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Rob Heyen of Milford, Neb., brought his Ford Model K car to New London this week to participate in the New London to New Brighton Antique Car Run. This will be Heyen's second time participating in the annual run. Tribune photo by Kayla Prasek

Rare cars make the trip for antique car run

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Rare cars make the trip for antique car run
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

NEW LONDON -- There are just two working Ford Model K cars in the United States, and this weekend, both of those Model Ks are participating in the 27th annual New London to New Brighton Antique Car Run for the first time.

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Rob Heyen, of Milford, Neb., and Tim Kelly, of New Canaan, Conn., own the Model Ks, one of the rarest antique cars in existence.

Ford only made approximately 1,000 Model Ks, which were sold from 1906 to 1908. Today, there are just 23 Model Ks in existence, though most are in private collections or museums. There are also two working Model Ks in Australia.

The Model K had Ford's first and last six-cylinder engine until 1958, making it a powerful car, Heyen said.

"It's an exceptional car," he said. "It's fast. It's strong. Model Ks were in a lot of races, and it once held a world record for endurance."

Aside from its power, Heyen said the car also had other appeal to him.

"It's not just a rare car, but it's a rare Ford," he said. "Unlike obscure brands, people are aware of a Ford, so it adds to the interest of the car."

Heyen became interested in antique cars when he got a Ford Model T car running in high school.

"I've always liked older cars," he said. "Ten years ago I got my first antique car. It's a piece of history you can feel, touch and enjoy. It's remarkable we can still take them on the highways."

The public has always loved the automobile, dating back to the antique cars, Heyen said.

"I love driving them," he said. "I love to be on the road. It's interesting to see the looks and smiles on people's faces as you drive by."

Heyen rode in Kelly's Model K during the antique car run here in 2011.

"It piqued my interest," Heyen said. "It's such a fast and strong car."

Heyen purchased his Model K a year and a half ago. In addition to his Model K, Heyen also owns three other antique Ford cars.

Kelly purchased his Model K in 2010, but his love for antique cars started as a child.

"When I was 8, an elderly neighbor asked me to crawl through the windows of his 1929 Chevrolet to unlatch the door for him since it didn't have handles," Kelly said. "I asked if I could steer it while he pushed it from one garage to the other. Ever since then, I've had an interest in antique cars."

Over the past 40 years, Kelly has owned a wide variety of cars, including other brands, all of which he has sold to now only collect Ford cars.

"I have a preference for very rare cars, and the Model K is very rare and pretty powerful," Kelly said. "I was shopping for one for a dozen years, but I held out until a four-seater went up for sale in Pebble Beach, Calif."

Kelly likened his love of antique cars to some people's love for golf.

"Some people are focused on golf or traveling, and this is what I've focused on," he said. "I was always mechanically inclined, and I enjoy the quest and challenge to find cars and keep them running. But it's 50-50 for the collecting and the social aspect."

Both men are looking forward to the antique car run on Saturday.

Kelly said he makes the trip from Connecticut to New London because the run is modeled after a famous event in England.

"Before 1904, when you drove a car, someone had to walk ahead of you with a flag," Kelly said. "In 1904, they did away with that law, so everyone got in their cars and zipped off from London to Brighton, and this event copies that."

Kelly first participated in the run from New London to New Brighton in 2011.

"This event draws like-minded people," he said. "I came for the 25th anniversary run two years ago and loved all the people I met, so now I keep coming back."

Heyen said it's a big run, but one he looks forward to each year.

"It's a great trip," he said. "It's my favorite tour, anywhere. The people here are always wonderful."

The New London to New Brighton Antique Car Run is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. Saturday at the Peace Lutheran Church parking lot in New London. The run has planned rest stops at 8 a.m. in Grove City, 9:30 a.m. in Litchfield, 10:30 a.m. in Kingston, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Buffalo, 2:30 p.m. in Crystal and 3 to 7 p.m. in New Brighton.

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