PI hosts Antique Automobile Club of America Vintage Tour of Aroostook County

11 months ago

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Hundreds of people from the Star City and other areas of Aroostook County turned out for the Antique Automobile Club of America Vintage Tour.

The AACA visited Cape Elizabeth in southern Maine in 1992, but this year marks the club’s first vintage tour in northern Maine.

It was the second time the organization has toured Maine, using Presque Isle as a hub. Aroostook County will be AACA Tour’s only stop in Maine as they visit small towns across America throughout this year.

“The national AACA is always looking for a place to do tours, and for 2023 the only tour available was for 1931 and earlier automobiles,” Watson said. “It’s a hub tour where everybody gathers here at the [Northeastland Hotel] and then each day we go out to different venues like a spoke on a wheel.”

A 1916 American LaFrance owned by Madawaska Lake residents Alan Landeen and Peter Bourgoine was the center piece of the Antique Automobile Club of America Tour on Main St. in Presque Isle on Aug. 17. (Paul Bagnall | The Star-Herald)

There were approximately 15 automobiles ranging from 1912 to 1931, with three of them owned by Aroostook County residents.

Madawaska residents Alan Landeen and Peter Bourgoine had a 1916 American LaFrance as the centerpiece on Presque Isle’s Main Street for the AACA Vintage Tour. Most of the cars featured were Ford Model T’s and A’s. The oldest car was a 1912 EMF Studebaker.

“We found this [1912 EMF Studebaker] in an ad and we bought it in Omaha, Nebraska,” said Nancy Huffman. 

Huffman has been an AACA member since the 1960s. She purchased the 1912 EMF Studebaker with her husband Jerry in 2017.

Richard Cutler (middle) from Rochester, Massachusetts speaks with Aroostook residents about his 1929 Ford Model A Phaeton during the Antique Automobile Club of America Tour on Main Street in Presque Isle on Aug. 17. (Paul Bagnall | The Star-Herald)

Younger generations can learn the history of how the automobiles operate and witness what it was like to drive in the earlier models, which were built with manual gear shifts, clutches and no seat belts.

“It’s not the cars, it’s the people you meet along the way,“ said Fred Trusty, national president of AACA from Louisville, Kentucky. It was the first time that Trusty had been to Maine.

On Aug. 17 at 9 a.m. the AACA Vintage Tour began at Loring Air Force Base with John Garbinski, author of “North River Depot,” giving a special tour of the base. Then the tour went to Limestone Country Club for lunch and drove to Fort Fairfield to visit Phil Kilcollins’ home where he had a collection of more than 100 restored tractors.

After Fort Fairfield, the antique automobiles returned to Presque Isle Main Street in the evening between State and Academy streets for their big celebration with the Star City Syndicate playing classic rock covers.

A 1933 Franklin Series 18A Olympic Coupe owned by Alex Huppe and Jeryl Schriever of Castine, Maine parked on Main Street in Presque Isle during the Antique Automobile Club of America Tour on Aug. 17. (Paul Bagnall | The Star-Herald)

The cars can only go about 45 miles per hour and had to be hauled in from places like Arizona, Kentucky, North Carolina, New York and Massachusetts.

“The little towns across America are all the same with the only thing changing between them is the weather and the people,” Trusty said. He has been involved with the AACA since 2001, and was elected president in February this year for a one-year term.

“It’s a unique event and [the AACA] doesn’t do it every year. They do it every other year and that makes it all the more rare,” said Craig Green, Presque Isle City councilor.

Four years ago, Green was at a flea market in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where he met Rick Watson, AACA president for the Maine Region. 

Watson and Green talked about a couple who wanted to get the AACA Vintage Tour to Aroostook County, but couldn’t put it together because they lacked a local contact. Green, who is a member of the AACA, became that contact to plan when the AACA Vintage Tour would come to Aroostook County.

Aroostook County residents check out Nancy Huffman’s (right) 1912 EMF Studebaker as her husband Jerry Huffman (back-left) speaks to a resident about its history on Main Street in Presque Isle during the Antique Automobile Club of America Tour on Aug. 17. The Huffman’s traveled to Aroostook County from Rochester, NY. (Paul Bagnall | The Star-Herald)

The vintage automobiles toured Portage Lake on Friday, Aug. 18, with the last day happening on Saturday, Aug. 19, with a tour of Fort Fairfield, Easton and other locations east of Presque Isle before returning to the Northeastland Hotel.

The AACA tours different small towns and communities with different eras of vehicle history in each location. The cars all have the same capabilities in speed and handling for each touring event, according to Watson.

AACA was formed in 1935 primarily as a driving club, with the show portion of the AACA beginning in the late 1950s, or early 1960s, according to Trusty.