Some new-car owners are leery of taking their vehicles out of the garage, let alone onto a street or freeway, on a drive-about or vacation, for fear of “that first ding” damage, theft or other automotive trauma.
Flip that coin, and you’ll find some car enthusiasts with great adventures to recall and share … tales about taking their treasured antique Model A Fords far and wide, including to foreign countries and overseas.
Just ask Jay and Pat Burbank of Cambria. They returned in late May from a three-week tour of Spain and Portugal — an ambitious journey they organized for the nonprofit Model A Touring Club (www.modelatouring.club).
“Our club was formed specifically to gather Model A’s for foreign travel,” Pat Burbank said during a series of email interviews. The club’s previous overseas tour was in 2011 to New Zealand, and in 2012, members toured northwestern Canada. Since then, the group’s other tours have been to mainland U.S. destinations.
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“That’s why Jay and I stepped forward to organize another overseas tour,” she said. “It took three years, but it was worth it. In fact, we had so much fun that we’ve already volunteered to organize a tour in 2020, probably to Argentina. Gluttons for punishment?”
Maybe. Planning that kind of tour is intense and complex.
The participants traveled to Europe by plane. Their cherished vehicles went by ship.
In planning the adventure, the Burbanks’ “first major obstacle was estimating the cost of the tour that far in advance,” she said, given fluctuations of the euro-to-dollar exchange and other factors. Fortunately, even with new customs requirements that upped shipping costs for the cars, tour costs appear to have stayed within budget, although the final tally isn’t done yet.
It took three years, but it was worth it. In fact, we had so much fun that we’ve already volunteered to organize a tour in 2020, probably to Argentina.
Pat Burbank of Cambria
Those costs were $15,000 for two people and one car, including shipping and transport insurance for the vehicles, limited European liability insurance, 21 days of tourist-class hotels, some group meals, some excursion tickets, a luggage van, a “trouble” trailer, a multilingual European tour coordinator and local English-speaking guides in some major tourist spots.
Tour planning and costs didn’t include airfare or travel insurance, and some participants chose to extend their trips before and/or after the formal tour.
Then Burbank had to document the cars for customs regulations so she could get a “green card” for each one. That meant providing for each car the year, model, VIN, license, registration, title, local insurance info, height and weight! “We also learned that customs agents in various ports (both U.S. and European) often have differing interpretation of their regulations,” she said. “That only added to the complication and the red tape.”
The Model A Touring Club’s Spain-Portugal tour from May 3 to 23 included 27 other dauntless auto enthusiasts from U.S., plus two people from Germany, who joined the tour in Spain, and two from the Netherlands who acted as tour coordinator and handled the trouble trailer. The shipper and his wife also accompanied the tour.
Occasionally, others hopped aboard the tour for a while along the way. For instance, the Burbanks’ daughter, former Cambria resident Adina Burbank Daniel, who is now a real estate broker in Nashville, and her daughter Ylenia Calo’ joined them in Barcelona at the end of the tour.
The route started in Lisbon. A full itinerary and blog about the tour is at https://modelatouring.club.
That itinerary included visits to world heritage sites, cities, towns and rural areas, castles and cathedrals, a basilica, auto and other museums, harbor and shore areas, gardens, wineries and bodegas, plus city tours (one in an open-topped bus) and informal auto shows at which the travelers could share their Model A vehicles with the adoring public.
Pam Martens, former Cambria school superintendent, was also on the trip as a passenger in a cherry red Model A owned, transported and driven by her pal Terry Padgett, who was the only female Model A driver on the trip. “The car was so comfortable,” Martens said. “And it was a beautiful time of year, with all the wildflowers out all over the place.”
A car show in Zaragoza, Spain, is one of Martens’ favorite memories of the tour. “We met up with the antique car club there, and 12 or 13 cars joined us,” she said. The club members “were a marvelous group of people, so generous and so happy.”
She said that another highlight was having a police escort as they drove into Zaragoza. “It’s amazing how much fun that is!”
The restored vintage cars were like rock stars, drawing attention and crowds everywhere.
The travelers did many of the tour’s activities as a unit. But on the road, they tended to motor along in groups of two or three vehicles.
Martens recalled a moment when the Padgett and Burbank cars were in a mini convoy on a country road lined with beautiful trees. All of a sudden, “there were three horsemen, on such gorgeous horses, going at a trot beside us. I told Terry, ‘I have to get pictures of those horses!’ at the same time the horsemen were saying, ‘we have to get pictures of those cars!’”
There’s the Argentina tour to plan, and the club intends to travel to Gold Rush country this fall, with the tour starting and ending at the Nugget Casino and Resort in Sparks, Nevada, and wending along the Golden Chain Highway (Highway 49) from Hallelujah Junction to Oakhurst, California.
Yes, “times are a changing,” Pat Burbank said. “We’re getting older, the world is getting scarier and things are more expensive.”
But the open road is calling, and the Model A owners already are impatient to be on another adventure. Flip that travel coin, and they’ll be chugging along on their way.
Model A Fords and the clubs that honor them
Ford Motor Co. built the Model A from 1928 to 1931, according to Wikipedia, which said that a Model A cost from “$385 for a roadster to $1,400 for the top-of-the-line Town Car. The engine was a water-cooled L-head inline 4-cylinder with a displacement of 201 cubic inches (3.3 l).”
A post a few years ago on www.ahooga.com (a site for Model A Ford enthusiasts, hobbyists, restorers and the general public) and reposted on http://bit.ly/2uvmFuK estimates that the average price today for a restored Model A coupe could range from $8,800 to $13,600.
“Remember the financial worth of a Model A is how much someone is willing to pay,” Bob Johnson posted. “The real worth can be priceless.”
The Model A Touring Club was established in 2000 as a special-interest group of the Model A Ford Club of America (https://mafca.com).
Touring-club members are “an ambitious group who love our classic cars as much as we love exploring new places,” according to https://modelatouring.club. “We are always on the lookout for our next great tour.” For members, fun is “traveling the back roads of America and international destinations with a group of like-minded enthusiasts. Traveling in a group gives you the security of touring with fun people who know how to drive, fix and enjoy the car as it was designed.”