Gilmore Car Museum Offers Very Unique Driving Experience

Posted on April 29th, 2016

Imagine your next car without a gas pedal, fuel gauge or windshield wipers. No, it’s not the latest version of the Google self-driving car nor the newest model Tesla electric car.

It’s technology that was introduced by Henry Ford more than 100 years ago on the Ford Model T.

And you can learn to drive one at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, MI just 20 minutes northeast of Kalamazoo.

“Think of it as going back to driver’s training—old school that is!” states Museum spokesman Jay Follis.

Follis explains that students are put behind the wheel of an authentic Model T Ford right out of the Museum’s collection and drive within the historic campus.

Model T fleetThe Model T is controlled by three pedals on the floor, a handle beside the seat and two small levers on the steering wheel. The only fuel gauge was a wooden ruler you’d place into the gas tank—most often located under the driver’s seat. A hand operated windshield wiper wasn’t made standard until 1925. Oh, don’t forget the crank out front for starting the engine!

The Gilmore Car Museum, North America’s Largest Auto Museum, has offered Model T driving courses to the public for nearly a decade and each of the dates typically sell out quickly.

In celebration of the Gilmore Car Museum’s 50th anniversary and with the support of AAA, which marks their 100th year in Michigan, several additional classes have been added bringing the total to 20 for the 2016 season.

Henry Ford introduced the Model T as a sturdy, low-priced car for the “everyman” in 1908, and produced it with very few changes until 1927. It became affectionately known as the “Tin Lizzie,” and was soon chugging off the assembly line and into history. More than 15 million were sold, making the Model T the longest production run of any single model automobile, apart from the Volkswagen Beetle.

The Model T Ford “revolutionized transportation in America. Changing the way Americans live, work and travel,” declares The History Channel website.

While the cars themselves may appear very simplistic by today’s standards, they do hold a challenge for drivers of modern cars.

Think you’re up for the challenge? If so, you’re in good company. Most antique car enthusiasts have never driven a Model T and most students are perplexed by the three pedals and the hand controls until they begin actually driving one.

Sound like a fun and interesting experience?  The Gilmore Car Museum has taken the rare step of allowing any licensed driver, sixteen years or older, the opportunity to get behind the wheel of these authentic vehicles normally only seen on static display.

Participants can sign up online or call the museum directly at 269-671-5089 to attend one of the 20 classes offered.

Each session is taught by a handful of long-time Model T owners and enthusiasts and includes practice drives in genuine Model T Fords around the Museum’s three miles of paved roadway.  Museum historians provide a bit of history on Henry Ford, the early Ford Motor Company, and up close inspections of various Model Ts during the course’s special guided tour.

The cost of this “old school” driver’s training is only $105.00 per student or $95.00 per student for Museum members and makes an unique gift. After successfully completing a road test in an authentic Ford Model T, each student will be presented with a Certificate of Completion and souvenir booklet. Class size is limited and they sell out quickly so make sure to visit www.GilmoreCarMuseum.org or call the Museum at 269-671-5089 to reserve your spot today.