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Help! 1935 car advice needed for research!


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I am an author and am writing a book that takes place in 1935. I have a character that is going to drive from NJ to Key West, FL in a Ford car. My questions are:

1) What would the cheapest Ford car have been?

2) How long would it have taken? What kind of mileage did cars get back then?

3) Were there roadside amenities along Route 1? Motels? Restaurants?

4) Did cars break down frequently on trips like this?

Thanks SO much!


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You would probably want to post this on the general AACA or a Ford site to get specific information. Would you be planning on the character driving a brand new car or one several years, or perhaps older. The situation would be different depending on the persons personal finances. A new Frod in 1935 was perhaps just about $1,000 at that time. Naturally, as older car would be more prone to problems then a new one.

I recall my parents driving on both 17 and Route 1 from PA to FL in the 40's, but no details.

Good luck with the book.


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Guest DaveCorbin

Dear Jenni:

Even though I'm a Buick guy, my parents traveled extensively in the 30's before I was born and in the late 40's and early 50's which I can remember. I can't answer your first question with a dollar value, but will point out the fact that a 2 passenger coupe is almost always the cheapest car. It is too small for a long trip for more than 2 people, or a driver and one child. On your second point, it would be a hard drive of around 5 days from NJ to Key West in 1935. 300 miles per day would be a high average. Fuel mileage would be around 17 MPG and you would probably also use 1/2 quart of oil per day, even in a fairly new car. Point three is a yes and no answer. There were beginning to be motels (motor hotels) and chain restaurants then (Howard Johnson), bur they were few and far between. Most travelers stayed at hotels, which most small towns had or at "Tourist Homes" (Roughly the same idea as a bed and breakfast today.) Every town had a local restaurant, but they were of widely varying quality. In regard to point four, the age of the car is a factor. Even on a new car, you would probably have 2 flat tires on a trip like this. On an older car, you carried a good toolbox and remembered where you had seen a junkyard. By 1935, you could probably get an old and tired 1915 Model T Ford for around $10. I personally bought a ragged but running 1928 Ford model A coupe in 1955 for $8. A really nice low mileage 1940 Chevy 2 door was $150, also in 1955.

I hope this gives you some ideas about what traveling was like. Most roads were dirt or gravel, but the first section of the Pennsylvania Turnpike opened in either 1935 or 1936, so modernization was coming!

Regards and good luck!

Dave Corbin

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At the time that you are talking about it was one tough trip. My father drove from Belton Mo. to Tampa Fla. in 1936 and then back to Quincy Ill. With five children it was tough on everyone. It was done in a 1926 four door Buick. You are going to find it very difficult to find anyone who did it at that time who remembers much about it. After all if you were twenty then now you would be ninety years old and probably with a bad memory. At that time a pack of cigarettes was about 20 cents, gum was 5 cents a pack of 5 sticks. My memory on the price of gas was about 15 or 20 cents a gallon.

1936 (MCMXXXVI) was a leap year starting on Wednesday

If you go on a search in which I used, ?Year of 1936?, and go thru enough places you will likely find all you need and more.

Yours M.L. Anderson

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