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.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Four hours after inviting supporters to a rally with Sen. Marco Rubio, Bill Cassidy claimed that Mary Landrieu “voted against stopping executive amnesty.”
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.
Money from the first and only settlement so far in a Louisiana flood board's lawsuit against dozens of energy companies will be placed in a special account dedicated to coastal restoration.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Ten departing CEOs rake in $430 million; profile of FSU gunman emerges; Buffalo's weather woes and more national and international news for Friday, November 21, 2014.
The Ethics Board gives the lame duck Youngsville mayor permission to offer a sweet parting gift to the community he’s presided over for three terms.
Carencro ranch style home or three bedroom traditional in St. Martinville
The money came through a general obligation bond sale Thursday.
A legend in the Acadiana Oil Patch, Comeaux died Monday, Nov. 17.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
With a growing number of alleged sexual assault victims coming out against Bill Cosby in recent weeks, upcoming projects have been canned by NBC and Netflix, but that won’t affect the once-loved comedian and actor’s scheduled performance in Lafayette.
The Baltimore Ravens' retooled secondary had no trouble against a rookie quarterback at home. This week, however, their task is far more challenging: stopping Drew Brees on the road in New Orleans.
Add Texas Gov. Rick Perry's name to the list of possible Republican presidential candidates flooding the campaign trail for GOP Senate candidate Bill Cassidy.
Gov. Bobby Jindal is in Florida this week with his fellow Republican governors for another gripe session aimed at their favorite target, the president, this time taking aim at his immigration plans.
Early voting for the runoff is shortened by two days because of the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Coach Don” Gagnard is running for school board. Today he offers his critique of the socioeconomic relationship between government subsidies and obesity.
BP is heading to a federal appeals court in its effort to oust the administrator of damage settlement claims arising from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Former Le Rosier chef who cooked at the James Beard House and was named one of the “Best New Chefs in America” by Food & Wine magazine in 1995 was 48.
It was only a few months ago when the LPSB held the school system’s purse strings with a death grip, but oh how board President Hunter Beasley's demeanor seems to be changing with the ouster of Superintendent Pat Cooper.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
Pat Cooper is contesting his termination by the LPSB, filing a petition Tuesday that calls the recent decision “arbitrary and capricious.”
A look at the numbers highlights the challenge facing Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu as she tries to win a fourth term in a Dec. 6 runoff against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy.
Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is promising the new Republican majority will quickly resurrect Keystone XL pipeline legislation killed by Democrats, potentially setting up an early 2015 veto confrontation with President Barack Obama.
The 59-41 Senate vote was one shy short of the 60 needed to clear the House-passed measure.
Spot bonuses to employees who go above and beyond on projects one of several reasons national mag calls BR-based biz bank a cool place to work.
The Director Search Committee interviewed the five men still in the running via video last week and is set to trim the field this week.
A national animal rights group has been rebuffed by a Baton Rouge district court judge, although the group might still get its day in court.
Telecom’s decision to halt deployment to more than 100 cities while it awaits net-neutrality rules appears to be little more than a temper tantrum.