When you see Jack Dick motoring down a suburban Leawood street, sitting high atop the skinny wheels of his 1929 Model A Ford Phaeton, you can’t help but smile. He certainly does.
His smile not only reflects the fun he has with his car, but also an inner peace and contentment based in gratitude for the blessings he and his wife, Corky (her full name is Cordelia), have despite numerous health challenges.
Jack and Corky have been married for 60 years, and although she now requires constant care, they still enjoy an occasional spin in the Phaeton. “She is a shining example of how God wants us to live our lives on earth,” he said.
He is diabetic, has a pacemaker, four stents, an irregular heartbeat and just had surgery to remove a skin cancer, yet his attitude is intensely positive. He describes his ailments as if they are merely minor bumps in the road, and that is how he treats them.
“I told my doctors, your only objective is to keep me around as long as she needs me,” he said. When he exercises in cardiac rehab, he listens to the song, “As Long As She Needs Me.”
Jack said that after he retired in 1982 he started to look for an antique car that was built in 1929, the same year he was born. “I wanted something my age,” he said. At first he thought he might buy a Model A pickup, but the two-seat configuration would not accommodate his five grandkids, so he settled on finding a Model A Phaeton.
“My dad had a 1933 Ford Model B,” he said, “and I enjoyed that car as a boy.”
He searched the country, hopping on a plane to check out any Phaeton with potential. He looked at six. When he saw an ad in Hemmings Motor News for a ’29 Model A Phaeton not far from Pittsburgh, he went to check it out. It was being sold by a museum that was going out of business. He bought the car and shipped it home in a van. That was 15 years ago.
Physically, the Model A looked great, but museum life can be hard on a vehicle. Jack spent a summer putting the car back in original condition. He overhauled the brakes, transmission and the four-cylinder, 40-horsepower engine. A friend in the Plain Ol’ As club helped him sort out the electrical system and install modern turn signals front and rear for safety in everyday traffic. He waited seven months for special Firestone tires made from the Henry Ford mold.
“It is amazing how easy it is to find parts,” he said, with the exception of one thing. “An original steering wheel, with the light switch ring around the horn button, was the hardest thing to locate,” he said. He found one through Bert’s Model A Center.
Although looking after Corky keeps Jack home most of the time, he tries to drive his Model A when he can. His grandchildren love rides, of course, and he occasionally gives totes to neighbor ladies in their red hats. But his prized passenger is Corky.
“At night we sit and give thanks for our blessings,” he said. “If your attitude is right, everything will come all right.”
Tom Strongman’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org