Model t Racing
A century from now, let no man or robot or digital personal companion embedded in the cerebellum at birth say that Car and Driver didn’t look at this thing from every possible angle.
Thus, we proceed with yet another trial of the Model S. This time we compare the electric car to its direct predecessor, the hydrocarbon-burning automobile, much as our forebears must have compared the first motorcar to the trusty nag, which was soon to be advertised with hefty cash rebates and complimentary oat bags.
So as not to be seen as blithely unappreciative of a new technology’s inevitable teething issues, namely the Tesla’s limited driving range and the nation’s inadequate charging infrastructure, we developed a kind of handicap for the Model S. The Tesla would not go up against a new car, which would enjoy a de facto head start thanks to more than a century of development. Instead, it would compete against a car more in line with an electric vehicle’s limitations. Hence, we looked back over automotive history for a suitable candidate. Way back, in fact. Actually, a bit further, and further still, and keep it going, just a little ways more . . . until we pretty much bumped into the horse again.
The red-brick, New England mill–style building erected in 1904 survives as a museum staffed by knowledgeable mavens who know the correct ways to apply lapping compound and petcock sealant. /p p With Tesla’s Fremont, California, assembly plant being much too far away, the finish line would instead be electrical pioneer Nikola Tesla’s old Wardenclyffe laboratory in Shoreham, New York, on Long Island. The lab, which opened in 1902, is itself in the process of becoming a museum. Depending on the route each team chose, the race course could be as short as 682 miles but long enough that the Tesla would need to charge several times. The T drivers would most likely have to apply at least isome/i petcock sealant.
Each team determined its own route, using the same start and finish lines. Both cars would have to be driven the entire distance, and each team was assigned a chase truck for spares and the haul home. But there weren’t any other rules because Tesla team leader Don Sherman would just cheat anyway. The first car to Wardenclyffe would win immortality in this magazine, copies of which do, after all, go into the Library of Congress, where they’re left in the restrooms for anyone to read.
6 WEEKS prior to race
MODEL S TEAM: Crack mathematician Jessica Glomb of Battle Creek, Michigan, sits down at her kitchen table to predict a winner. Factoring in everything she knows (or can find on Wikipedia) about the Ford Model T and everything she knows about her father’s Tesla Model S, she concludes the following: The T will beat the S by one hour.
4 WEEKS UNTIL THE START
MODEL T TEAM: Given that few presently on staff at have ever driven a Model T, the Ford team needs help. It needs a ringer if it is going to make it through the 765 miles of two-laners from Detroit to Long Island. It also needs a Model T. David Liepelt, a 40-year-old man who is perpetually coated in a layer of motor oil, grease, and gasoline, is the best ringer one could hope for. Three T experts in three different states all independently direct us to Liepelt and the red 1915 T he’s owned for half his life. He was, for almost a decade, tasked with keeping a fleet of Ts running for the tourists at Henry Ford’s paean to the past, Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. Liepelt now works on steam locomotives. He is a man of the Industrial Age. He doesn’t own a television. He, along with his friend and fellow T owner Chris Paulsen, will be the core of the driving team. Our man, Daniel Pund, will perform the role of ballast and liability.