Model T turns 100 in same Hamilton family


HAMILTON, Mont. - One hundred years ago a 15-year-old boy from Hamilton and his dad purchased a brand new Ford Model T touring car.

The teenager drove that car all over Hamilton.

Today that Model T has been restored to mint condition and remains in the family.

Dave Vial met NBC Montana Friday morning to show us his Model T that's on display on the showroom floor at Bell McCall Company Ford in Hamilton.

Vial's grandfather and his dad ordered it from Stafford Reinbold dealership and drove it off the lot in Hamilton in 1917. They paid cash.

"It was $253," said Vial.

His dad, Herbert, wanted the car for his big sister, Janie.

Janie Vial had multiple sclerosis, and getting her into a horse-drawn buggy to get to the Presbyterian Church in Hamilton had become impossible.

"So the car was purchased," said Vial, "primarily for her to attend church on Sunday."

Vial cranked up the car on the showroom floor for a drive around Hamilton Friday morning.

Neil Miller is the president of Bell McCall and is thrilled with this showcase car.

"It shows the longevity of Ford Motor Company products being sold in this community," said Miller.

Vial took Millerdown Main Street and to Hamilton's west side, where the driver pointed out landmarks the Model T would have driven past 100 years ago.

The car runs great.

"I would drive it anywhere," said Vial.

But that's only because he spent years restoring the car.

In 1922 his dad took Janie to Seattle. The trip was a disaster. The car gave them nothing but trouble.

Herbert Vial shipped the car home and retired it.

It ended up at the Vial family home in Hamilton, where Dave Vial was born and raised and lives today.

In the neat yard there used to be an old shed, and that's where the Model T sat on blocks for 72 years.

Vial, who is now retired, was an engineer in the automotive industry. He discovered his dad's car, which really never did run right, was only operating on three cylinders.

"Ford Motor Company bored the cylinder wrong," he said, "and it broke all the compression rings."

Years of restoration and thousands of dollars later the car's owner is driving a well-tuned machine.

People turn their heads and smile and give thumbs up when they see the shiny black automobile pass.

Vial wants to take his beloved family car on another trip to Seattle. "And back," he said, "so I can say that the car finished the trip to Seattle."

"It's not for sale," he said. It stays in the family.

"From me to my son, Thomas Vial," he said, "and then onto his son, Samuel Vial."

The mission, he said, is for the Vials to celebrate the Model T's 200th birthday.

Last week Vial received a letter from Matthew G. Anderson, the curator of transportation from the Benson Ford Research Center.

Anderson thanked him for sharing the story of his Model T and Bell McCall Company.

"My congratulations to you on the fine restoration," wrote Anderson. "The car looks beautiful. Stories like yours add to the richness of our collections and help us to preserve the Model T's remarkable history."