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.
State Rep. Joel Robideaux, R-Lafayette, surprised few in the Hub City Wednesday afternoon when he made (semi) official what most of us have known for months: He is running to replace Joey Durel as city-parish president.
Two bedroom town home or three bedroom contemporary home
Let the party begin
Louisiana's first black Republican state senator since Reconstruction — who was a Republican before he was a Democrat before he was a Republican again — is accusing Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu of using the black community for votes and providing nothing in return.
LSU's governing board has backed new hospital privatization contracts that give hospital managers greater ease to leave the deal and fewer restrictions about must-have services.
Rachel Hector returns home to cultivate a generation of yoga instructors.
Acadiana's nightlife guide.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is courting young voters in several appearances across Louisiana this week, talking about her support for legislation that could lower students' college costs.
It is distinctly possible control of the U.S. Senate will hinge on Louisiana, which is why, during the last several months, outside groups have made this the most expensive election in Louisiana history.
Coton de tulear joins Westminster; Paypal splitting from Ebay; first US Ebola diagnosis and more national and international news for Wednesday, October 1, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
A constellation of South Louisiana musical stars descends on Parc Sans Souci to honor an ailing David Egan.
INDStyle Awards 2014 was one for the books; the American Cancer Society took over The Victorian's big tent; and the battle of the sexes was alive and well for Walk a Runway's Christmas fundraiser.
The Acadiana Symphony Orchestra teams up with choreographer Clare Cook for a modern take on a Stravinsky classic.
Local food pantries begin seasonal drives
A girl's best fashion friend
Stage 4 vet takes on cancer and reminds us all what it really means to get involved.
Creative living flourishes at Downtown’s artist hub
Four bedroom cottage or four bedroom traditional
Bold looks for fall define INDStyle Awards 2014
Statement pieces for the season
The gents venture out
Project Front Yard has been launched to help us change our image and our habits.
Alleged victim is a Navy vet with brain trauma resulting from a car accident three decades ago.
Is Mary fading as Vitter solidifies his lock on the fourth floor?
Richard Buswell was sentenced Tuesday to more than 10 years in prison for his role in an investment scheme that defrauded his clients of more than $6 million.
The Latin Music Festival returns to Parc International this Saturday, Oct. 4, from noon to 10 p.m.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration has renegotiated contracts for six LSU hospital privatization deals, hoping to reach a compromise with federal health officials that will keep Medicaid dollars flowing to the privatized patient services.
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is defending her record on gun rights, seeking to rebut sharp criticism from the NRA in a state where the right to bear arms is given special constitutional protection.