Model T Ford again a member of the Breidford family in Blaine

FOR THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 17, 2013 

BLAINE - More than a few old-timers must have been stunned to see 75-year-old John Breidford, who recently returned to his native Whatcom County, tooling around in his immaculate 1924 Model T Ford at Blaine's Fourth of July parade.

Few of the people who cheered him likely realize what a charmed "life" the Model T has.

Ten years after rolling off one of Henry Ford's early assembly lines in Detroit, the Model T was the first car that Breidford's father worked on as a budding 18-year-old mechanic. He was well known to Blaine buddies as "Johnnie" during nearly half a century in the auto business.

The elder Breidford purchased and preserved the car in 1948, when it already seemed very much an antique. He saw two friends rescue the vintage vehicle from a disastrous fire in 1971. Four years after he died in 1982, his widow passed the car on to a cousin in Renton.

A few months ago, when the younger Breidford, an Air Force veteran with fond memories of his youth in Whatcom County, was asked if he wanted to snatch the car away from oblivion, he said he needed "all of 10 seconds to say 'yes!'"

Question: John, it sounds like you'll be driving in the Blaine parade for as many years as you can.

Answer: You bet! I loved seeing and hearing everyone. I drove the car and my son-in-law Bob Benasky sat up front, with my daughters Janet Sutton and Jeri Benasky in back.

I moved back to Blaine last year after living and working many years in Alaska, and I took the car off a block in Renton early in spring. I drove the car in one previous Blaine parade, the Centennial Parade in 1984, after I had moved to Alaska.

Q: How did your dad begin his life - and thus yours - in autos?

A: Dad began working with autos (on the Peace Portal Way site of his later Blaine company) in 1929 and worked for three owners before The International Garage went broke.

In 1934, four years before I was born, a banker offered Dad the chance to reopen the firm as his own Breidford Motor Co. It was then the only auto company in Blaine. He got most of his cars from Diehl Motors, who were one of the nation's earliest Ford dealerships and were absolutely top-notch folks to deal with.

Q: What's the fire story?

A: Dad purchased the car in 1948 from Charlie Hamley. Dad kept the car on site until 1971, when a fire on July 5 destroyed his business. Former Blaine Mayor Andy Anderson and my friend Bob Drake arrived early during the fire and realized it would damage the car beyond repair, so they broke in and rescued the car from a basement.

Q: Your dad was 65 the year of the fire, so did he retire?

A: No, he had a way of always bouncing back. He hauled in a mobile home and kept the business going. In 1975, he moved to Ferndale and did business for three more years; 49 years in all in the auto business.

I worked mostly on the business office side for him for 21 years. In 1976, I moved to Alaska and worked mostly in autos until 2003.

There was no way I could take care of the car after I moved, so Mom (Nina) gave it to a cousin in Renton about 1986. I never thought I would ever get the car back.

Q: How fast can this 1924 gem go?

A: Oh, it can get up to about 45 miles per hour. When you're doing 45 in this car, you really feel like you're moving!

Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.

Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.

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