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.
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Friday, April 18, 2014:
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
C & C Technologies, HIT Fitness, R3 Sciences, the Acadiana Symphony Association and the United Way of Acadiana recognized for innovation.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
The Acadiana Symphony Orchestra has decided to end its traditional Independence Day spectacular known as Red White & Boom.
Under the deal, Teche shareholders would get 1.162 shares of IberiaBank for each share of Teche stock.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The must have pieces this season
Dave Perkins, LCG Comp Plan honored along with local architects and designers at the 2014 INDesign Awards
Greg Manuel’s Lafayette-based residential development company is taking advantage of exponential industrial growth in Lake Charles.
Longtime Lafayette retailer ventures online.
It’s not how aggressive or conservative you are — it’s planning for risk that matters most.
Thanks to cutting-edge digital technology, more and more consumers are banking on ATMs and mobile phones.
Regional bank bids farewell to Downtown May 30
ABiz takes a look back at the most noteworthy moments for the local banking industry over the last year.
Most experts say short-term interest rates will be unchanged through 2014, but long-term rates are inching up.
Largest recruitment event in Acadiana returns May 21 to the Cajundome Convention Center
A lawyer’s ad should only be a starting point, as there is much more to consider when seeking quality representation.
Thanks to the inaugural 2012 INNOV8, a design for lifting heavy objects was brought to market.
The annual juried competition recognizes excellence in architecture, interior design and historic preservation in Lafayette and the five surrounding parishes.
Cypress Bayou GM hosts open house.
New hires, promotions, transfers in Acadiana business
The scion of a landmark Four Corners restaurant climbs back into Lafayette’s culinary scene as franchisee for a popular burger chain.