HICKORY CORNERS, Mich. -- If you're over 16 years old, it's likely you've been through drivers training, but you've probably never experienced a drivers ed like this. The Gilmore Car Museum is teaching people how to drive a bit of Michigan history: the Ford Model T.
The car is operated using three foot pedals, a hand lever, and two hand controls on the steering wheel, one of which is the gas.
If you want to give it a try, you can, at a place tucked away where you'd least expect. The Gilmore Car Museum is a couple miles north of Gull Lake, a gem hidden among the cornfields where the past meets the present.
That's why Jay Follis, marketing director of the museum, loves his job. And telling stories. And for Follis, a story isn't a good story unless it's about cars.
"The Model T was an automobile in the early part of the auto industry," Follis said. "Henry Ford started in 1903; by 1908 he created a car that was very inexpensive, very easy to operate, and designed for the everyman."
The museum houses one of North America's largest collections of classic and vintage cars. More than 500, in fact.
Many of those are Model T's, the car Follis says changed the world.
"That’s when people started traveling. They would leave where they lived. They could take a job someplace, because now they could drive 20 miles to work."
Henry Ford started manufacturing the model T in 1908, continuing until 1927. It was unlike any car made today. The gas (accelerator) is on the steering wheel, there are three pedals, one to go backwards, one forwards (clutch), one to brake. Keep in mind, there's no radio, no AC, no heat, no odometer.
Follis says anyone could get into a Model T and learn how to drive it. So of course, I had to give it a try.
I drove a 1919 Model T Depot Hack. I stalled a few times and nearly threw my photographer Eric Brefka off the back of the car, but other than that, it was great.
Instructors at the Gilmore Car Museum are teaching people to drive the Model T. The Model T driving school first got it's start nine years ago. Since then, instructors have taught more than 1,500 people, ranging from age 16 to 93.
"In this class, you’re not just going to learn how to drive the car, you’re going to learn why it was important, and we’re going to get you behind, usually, three different cars," Follis said.
Classes are open to all licensed drivers, but capacity is limited. Classes begin in May and go throughout the summer. There are 22 classes total at a cost of $105. A few are already sold out.