Ford Model A club coasts through D’ville

A Ford Model A, owned by a member of the Red Stick Chapter, parked at Louisiana Square park in Donaldsonville last Friday.

Most people use classic cars for hot rods, but not Paulette Marino and the Model A Ford Club of America’s Red Stick Chapter in Baton Rouge. Marino, the president of the Red Stick Chapter, said their intention is to keep the cars original.

“We don’t want them to become junk or you know what people do, they take them and make hot rods out of them,” Marino said. “We don’t want that. We want to keep the cars original.”

The Red Stick Chapter visited Donaldsonville Friday for a gathering at the Grapevine Café and Gallery. The club has been in Donaldsonville a few times.

“The city is really historic and I love it,” Marino said. “This restaurant is good too.”

Donaldsonville native Vincent “Cy” Tortorich is an active member of the Model A club and said this is the car that put America on wheels. The Ford Model A was produced from 1929-1931 and at that time sole for under $300 brand new, according to Tortorich.

The Model A Ford Club is a national and international organization that is headquartered in California. Tortorich said the club is dedicated to people who have Model A’s of course, and Model T’s.

The group was in Donaldsonville because Tortorich wrote an article for the national magazine, The Restorer, about one of the oldest Ford buildings in the country, which is located Mississippi Street and Lessard Street in Donaldsonville. It was a Ford Motor Company since 1907.

He said he started working there when he was 11 years old when it was called Donaldsonville Motor Company back in 1951.

The Ford Dealer then was E.L. Tubby Ewen, who was originally from Nebraska. Tortorich remembers working there for three dollars per week.

Starting as a Ford man early, Tortorich continues to drive Fords and said today he drives the Ford F-150.

“I love Fords,” Tortorich said. “I drive a Ford today and wouldn’t drive anything else.”

He said he started collecting cars in general 45-50 years ago, and his collection has grown to about 20 different models including some Chevrolet. But he put his life in the hands of the Model A. Tortorich said he’s driven the Model A across the country from coast to coast in the Great American Race.

“I’m a veteran of the Great American Race,” Tortorich said. “It’s a car that’s 70-something years old and you have to bring parts and everything to keep it running until you get to the other coast.”

He said his biggest race was 7,500 miles when he drove across the North American Continent from Ottawa, Canada to Mexico City, Mexico. He traveled the continent in a 1936 Ford that he still has.