See more of the story

The Ford Model T, the world's first affordable car, is the most influential auto in history. It helped create America's middle class and suburbs and indelibly altered our landscape. So, as the best-selling car model for most of the automobile's history, it's not surprising that three area clubs are devoted to "tin lizzies," with another into Model T street rods.

The T Totalers, a chapter of Model T Ford Club International, is a club interested in restoring and driving Model Ts. Some 250 members strong, most in the Twin Cities, the 25-year-old club has helped put on a Model T show since 1991. (This year's is at the Dakota County Fairgrounds in Farmington on June 14.) The club also sponsors one or two driving tours per month in nice weather and offers seminars and work meetings in the winter so members can help each other fix and tune their cars.

Club members, many with several Model Ts, like the cars because they're different mechanically than modern cars and because they never fail to draw a crowd. Members also like driving the cars, even the ones without tops or windows.

Past club president and current secretary Monty Notts has had a 1923 Touring Car since 1978 and also has a 1915 pickup. Though he says Model Ts are like "everybody's cranky uncle," he likes their differences and how easy they are to work on. He says you can fill loose joints with dented coins, for example. And, because a Model T has no gas pedal, setting its gas lever gives what Notts describes as "the first cruise control." A firm believer in restoration, he says you "destroy the Model T's uniqueness when you remove the differences."

Jim Perry was a Ford Model A restorer and got a T to see how different it was. After selling it, he stayed in the club because he liked the members. But he couldn't resist the lure of a 1920 Center Door. He had to machine the head to add 1.5 horsepower (to 20 hp) so his heavier car could keep up with other Ts, which top out around 45 mph but are comfortable at 25-30.

Mark Fleischhacker also owns a Center Door, as well as a 1915 Roadster that his daughter helped him restore and a 1914 Speedster he and his son built from parts. He likes ferrying newlyweds at weddings in his Center Door to raise funds for two Model T clubs. He and his family have attended 18 national club driving tours, including the one the T Totalers hosted in 1999. Interested in early cars since he was a teen, the company executive believes in "restoring the cars to drive them and share them with the public."

For more on the club, call 763-560-9478 or e-mail