Since Carroll Butler retired from Texas Power and Light 15 years ago, he has had quite a bit of time to devote to one of his passions - collecting and restoring antique Fords - and he has quite a collection of them.
On any given day, Carroll may be found in his air-conditioned workshop behind his home, immersed in one of his many projects. His shop has multiple doors on two sides of the shop building and behind it is another large shop housing more cars. Every available indoor space has a Ford in it. And since he has run out of indoor parking space, one of his antique vehicles has to be kept in an enclosed trailer - but no car stays outside.
Butler is considered by friends and acquaintances to be somewhat of an expert on vintage Fords. Pointing to the top of the front windshield of his prized 1931 Model A Ford four-door sedan, he demonstrates a sample of his knowledge of the antique automobile.
“The 1931 models didn’t have the outside sun visor like the 1928 through 1930. Also, there was only five colors from which to choose in the Model A line, and each had its own special color of wire wheels.” He also noted that 1932 was the first year Ford introduced the flat-head V8 engine.
Asked how he got started collecting cars, Butler said, “It was just something that I wanted to do so I got into this hobby back in 1967, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”
In addition to the four-door sedan, Carroll also owns a 1930 Ford Model A roadster (or convertible top) with a rumble seat in the rear, which opens up like a trunk from the front direction. The upholstered rumble seat turns the two-seat roadster into a four-passenger car.
“If you’d rather have a trunk instead of a rumble seat, just reverse the lid. It is curved so that it fits either way,” Butler said.
Butler also owns a 1929 Ford Model A coupe, which has a steel top with a canvass-like upholstery. The coupe, along with his 1931 Model A Ford pickup, have transported the couple on several long trips in recent years.
According to Caroll and Diane Butler, vacations for the past 40 years have been mostly travels to antique car shows with perhaps a stop-over someplace to take a tour or go camping in their pop-up camper.
“Back in June, we took one of the Model A’s down to Brenham to the 100th anniversary of Blue Bell Creamery. They had asked some car clubs to bring cars down. We drove about 60 miles per hour,” Caroll said.
One of their most memorable trips, according to Caroll, was several years ago to Steamboat Springs, Colo., when they traveled in the pickup, with a pop-up camper in tow. They made the trip in three days.
“We maintained a speed of about 50-55 miles per hour on the trip and made it to Amarillo the first day,” Caroll said. “It really turned heads when we passed through towns in a Model A pickup pulling a pop-up camper that was bigger than it was.”
The trip included a visit to a car show with side stops for camping and sightseeing.
“We threw a rod in the pickup while we were in Colorado, but found new parts easily and it took me about an hour to make the repairs in a friend’s driveway. We were able to drive home in it,” he said, noting the pickup has also made trips to Kansas City and McAllen.
Carroll and Diane have been participants in the antique auto Midwest Tour for several years.
“It rotates among the cities of Omaha, Neb.; Kansas City and Wichita, Kan.; and Des Moines, Iowa,” he said. “Next June, the national car show will be in north Dallas and there will be around 1,000 cars at that meet.”
Caroll restores more than just vintage Fords - he recently restored an antique child’s pedal car.
“It was rusted out and the people who owned it were just going to have it hauled off. So they let me have it and I took it home and restored the body and found authentic factory decals for it,” he said. “And I also found a man who installs new rubber tires on the wheels. The rubber comes in long strips and he just cuts them in lengths that fit the wheels and inserts them in the wheels and glues them together.”
The pedal car is displayed in the Butlers’ home and off-limits to their grandchildren.
“We have pedal cars and toy tractors outside for them to play on, but this antique kiddie car is not for play,” Caroll said.
He likes to travel to swap meets to search of another Ford project car or parts - and sometimes he finds other relics of bygone days as well.
“I found a set of drive-in movie speakers still mounted on the pole and I thought they would serve as a nice prop to use at car shows,” he said. “I refinished the speaker cases and pole and mounted the pole on a car wheel for a base, and then I installed new speakers in them. They actually work. I can play a stereo or radio through them.”
Caroll is especially proud of his white 1955 and yellow and white 1956 Ford Crown Victorias in which he and Diane also make trips.
“I bought the ’55 in Pennsylvania a couple of years ago,” Butler said. “It is original except for the Thunderbird wire hubcaps and the 351 Cleveland V8 engine that came out of a later model Ford.
“It’s really a sweet driving car, but the yellow ’56 is the one we drive the most since it’s air-conditioned.”
He noted that in 1955 and 1956, Ford manufactured a limited number of Crown Vics with the front half of the top being see-through plexiglass.
The Model A four-door was recently used in a wedding to transport the bride and groom from the church to the reception. Besides vacations, leisurely trips and cruises, the Butlers’ Fords have been seen in shows and parades. They also occasionally make a trip to Dallas or drive one of the antique Fords to church.
E-mail Paul at email@example.com