MINDEN — It was a sight to stop traffic.
Dressed in vintage clothing, Rob Heyen of Milford and Julie Denton of Lincoln posed for pictures near Heyen’s red convertible 1907 Model K Ford parked outside Pioneer Village on Monday. The car was as eye-catching as Denton’s floppy flowered hat.
“This is one of just six remaining Model K roadsters,” Heyen said. “It set a world 24-hour speed record in 1907. It still goes well over 70.” A farmer and insurance man, Heyen has four other Fords built between 1906-1913, and a 1922 Ford truck. “Old cars are a passion with me,” he said.
Old cars are a passion for all 350 attendees of the 72nd-annual AAA Revival Glidden Tour, and was from Sunday through Friday. Based in Hastings, it drew owners of 126 cars manufactured by 32 different companies between 1907 and 1941. They came from 36 states to renew friendships, admire each other’s vehicles and explore the area.
This year’s Glidden tour, the first ever held in Nebraska, featured cars bearing names like Packard, Willys, Rambler and more.
“This isn’t a tour. It’s an event,” John Nikodym of Red Cloud, the tour chairman, said. The owner of a 1909 Midland, he is a member of the Nebraska Region Antique Automobile Club of America, which organized this year’s event.
“Regular attendees become like family. Many look forward to spending a week with their friends exploring another part of our great country each year. As long as nothing goes wrong, the only cost is gasoline and oil,” Nikodym said.
Events began Sunday with a Parade of Cars at MPH Motorsport Park in Hastings. On the week’s itinerary were sites in Minden, Holdrege, Red Cloud, Gibbon and Grand Island. Thursday, they came to Kearney to see the Classic Car Collection, The Archway and the Nebraska Firefighters Museum and Education Center. It concluded with a banquet Friday night.
Under a drizzle Monday morning, the cars stopped at Pioneer Village. The fascinated public wandered around with cameras, and car owners were happy to chat.
Peggy and John Hess brought their 1931 Model T Sports coupe to Nebraska from Shelltown, Md. “The top doesn’t come down, but it has a rumble seat,” Peggy said proudly. They’re old car veterans. They’ve been to 20 Glidden tours and, years ago, drove their 1918 Model T on trips to Kanab, Utah, and Whitefish, Mont.
Stu Etheridge, a contractor from Lynn Center, Ill., showed off his 1925 Willys Knight and its sleeve valve engine. He spent 18 months restoring it, starting with the engine because “if the engine’s no good, the car won’t be any good,” he said. “Willys Knight body styles are easy to work on. I can do all my own restoration except the painting.”
Ron Eyres of Kechi, Kan., sat proudly in his 1931 Chevrolet Phaeton, which he rescued after a fire. “They told me I couldn’t restore it. It took me two years to prove them wrong. I did everything — the body work, everything,” he said. He said only 10 Phaetons were made in 1931, and “I know of three that are still running.” he said.
The Phaeton’s steering wheel is on the right side of the dash because Eyres once lived in Australia, where he learned to drive that way. It gets 15 or 16 miles to the gallon and “drives easily at 45. It goes faster, but I don’t do it,” he said.
Now 79, Eyres still has the 1937 Chevy he bought when he was 17.
John Cohen of Ozark, Mo., grew up in the 1911 Oakland he brought to Hastings. His father bought it in 1952. “My family visited every state except Alaska and Hawaii in this car,” he said. In 2006, Cohen took the Oakland completely apart and put it back together. Its four-cylinder, 30-horsepower engine cruises nicely between 30 and 35 miles an hour. This is his 19th Glidden tour.
Ed Hilbush of West Chester, Pa., brought the 1913 Buick he’s had for seven years. “I had a 1914, too,” said Hilbush, whose email address is “geezer hotrod.” He’s had five other antique cars, he added.
Dan Frizane of Minden, a volunteer at Pioneer Village and retired college music instructor, came out to admire cars and stopped at a handsome Packard. “The Model T was a poor man’s car. This Packard was for the upper crust,”
The Glidden Tour, organized by AAA, the Vintage Motorcar Club of America and the Antique Automobile Club of America, is the oldest and largest annual antique automobile tour in existence. It’s an outgrowth of the Glidden Reliability Tour, which ran from 1904-1913 to demonstrate the reliability of the automobile and convince the general public that automobiles weren’t just a hobby for the idle rich.
The event is named for Charles Jasper Glidden. Born in 1857 in Lowell, Mass., he was able to retire at age 43. One year later, in 1901, he and his wife drove to the Arctic Circle in his British Napier auto. In 1902, they completed the first round-the-world tour.
From 1904-13, Glidden participated in the 1904 AAA Tour from New York to St. Louis and offered a $2,000 trophy for competitors. Soon known as the Glidden Reliability Tours, the events stopped in 1913, but were revived in 1946 by antique automobile enthusiasts as a tour for vintage vehicles. It’s held in a different state every year.
This year, attendees included Dave and Toni Neuhaus of Sheboygan, Wis. They used vacation time to drive to the Los Angeles area, pick up their “new” 1906 REO and bring it to Hastings. “I like old stuff,” Dave, a tool and die maker, said.
Nancy Huffman and her husband Jerry, who live near Rochester, N.Y., brought their 1931 Model A Ford, a deluxe roadster they’ve had for 12 years. Since restoring a Model A 50 years ago, they’ve owned six antique cars, including a 1913 Renault they showed at invitational car shows.
“We love this tour,” Nancy said. “I’d never been to Nebraska. I couldn’t wait to see grain elevators.”