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Model T endurance run coming through Libby

| June 18, 2004 12:00 AM

A fleet of 30 Model T Ford cars will visit Libby on Monday, June 21, and on Tuesday, June 22, during a 500-mile tour of northwest Montana.

The group will be running the Montana 500, a function of the Montana Cross Country Model T Association, which is affiliated with the Model T Ford Club of America. The Montana 500 is a timed endurance run of 500 miles held over three days. It is headquartered in Eureka for 2004.

A Libby couple and their vehicle will be among the Model Ts taking off with the cannon shot start, as Fred and Marvel Thompson crank up their 1926 Model T Ford pickup.

A colorful start on Monday will feature Mayor Craig Eaton touching off a cannon shot, which could be heard around the world thorough Interbel, the local internet provider, who will stream an audio and video feed around the world. This is the first available viewing of any part of the actual Montana 500 run on the internet via www.eurekawebcam.com, and daily updates will be available via www.eurekaevents.com.

The event begins Sunday, June 20, with registration and a safety inspection at Big Sky Exxon in Eureka, and crank start relays will be held next door at Geez Auto Performance. Model T browsing is welcomed, and rides will be available to the Eureka Senior Citizens Center for a pie social and Model T video.

The first leg runs south on U.S. Highway 93 to Kalispell, west on U.S. Highway 2 to Libby for lunch and back to Eureka on Montana 37, and the second leg on Tuesday reaches through Libby, about 9-9:30 a.m., and continues to the Idaho border with a side trip to The Dirty Shame in the Yaak. The third leg on Wednesday will include a dash to the international border with Canada then across Montana¹s highest and longest bridge to the Amish community on the West Kootenai.

On Wednesday afternoon, the three cars with the best time will be torn down to the pistons to verify they are powered by authentic 4-cylinder, 20 horsepower Model T engines. Then the group gathers at the Lundeen Brothers Heritage Museum for awards and a barbecue by Eureka Area Chamber of Commerce.

Official Model T 500 events finish on Thursday with an optional leisurely tour of the Libby Dam project, including a cruise on Lake Koocanusa.

The first Montana 500 was held in 1961, and each year it is headquartered at a different Montana city. This is the first time it has been at Eureka, although one leg extended through Eureka and Libby in 2001. That year it was headquartered in Kalispell.

³We think the whole thing will be great fun for the communities as well as the participants,² said Mike Cuffe, host chairman. ³Henry Ford would be proud to see his perfect car for the common man still carrying people about the countryside.²

Ford built 15 million Model Ts between l908 and l927 before moving on to the more user-friendly Model A in l928. They sold for as little as $260 brand new. All feature the same 20 horsepower engine and the same odd band driven transmission.