The Ford Model T was the automobile that started it all. Mass produced, easily maintained and affordable, it was the spark plug that ignited America’s car culture. Chugging down Congress Street near the library one recent afternoon, rattling like a kerosene generator, you’d never know it. Behind the wheel, Dex Doucet of Lafayette ignores the stares and glances of appreciation as the ’23 Tin Lizzie, tiny in comparison to the SUVs sulking nearby, moves merrily along at about 25 mph. Doucet is one of a handful of antique car enthusiasts in the Acadiana area. You can also find them on the Internet, digital aggregations of like-minded people who traffic in anecdotes, tips, pistons and clutches — tinkerers who manage to keep alive very old cars and the era they represent. Antique in this case is also a pun — many in this demographic belong to the AARP set, people with the time and disposable income to devote to maintaining the venerable vehicles.
“You spend as much time wrenching on them as you do riding,” admits Doucet, who also enjoys scraping Klezmer tunes off an old fiddle when he’s not replacing gaskets. In truth, it’s inaccurate to call Doucet’s Ford a Model T. Strictly speaking it’s a mish-mash of early Fords. Although it has the character of the T, Dr. Frankenstein’s hand is evident.
The 35-year-old machinist says he got his love of old automobiles, and much of the knowledge on how to maintain them, from his father, Kermit Doucet, a Lafayette lawyer who passed away 11 years ago and passed down to Doucet a 1922 Chevrolet touring car. It’s a gem of ride and the car Doucet is most proud of, in part because there are far fewer antique Chevys on the roads; there were far fewer produced, so getting parts can be tricky.
Another factor in an old car’s durability relates, believe it or not, to wood. Early manufacturers more or less wed the horse-drawn buggy to the internal combustion engine — a wood frame covered in sheet metal. “Henry Ford got away from using wood in the manufacturing of the cars before everybody else and instead he used steel,” Doucet explains, “so they hold up better.”
Doucet’s Ford remains a work in progress, but he’s turned nary a ratchet on the Chevy in seven years. He puts no more than a few hundred miles a year on them — they are very old cars after all. And you’re not likely to spot them in a drag race; the Chevy’s top speed, according to Doucet: “About 40, with no head wind.”
To see a nice collection of antique automobiles from around Acadiana, head over to Dwyer’s Café in downtown Lafayette between 7:30 and 9 a.m. on Saturdays when a loosely knit club of enthusiasts gathers for breakfast, tire kicking and tale swapping.
New menu items ready for the Lenten season
The Cane Fire Film Series screens “MaidenTrip” on Monday, March 10, at the AcA.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The vibe of the tribe done modern
The Louisiana Workforce Commission said Friday that initial claims rose to 2,125 from the previous week's total of 1,964. There were 2,887 initial claims during the comparable week in 2013.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, March 07, 2014:
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
She’s the daughter of the legendary Johnny Cash, but she’s been a gifted artist in her own right for three decades, and she’s coming to Lafayette.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Prepare yourselves for sun
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
Due to the chaos of Mardi Gras and the weather, the entry deadline for this year's INDesign Awards has been extended by one week.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
Queen Evangline and King Gabriel ruled Tuesday night
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
IND Style does Gabriel
Newsy bits for the fam
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.