By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
Many people see Tucumcari’s Route 66 as a trip back to the 1950s and 1960s but visitors experienced a whole different time warp last week as a gathering of Model T’s and Model A’s drove around town, recalling an even earlier time.
The Tin Lizzies, a statewide group of early auto enthusiasts, brought about 30 cars from the 19-teens and early ‘20s to Quay County from Thursday to Saturday for a weekend of touring the old roads at the old speeds and enjoying the living history of Route 66.
The gathering attracted about 50 enthusiasts, most from the Albuquerque-Santa Fe area, but a few, like Orlando Ortega, the event organizer, who live in eastern New Mexico. Ortega lives in Portales.
There are about 150 members in the club, representing 80 families, club president Larry Azevedo said. Most are from New Mexico, but a few live in Amarillo and at least one in Utah, he said.
For the 50 who gathered at Tucumcari’s Motel Safari on Thursday evening, the weekend was an opportunity to explore some sites in Eastern New Mexico and drive along old Route 66 to various locations in Quay County.
On Friday, the group was scheduled to visit to Conchas Dam to receive a tour. On Saturday, the group planned to drive along Route 66 to show their flivvers to an appreciative audience in San Jon, then travel on to Russell’s Truck Stop at Bard, Azevedo said, to visit the auto museum there.
“We like to show the cars and talk about their history,” Azevedo said.
In the meantime club members drove their early antiques around town to shop and sightsee.
Azevedo’s own car is an Ames Speedster, vintage 1924. It’s a mostly red two-seater combining a Ford Model T chassis with a low-slung body “dropped” between the front wheels.
The engine, he said, sports a special overhead cam system designed by Louis Chevrolet, some time before he attached the Chevrolet name to a different automobile brand.
One Ames Speedster, Azevedo said, raced at Indianapolis in 1924 and took fifth place with an average speed of 85 miles per hour.
Members were also generous with offering rides. Vern Willan showed why rides only were offered, not opportunities to drive. On his Model T, the pedals work the transmission. The throttle is a handle behind the steering wheel. There’s another handle on the other side that somehow actuates the sparking apparatus. Yet another is the choke, which adjusts the air-fuel mixture in the carburetor.
If both of those handles are in lowest position, he said, “It’s called driving with your ears down,” Wallin said, “It means you’re going full speed.”
The other device that bears watching on the Model T, he said, is the temperature gage, which appears as a thermometer inside the hood ornament.