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Model Ts take flight in California

Mon, 12 Apr 2010

The first flight over the Pacific took place just south of Los Angeles just more than 100 years ago, on Jan. 14, 1910. At that time, only seven years after the Wright Brothers' first flight, the Model T had been in production just one year. To commemorate the centennial of that milestone in aviation, the San Pedro Bay Historical Society, the Point Fermin Lighthouse Society and the Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation held a party on the Pacific in Point Fermin Park with historic demonstrations, a few flyovers of old planes and a parade of Model Ts.

To clarify, it was the first flight over the Pacific, not across it. French aviator Louis Paulhan had just set a new altitude record of 4,164 feet at the International Air Meet at Dominguez Rancho, 15 miles from the ocean, and on a whim aimed his Farman biplane south to San Pedro and out over the sea. A flyer (no pun intended) distributed at the commemoration quoted Paulhan in the Los Angeles Examiner.

"It was merely a notion," Paulhan said. "I wanted to see a little more of Southern California."

Along with historical society members dressed in costume, flyovers by a B-17 and a trio of Stearman biplanes, the Long Beach Model T Club showed up with five Model Ts and one Model A.

"It's historic on both counts," Model T owner Jeff Hood said, "both the rise of aviation and the rise of personal transportation, the latter perhaps best represented by the Model T."

Hood had the oldest T at the show, a 1915 Touring. It had both kerosene lamps and electric headlights, the first year electric lights were added to the car, Hood said. While there was a hand crank under the radiator, Hood also had an electric starter.

"They're simple, very simple," he said of the T. "Yet they were quite advanced for their time."

As Hood spoke, organizers announced the Ts would participate in a parade around the park.

"Gentlemen, start your engines," came the command.

With that, Hood lead the caravan of historic cars, behind the period-correct history buffs and the San Pedro High School marching band, the high school itself having been founded in 1903.

A good place to find out more about Model Ts will be at the club's big parts swap meet, July 23-24 at Los Alamitos Race Course in Los Alamitos, Calif. Visit for more information.

By Mark Vaughn