Marc Prestby piloted his Model T through the Harmony Fourth of July parade last summer with Jigs Connolly and Bonnie Fossum in the back. File photo
Marc Prestby piloted his Model T through the Harmony Fourth of July parade last summer with Jigs Connolly and Bonnie Fossum in the back. File photo
Some people enjoy classic cars not because they like tinkering or rebuilding them, but simply because they like their looks and traditions. And they definitely enjoy driving the classics.

Marc Prestby of Canton is one such person. He has liked automobiles ever since he was a kid. He’s had a Model A, which he sold, and currently has a Model T as well as a 1967 Ford Mustang convertible.

It might have been the Model A parked across the street that fueled his appetite for classic cars.

“Two brothers, Ed and Jack Finstad, lived across the road and always had a Model A parked in their shed. They never drove it. They wouldn’t sell it. I was always over there admiring it,” said Prestby.

The people introducing him to Model As and Model Ts have all since passed away. But they left a lasting influence.

Through the Toot and Whistle Club associated with Mabel Steam Engine Days and related activities, Prestby became good friends with classic car admirer and Model T owner Clarence Lee of Mabel. He helped Prestby with finding his first classic car purchase, a Model T found in Houston.

“He (Lee) picked it up. I didn’t have storage, so he kept it at his place. He treated it like it was his own baby,” said Prestby. And if he happened to take it out overnight  “it was like he (Lee) would pout the next day (because it had been gone),” Prestby continued, grinning at the memories.

Prestby put new upholstery in the Model T, but that was it for his part in any restoration. He noted it’s a car that can be readily fixed if it happens to break down on a drive. For example, he explained that three bands run the transmission. They may wear out. But the fix is often as easy as taking off one’s belt, cutting it to fit and putting it on the bands.

When he took the Model A out for a drive, it would need to be towed home if it broke down. It certainly made Prestby appreciate the ease of the Model T’s operation. However, don’t think that someone can just sit down, start and drive the Model T without some instruction first.

He noted,” I could leave the keys in the Model T. I think only maybe one person in one hundred could start and drive it.”

While a person could try hand cranking the Model T, the “start” button might prove tricky to find and use. Then there’s the issue of three pedals on the floor, where “one is for high and low, one is the brake and one is reverse.”

Prestby has owned this Model T over 30 years and said he’ll never part with it. It was driven to this area in a snowstorm and then sat in a shed until the 1950s – a classic tale for the classic car.

Other classics in the Prestby garages have included a 1949 Ford and a bevy of Chevy and GMC pickups from the years 1948 through 1954. These he would drive until they no longer worked. “Then I’d “go and get another one for $100 to $150,” he said. “I must have had eight to 10 of those.”

And yet more cars have included a 1962 Chrysler Newport and a 1953 Cadillac. Prestby said he just likes to “have and enjoy them.”

He purchased the ’67 Mustang convertible four to five years ago at a car auction in Spring Grove. He never dreamed he’d come home with a car, but the reserve price came off and he couldn’t resist.

“I always said if I had a Mustang, it would be a convertible,” said Prestby. “I drive it quite a bit in the summer.”

You may have seen the Mustang in parades in northeast Iowa in the summer carrying Winneshiek County dairy royalty in the promotion of their industry – including Prestby’s niece Kristi Elsbernd of Calmar. He’s driven his Model T in parades close to home “when the Canton Historical group asks,” including Bonnie Fossum and his aunt, Delores Connolly. He’s not much of a parade guy, he stated, other than these instances.

But, as already noted, you’ll certainly find him driving his classic cars. Prestby belonged to the now defunct Upper Iowa Vintage Ford Club for around seven years, including serving as president a couple years. A favorite trip included stopping at the Amherst store in Fillmore County. Prestby will always enjoy driving his cars.

And parents, family members and friends can take note – checking out classic cars and giving models to your favorite kids just might develop into a fulfilling, lifelong appreciation. It could become a wonderful driving passion for them in all senses of the word.