OXFORD — A year ago, 15-year old Garrett Haslett spent all summer making model trains in his basement.
Now he’s restoring a Model A Ford.
Garrett, holding a wrench and getting his fingers greasy, worked shoulder-to-shoulder with his father rebuilding a 1929 Model A pickup truck.
While other boys his age might dream of a car whose top speed doesn’t clock out at 65 mph, Garrett, who’s too young to have a driving permit, delights in bringing history back to life like his father and grandfather before him.
“This is pretty old technology. This car is almost 100 years old and you can still drive it, and if something breaks, you can fix them. Nowadays you can’t really do your own repairs,” Garrett said.
Between 1928-1931 some 5 million Model A cars and trucks were sold starting for the then hefty sum of $385, according to Ford Motor Company’s website.
Operating the car has since changed: rod controlled mechanical brakes have given way to hydraulic; a hand crank-shaft start to the press of a button.
Since receiving the A-shaped frame that lends the car model its name, Garrett and his father, Joel, have been working to build the truck from the ground up. Many parts are still missing, and Garrett estimates it may take another year before the truck rolls down the road.
Their search for parts has taken the duo on a statewide treasure hunt inside barns, beneath rusting piles of metal parts and to the high-end auctions where professionals bid on the authentic pieces for a faithful restoration.
The chassis they found from an old farmer sat outside for almost four decades.
“A tree had fallen on it and that didn’t do it any good,” Garrett said.
The past summer has been a blur of activity, the time invested measured in research and hours in the garage, long after his parents have called him in for dinner.
He envisions how each mechanical part will work. He scampers across the garage to show how a gas filter pools fuel across glass, or gestures to describe parts unseen and sought which once made the antique a modern marvel.
The beauty of old machinery is it endures rust. A sand blaster solves that. Hand manuals faithfully reprinted and online tutorials on fixing up the cars abound, binding bygone generations with those new.
The reuse of old machinery is carried down the Haslett line from the time Joel helped his father split wood powered by an old engine. Many of the parts they’ve bartered for won’t be used for this car, but they’re hanging onto them for the next person.
Penny Haslett, Garrett’s mother, said people are as interested in him as the project.
“A lot of the older guys have been really excited to see someone his age get interested with a car of this era,” she said.