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Model A Club brings together enthusiasts, turns heads

It was a little trip reminiscent of days gone by for this reporter, who recently had a ride in a vintage 1931 Model A Ford pickup truck driven by Charlie Berard, president of the Pahrump Model A Club.

The spin in this antique beauty down Calvada Boulevard on a sunny afternoon was a first for this newcomer to Pahrump. Berard even honked the horn, "aroooooga", at my request.

The Pahrump Model A Club got its wheels rolling in October 1999 when four local Model A enthusiasts held their first meeting. The group continued to grow and four of the seven original charter members are still active in the club today which has over thirty members and continues to grow.

"Ed (Kauss) and I started it from a newspaper article," said Dave Davis, one of the original club members. He saw a photo of Kauss and his Model A in the Pahrump Valley Times in 1999.

"I looked his number up in the phone book and I said 'hey let's get together' and it blossomed from there," Davis said.

Kauss, current club vice president, had been a member of other Model A clubs in the Chicago area.

"I was at the grocery store getting groceries and (a Pahrump Valley Times), when I came out of the store they were around my car taking pictures of it and they asked me if that was okay," Kauss said. "And, naturally I said, 'okay'."

Word spread among other Model A owners, including Ron Eason, who still has a 1929 Tudor given to him when he was 16 years old. Eason is one of the original seven club members.

"The membership has gone up and we're getting more and more different types of cars," said Eason, referring to body styles of the cars.

Vic Martell, one of the original seven members, met Kauss in 1999 and has been active ever since. The club started with just the guys and now the wives are members too.

"We've done a few tours, and we had a 10-year anniversary……we made a tour to Shoshone, but we've gone to China Lake, in the Amargosa Valley and different places," Martell added.

The Model A Fords are popular with collectors since only five million were made from 1927-1931, just after the Model T era.

"I figured the reason they quit making them is that everybody had one that wanted one," Davis said.

Club members estimate that one million of the vehicles are still out there somewhere, even if not on the road.

"Henry (Ford) made it cheap enough that most normal people could afford to buy it, they were about half the price of their nearest competitor being either Plymouth or Chevy, I'm not sure which one," Kauss said.

Martell and fellow club member Sam Stillwell both own 1932 pickups, which are considered Model B.

According to Stillwell, Ford was the first car maker to have started a letter system and the first one to make parts by number — going from A to T. Stillwell said that Ford had partners and then decided to go independent making the Model T for many years, followed by the A Model for four years. Ford made the B Model for one year starting with a four cyclinder, while also introducing a V-8 that year.

"So, as Henry (Ford) said, he is a motor company," Stillwell said. "He made the motor and had other people to make all the parts with his name on it."

Stillwell said despite the name of the club, members don't have to own a Model A, just something by Ford from that era.

Betty Stillwell enjoys a ride in the 1932 Model B.

"It's fun, I just don't wanna go in the summertime with no air," she said.

Berard and his wife, Jan, joined the club after relocating to Pahrump four years ago from Rhode Island, having purchased his 1931 Model A pickup truck prior to the move. It took him two and a half years to restore the red pickup.

"I was always fascinated by the Model A, the simplicity of it to work on and stuff like this," Berard said. "It just appealed to me … I just like the looks of 'em."

Berard said the valley is a perfect place for the vehicles, which top out at 45 mph.

Model A owners seem to attract a crowd wherever they go, especially when they visit the Pahrump Senior Center.

"Getting gasoline normally takes 20 minutes to a half hour because somebody's coming up to you asking questions and stuff like this, 'Oh, I remember when'," Berard said. "The 'remember whens' are unbelievable."

He found his wife's sapphire blue 1930 Tudor at an estate sale after arriving in Pahrump.

"It's not going to sit in the garage, so I drive it now," Jan Berard said. "So when we go, we go to functions in both vehicles."

Don Menke, who owns a brown 1930 Model A, got interested in the vehicles from his father. He works on his own cars and getting parts is not a problem.

"They made five million of them … there's anything out there for them," he said. "You can get anything you want."

Menke has owned about 20 Model A's over the years.

"I had a Cabriolet — that's a special one," he said. "It's a convertible with wind-up windows, kind of rare.

Larry and Dottie Wahl ride around in a 1929 Murray four-door sedan. Larry Wahl said he owns several antique cars, but this is his only Model A.

"It's a very dependable car," he said. "It's one that I actually got running and keeps running."

Wahl estimates that his car would have probably cost around $476 dollars in its heyday since it has a special Murray body. Charlie Berard said his '31 pickup would have sold for about $385.

Kory and Annette DeNeal are the newest members to the club, recently moving from Las Vegas after purchasing their 1930 yellow rumble seat coupe this summer.

"It is exactly how I had designed to paint it, yellow with black fenders, black running board and the fat whitewall tires, " Kory DeNeal said. "I find that so awesome! I have fallen in love with this car."

He even gave his neighbor's 98-year-old mother a ride in the car around Comstock Park.

Dutch Schultz, activities chairman for the club, said the group is doing something in the community every month.

"We start out with a poker run in January-February we go on and in the summertime, it's ice cream socials," Schultz said. "We go to all the parades, the Fourth of July parades, the Fall Festival parade and other parades that might show up."

The club will have a prominent presence in Saturday's Fall Festival Parade with a theme, appropriate for the group: "The Good Ol' Days."

Schultz said that for Halloween they fill their car trunks full of treats to give to the kids. At Christmas, the club participates in a canned food drive and "Toys For Tots."

Even though the club has fun touring in their Model A's, it is a benevolent group according to Gail Kauss, chair of the welfare committee. The group has donated money to a variety of community efforts including the JROTC, the boy scouts and girl scouts, the Nathan Adelson Hospice building fund, and help to those who couldn't pay their utility bills, to name a few.

"We have a section of Highway 160 that three or four times a year we clean up trash," Gail Kauss said. "So, that's another civic thing we do for the town."

President Charlie Berard is always looking for new members. The club is a chapter under the Model A Ford Club of America (MAFCA) which has members worldwide. The local chapter meets the fourth Thursday of every month beginning at 6 p.m. at the Elks Lodge, 2220 E. Basin Ave. People don't even need to own a Model A to become a member. Contact Berard at 775-751-0421 for more information.

 

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