Dorri Partain 
Assistant Editor 

On a sunny Sunday afternoon along Gladstone Boulevard, Ken and Deborah Richardson were outside working on their new car. Pedestrians and motorists passing by slowed down for a better look, because the couple’s new car is a 1911 Ford Model T.

“It’s called a Brass Era car,” Deborah explained, as the first detail anyone would notice is the amount of gleaming brass used on the headlamps, grill, horn, and windshield frame.  The brass era was short-lived, only lasting a few years before cars were trimmed with tin, as in the mass-produced “Tin Lizzy”.

Built in Detroit, the style predates the introduction of Henry Ford’s assembly line of automobile production in 1913. According to Ken, a team of twelve men would make one car at a time, with each one being slightly different depending on which parts they decided to use.

The Richardsons became interested in purchasing an antique car after meeting members of the KC Chuggers last fall.  The auto club had brought two Model T’s to display outside homes during the Northeast Kansas City Historical Society’s Homes Tour.  They joined the club,  which helped them create connections to purchase their touring car earlier this month.

Engraved detail on the Model T’s brass headlamps

Ken traveled to Colorado to bring the car home, but it was already well-known in Kansas City.

“The man that owned it had passed away and left the car to his son.  He sold it to a collector in Colorado, who had it for several years, but when it came up for sale earlier this year everyone in the Chuggers recognized it,” he said.

Over the years, the car has had some updates for safety and to make it easier to drive: a starter, distributor, water pump, and disc brakes. Original to 1911, the car has three foot pedals- one that moves the car forward, reverse, and the brake. To accelerate, Deborah has to push the forward petal and use the accelerator lever under the steering wheel. Another difference from driving a modern car is that she has to board the car from the passenger side.

A necessity today that wasn’t included in 1911 are side view mirrors, which Ken was installing that afternoon. Also not standard were rear brake lights, so Deborah attaches a new magnetic blinking red light before taking the car out for a spin.

Deborah Richardson motors down Gladstone Boulevard on a Sunday afternoon drive toward the Colonnade.

With a 4 cylinder engine and 16 horsepower, the car can travel at speeds at up to 50 miles per hour. “Really, in this type of car, at 35 miles per hour, it seems like you’re going too fast,“ Ken stated.

Even with numerous owners in more than 100 years, the car has always been cared for. Ken explained that the frame is wooden with metal cladding, so any years of neglect would have led to wood root.

While the couple appreciates the mechanical upgrades, they’re trying to keep the exterior of the car as original  as possible. On Deborah’s wish list are wooden wheels, like the car had when new.

“It did have wooden wheels, but they were removed and sold just weeks before we bought it,“ she stated. “But we’ll find some; with this model as popular as it is, it’s easy to find replacement parts.”

26,405 Model Ts were produced that year, selling for $780 dollars in 1911.

For the Richardsons, owning an historic car seemed like a natural extension of owning an historic house, the Wakefield mansion at 435 Gladstone Boulevard, which they have dedicatedly been restoring to its original appearance.

In addition to surprising neighbors while driving their Model T around the block, the Richardsons will be participating in future antique car events, with their first showing this May during the 100th anniversary of the Ford dealership in Plattsburgh, Mo.

For more information about the KC Chuggers Model T Club and their upcoming shows, visit