How long should you keep your automobile?
With new car models in show rooms at Annapolis Valley dealers and elsewhere, it can easily be debated on how long you should keep your motor car.
It depends on many factors, not the least of which would be on what you can afford. It would be nice to own a luxury car like a Rolls Royce but, personally, I’m quite grateful and happy with my two-year-old Corolla.
When I grew up, it was not unusual to see some 20-year-old automobiles still on the road. As a matter of fact, older models were a lot more plentiful then than new ones. Many of those automobiles would not have passed a safety inspection, including the 1946 Ford pickup I drove in the early ‘60s.
When I started school in the late 1940s, Willie, who lived down the road, had a 1927 Model T Ford sedan. He had bought the car new and would start it with the hand crank. Eleodore, nearby, had a 1930 Ford roadster; he had bought it as a pre-owned vehicle (pre-owned was known as “second hand” in those days). Abel, who lived at the other end of the village, had a 1928 Ford Tudor (two-door) which came from the Annapolis Valley; this car was painted bright yellow and was formerly used to advertise a drive-in movie theatre. There was also a blue and white 1931 Chevrolet four-door sedan, still driven daily in the early 1960s, by a man named Frank, a very dependable machine.
Today, a few relics have survived: Gordie Wood of Tusket has a 1923 Ford T in the Wood family since new; of course, he is not the original owner. The Fire Fighter’s Museum in Yarmouth also displays a 1923 Model T Ford one ton ladder truck, in Yarmouth since new.
Along those lines, I will feature a gentleman who owned the same car for 80 years. For some years now, I have been following the adventures of Frank Hartmaier from the Pottstown area of Pennsylvania, who had bought a brand new, sporty 1929 Model A Ford roadster when he was 17 and, as it turned out, he kept it for the next 80 years.
Hartmaier bought his car May 16, 1929 and, with an optional spare tire and rumble seat, the dealer’s sticker came to $560. The young - and proud - owner paid $305 as down payment and borrowed the rest. Timing was not all that great for Frank: the depression hit hard and the young man lost his job. However, a paper route was available, and the sparkling Ford A rolled up hundreds of miles to pay its keep.
During World War Two, when the original car had chalked up close to half-a-million miles, the odometer quit, leaving the owner with the true mileage unknown. For 20 years, this roadster was his only transportation. Because of the old car hobby, it was easy for Hartmaier to find original and reproduction parts.
Over the years, Frank Hartmaier painted his car four times, always the same original Rose Beige and Seal Brown color. The car wore out three new tops and the motor was rebuilt four times; the tires were replaced many times, too. Many original parts were replaced over the years. (On that subject, one can only imagine how many times the brake linings, gaskets, radiator hoses, headlight bulbs; transmission and engine oil, etc. were replaced. My guess would be lots of times.)
As the car grew old, so did its owner, who lived to a ripe old age. Hartmaier had promised the Antique Car Club of America, upon his death, the vintage and historic Ford would be donated to them as part of their permanent display. Frank passed away in January of 2009, a few years short of the century mark and, true to his word, the Ford Roadster was donated to the museum in May of 2009, almost 80 years to the day Mr. Hartmaier had bought it.
This may be a world record for the length of time a person owned and drove the same motor vehicle; if not, I sure would like to know about it.