Some people catch the collectible antique car bug, and then there’s Bill Downs of Big Bear Lake who caught the bug three times. Downs owns three Model Ts — a blue horseless carriage Tour About from 1911, a 1915 red convertible and his first, a 1923 black Model T he bought in 1957.
The black Model T sports a “California or Bust” canvas banner on the back. A rolled carpet and a blanket are tied to the running board, and an evaporative water bag swings from the radiator.
“When I go to a Route 66 museum, I go full boat,” Downs said. “I have a mattress (to put on top of the car.) I have stuffed chickens, all kinds of stuff. A lot of times I leave it looking cruddy like this because it’s a true Route 66 car.”
In fact, Downs met the original owner who drove the car to California from Topeka, Kansas, during the Great Depression. The owner sold the car for $5 to Downs’ uncle, who cut the car up and modified it for a parade in Redlands. He attached papier-mache horses to a shaft so it looked like bucking horses were drawing the car.
Downs bought the car from his uncle and restored it so he could drive it to high school. It was tough to find parts in 1957. “It took me about a year, playing around,” Downs said.
Next, Downs purchased a blue Tour About in 1990. He put on new fenders, a new radiator, a new rear end and straightened the body — it was crooked on the frame. Downs painted over the metallic purple to its original blue.
When Ford made 10 cars a day, all the cars were hand brush-painted. “That’s why…
click here to read more.