Truro man restores 1923 Model T Ford

Published on September 11, 2017

Two old friends were reunited again in Truro over the weekend: one being a 1923 Model T Ford Roadster, and the other, its restorer. Forty-one years ago, Don Sutherland and his son, Doug, seen here on the right, set about to restore a very significant car. The car was purchased in June by Tom Kayser, left, a Truro resident and car lover himself.

©Fram Dinshow/Truro Daily News

TRURO, N.S. – The ancient car sputtered back to life, a scent of gasoline wafting through the warm September air as it chugged and bounced down a quiet suburban street.

At the wheel of the 94-year-old Ford Model T was Truro resident Tom Kayser, who lovingly restored his wheeled antique back to mint condition after buying it in June from a father and son.

“To drive the Model T Ford is a different experience entirely, because it’s counter-intuitive to everything you’re used to in normal automobiles,” said Kayser.

In a Model T the brake pedal is on the right and accelerator to the left, unlike a modern car. Nor is there a speedometer, but drivers are in little danger of breaking the limit, as the Model T’s top speed is just over 70 km/ h.

Kayser’s Model T has just enough room for one passenger in the vehicle’s small cab, but forget about seatbelts or airbags.

Nonetheless, the antique car, dating from 1923, is a joy for Kayser to drive. He says other motorists are “very sensitive,” toward his vehicle when on the road.

“I really enjoy it. I’ve been an antique car collector pretty much all my lifetime. I still, in fact, own my first car, which I purchased when I was just out of high school,” said Kayser.

That first car is a 1941 Chrysler Plymouth, which rolled off a Canadian production line just like his Model T.

“I’ve had it for 52 years,” said Kayser of his Plymouth.

However, it is his Model T that has the most storied history.

Its first owner was well known Tatamagouche doctor Daniel Murray, who bought a house at 295 Main Street in 1908 and practised from there until his death in 1967. His granddaughter and future Canadian superstar singer Anne Murray would practise her music at this house.

Some years after Murray’s death, his old car was found abandoned in a raspberry field. It was painstakingly restored to original condition by local man Don Sutherland in 1976 with woodworking help from his son, Doug.

This was needed as the superstructure of early cars was hardwood covered by a steel body. Most of the wood was fabricated by Doug using patterns available by mail order from the United States.

Once restored, the Model T was licensed as an Antique Auto, the 335th vehicle to be registered as such in Nova Scotia.

The Model T was featured in several car shows and parades as far away as Antigonish before Don Sutherland moved home with his wife, Lillian.

Don gifted the car to Doug, who stored it in his heated wood shop until June of this year, but the car had not been driven since 1979.

After Kayser bought it, he made the Model T roadworthy again with help from local car enthusiast and mechanic Barry Weatherby. After sitting for so long, the engine required major work, which paid off handsomely.

“We right away made an understanding that I would take over the responsibility of getting that car back on the road again,” said Kayser.

The Model T is one of more than 15 million that rolled off Ford production lines in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere between 1908 and 1927.

Mass-produced Model Ts were designed to be easy to build and affordable for America’s middle class, becoming one of the most sold cars of all time.