THE CHAMP — Nan Robison in her canary yellow Model T is the defending race champion in the Montana 500 Model T road race. Gen Peters is flagging Robison off the starting line. I-O Photo by Buck Traxler
By Buck Traxler, I-O Editor
Monday morning 23 Model T cars along with four touring cars rolled out of Conrad to kick off the 51st annual Montana-500.
This year the 500 is being called the Bud Peters Memorial in honor of the five-time champion from Ledger.
The Montana 500 was officially started in 1961 to give Model T owners a chance to get together and share their interests in Model T’s.
This is a timed event, which may be unique in that Montana is one of the last places to allow timed events on public roads. The Model T’s for the race must be stock, although they can have aluminum pistons, reground cams and the heads may be milled.
The first race ran out of Missoula and went all the way to the North Dakota border. The run became very popular and had drivers from all across the U.S. and Canada.
Today, the race has evolved to where it is run out of a hub city. The first and second days are about 200-mile days and the third is around a 100-mile event. Pit stops are made each 50 miles or so to gas up, get coffee or eat some lunch.
The cars are flagged out at one-minute intervals and flagged in at each pit stop and are timed out by order of arrival.
On the second day, cars are timed out in the reverse order of the first days finish. The slowest car leaves first and the fastest car leaves last.
This gives the faster car the handicap of having to pass the slower cars.
The third day the cars are timed out by order of their finish on the previous two days.
Fastest cars are first and slowest cars are last.
Monday the Model T’s lined up just on the east side of I-15 and were flagged out by Gen Peters, the wife of Bud Peters.
The 23 Model T’s and four touring vehicles headed up to Cut Bank, on to Browning, St. Mary’s, Babb and then back to the home base, coming through Valier.
Tuesday the vehicles headed south to Great Falls, on to Wolf Point, Augusta, Choteau and back to Conrad. Wednesday the cars went on the “short race” going out to Ledger in honor of Peters and Thursday, “It’s until we meet again,” as the racers head out for home.
Home for one of the racers was Steve Harvey from Orange, Calif., who is a native of Great Falls. It was his first race in the Montana 500, but his partner, Dan Diazdeleon, also from Orange was participating in his fourth race.
They were driving a 1924 Model T that had the distinction of being the fourth Model T car to be in Montana.
The car can hit about 50 mph, but Diazdeleon said he had it up to 68 mph once, “But, that was going downhill with a tail wind.”
The racers explained that the original model came with just an amp gage on the dash board. Today, the racers are allowed as many gauges as they want. The Harvey Model T has a temperature gauge, GPS and a speedometer that came off an old bicycle.
On a side note, with the exception of one racer, all the Model T’s ran with their tops up and secured. Some time ago, it was discovered they could go about two-mph faster with the top up, rather than down.
Speed is the name of the game.