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Nearly 50 classic cars expected this weekend
It was a hobby they stumbled upon.
Gary Ebbert and his wife, Kathleen, were vacationing more than two decades ago when they decided to stop at an antique car museum in Montana that featured several Model T vehicles.
"It looked like fun," he said.
The Ebberts purchased their first Model T in 1990 and have become such huge fans of the automobile that they are hosting the 34th annual Can-Am Model T Tour, which began Thursday and runs through Sunday, in collaboration with the Kitsap Peninsula Model T Club. The cars will be stationed at the Baymont Inn & Suites on Kitsap Way in Bremerton when they are not touring on local roads.
Ebbert said the automobiles always come with their admirers.
"An older guy will say that he learned to drive on this," he said. "Others will say they had a relative that had one."
The Model T was the first low-priced car to introduced motoring to the masses shortly after the turn of the 20th Century. Ford produced 15 million "Tin Lizzies" between September 1908 and October 1927. It is called the most influential car of the 20th Century.
While the event began Thursday, the Model T's will not be on the road until 8:30 a.m. today when they embark on a 120-mile back roads venture to Port Townsend before the fleet — Ebbert said there will be a record 48 drivers from the United States and Canada — before they return to the Baymont that evening.
He believes more people are collecting and displaying their cars because of an abundance of original and remanufactured parts available for them.
"It's just an opportunity for the guys to get their cars out," he said.
The Model T's then will leave at 9 a.m. Saturday and travel the back roads to Keyport Underwater Museum when it opens an hour later. They then will leave for Christian Worship Center at Camp Union, where they will gather for lunch around noon.
Saturday's roundtrip tour is 75 miles.
The tour rotates each year between the United States and Canada. Ebbert said the drivers are evenly divided between both countries.
He will have two of his six running Model T's on tour. Ebbert will drive his 1915 Model T "because it is our most dependable," while the '23 will be loaned to a Canadian friend.
In addition to this event, Ebbert has driven his '15 Model T in various other events, including Fathoms o'Fun. The most notable was the 100th-year anniversary of the 1909 New York to Seattle Ocean to Ocean Endurance Race. Ebbert, who lives on a 35-acre ranch in South Kitsap near Trophy Lake Golf & Casting, was one of 54 drivers — all states were represented — in the event.
The Ebberts towed the Model T behind their RV to West Point, N.Y., where the race began. The route was different from the original 4,106-mile course because many of the old roads no longer exist.
Along the way they had stops in Dearborn, Mich., the home of The Henry Ford Museum, and traveled along sections of the Historic Route 66. The couple used a GPS, but Ebbert insists on maintaining as much of the automobile's original composition as possible with the exception of replacing the windshields in all of them for safety reasons. That means the '15 still reaches a top speed of about 40 mph.
Ebbert, 74, owns 10 that range from 1909-27. Another that Ebbert believes is from '13 rests on the hillside near the entrance to their ranch as "art." In addition to those that are running, Ebbert has four in his oversized garage in need of restoration.
"We have other cars that need to be put together yet," he said. "We've got all of the Model T work ahead of us that we need."
Ebbert, who worked as a rigger at Keyport before he retired, is not complaining about this line of work, though.
"I have no plans to stop," he said. "This is what keeps me going."