Mr. Ford’s legendary T, we here at C/D wish them the best, and we kindly remind them to pack plenty of lip balm and sunscreen. Any concerns regarding their lack of comfort may be tempered by the fact that a 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost convertible will be along for the entire journey, the pair bracketing the Road Trip Century symbolically and chronologically. For an illustration of how far the four-cylinder engine has come in the last 100 years, consider that the 2.9-liter unit in the Model T produces just 20 horsepower, while the turbocharged four in the Mustang cranks out 230 ponies from just 2.3 liters—that’s an increase of approximately 2.9 horsepower per year. Suspension technology didn’t develop as rapidly, with the Mustang content to ride through its first fifty years (1999–2004 Mustang SVT Cobra aside) on a longitudinally mounted rear leaf-spring/solid-axle setup that shares more than a passing resemblance with the transversely mounted leaf springs that underpin the Model T. The 2015 Stang rides on an all-new IRS setup.  Road Trip of the Century

“Road trip!” — Boone and Otter, Faber College, Undecided

The whole shebang departed from Henry Ford’s Fair Lane Estate in Dearborn, Michigan, on Friday, July 17, the very same spot Edsel and his pals kicked off their epic journey a century ago. Scheduled to conclude in San Francisco on August 18, the route will cover 3565 miles, with numerous stops of interest scheduled along the way. Day one concluded in Auburn, Indiana, at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, after a relatively short 156-mile jaunt with the T averaging 25-to-35 mph; day two had the gang making a 164-mile run to Indianapolis where they visited the Speedway; day three had them overnighting in Saint Louis after covering 260 miles.

We’ve posted the team’s itinerary below, and from here on out C/D be updating the journey on a regular basis with exclusive photographs and anecdotes from the road, so check back often.1915-Ford-Model-T-Touring-Indianapolis-Motor-Speedway

“Without the automobile and road trips, the American dream would be more of a nightmare.” ­— Us, Car and Driver

Day 1: 7/17 Dearborn, MI to Auburn, IN   147 miles

Day 2: 7/18 Auburn, IN to Indianapolis, IN   151 miles

Day 3: 7/19 Indianapolis, IN to St. Louis, MO   264 miles

Day 4: 7/20 St. Louis, MO to Jefferson City, MO   127 miles

Day 5: 7/21 Jefferson City, MO to Kansas City, MO   143 miles

Day 6: 7/22 Kansas City, MO to McPherson, KS   235 miles

Day 7: 7/23 McPherson, KS   zero miles (rest/repair day)

Day 8: 7/24 McPherson, KS to Dodge City, KS   160 miles

Day 9: 7/25 Dodge City, KS to La Junta, CO   210 miles

Day 10: 7/26 La Junta, CO to Colorado Springs, CO   109 miles

Day 11: 7/27 Colorado Springs, CO  zero miles (rest/repair day)

Day 12: 7/28 Colorado Springs, CO to Trinidad, CO   168 miles

Day 13: 7/29 Trinidad, CO to Las Vegas, NM   194 miles

Day 14: 7/30 Las Vegas, NM to Santa Fe, NM   137 miles

Day 15: 7/31 Santa Fe, NM to Albuquerque, NM

Day 16: 8/1 Albuquerque, NM to Chambers, AZ   199 miles

Day 17: 8/2 Chambers, AZ to Flagstaff, AZ   137 miles

Day 18: 8/3 Flagstaff, AZ to Grand Canyon, AZ   79 miles

Day 19: 8/4 Grand Canyon, AZ to Kingman, AZ   156 miles

Day 20: 8/5 Kingman, AZ to Barstow, CA   163 miles

Day 21: 8/6 Barstow, CA to Los Angeles, CA   190 miles

Day 22: 8/7 Los Angeles, CA  zero miles (rest/repair day)

Day 23: 8/8 Los Angeles, CA to Pismo Beach, CA  210 miles

Day 24: 8/9 Pismo Beach to Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA   144 miles

Day 25: 8/10 Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA

Day 26: 8/11 Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA

Day 27: 8/12 Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA

Day 28: 8/13 Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA

Day 29: 8/14 The Quail

Day 30: 8/15 Monterey Motorsports Reunion

Day 31: 8/16 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance

Day 32: 8/17 Stanford University

Day 33: 8/18 San Francisco, CA/PPIE

Day 34: 8/19 San Francisco, CA/PPIE

*Note: Travel distances listed here are pre-departure estimates. We’ll have actual mileage figures in the updates whenever available.


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