By E.K. Williams

Henry Ford Flivver, vintage 1926(?). Open black touring car, canvas top, isinglass side attachments.

What I remember:

  • Wooden spoke wheels, tube-tires about 3-1/2” tube diameter, inside wheel diameter maybe 26 inches
  • Driver controls: three-position ignition switch – “off,” “on,” “mag” [nito]
  • Three foot-control pedals: “low,” “reverse,” and “brake” (also a hand brake)
  • No clutch or gearshift lever
  • Two small levers on the steering column; on the left, “spark-advance/retreat”; on the right, “throttle”
  • Instrument panel: a needle gauge to indicate “charge/discharge”
  • Headlight on/off switch mounted (I think) on the dashboard

Purchasing the car was a huge family decision – even a 7-year-old could tell.  Preceded by unusually quiet, thoughtful conversations often requiring scrutiny of penciled calculations – I hadn’t the foggiest notion what the big people were considering, but couldn’t help knowing something IMPORTANT had their undivided attention. And the outcome… one bright morning, proved to be astonishing. There we all were, piled into (maybe) our new car with Mom driving, breathtakingly fast, (probably about 15-18 MPH). Then – bang! – we all had to pile out again, because Mom had mishandled a turn, struck a curbing and broken a wheelspoke.

But the newly broken-in car had become family property; a day or so later the repaired vehicle was delivered to our house.

At that time Dad worked in the Texaco refinery a few miles east of town (Casper, WY).  Sometimes Mom had to drive out to meet him, with me as passenger. She used to relish describing another mishap while performing that “distasteful” duty. She hated driving, loved riding.  In parking, she’d come at a curb roughly, bumped it, and in the backlash hit her mouth against the steering wheel, was bleeding, not inconsiderably. So what about her rider, her backseat driver? Mom loved to report that he (I) was jumping with worry and excitement:  “Did we hurt the car, Mommy?  Did we hurt the car?”

But believe it or not, back in those “pioneering” months I had an experience of “time travel.” Our tin lizzie’s 35-30 MPH pace was so much faster than I’d ever before traveled, I was given moments of “frozen delight.”  It took me weeks to realize that our trips to town were not instantaneous, and actually required some specified quantity of time!