Californian native Ron Westbrook saw his house burn down in this week’s horrific wildfires, but has since found out his 1915 Ford Model T is perfectly intact on a trailer at the end of his driveway. The cars that sat in his garage were burnt to ashes, as were all his other possessions. But not the Ford, which at 103 years old and a survivor of a thermal battering had nothing more than minor paint damage.
The scene was almost like from a film, with everything surrounding it either destroyed or still burning, while the Model T sat there gleaming. Components you'd expect to melt like the wooden steering wheel, leather bench seat and the ‘for sale’ sign on the back were completely untouched, despite the wall of fire that passed through the Paradise area and caused untold levels of destruction.
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Cars are insignificant in the wider envelope of what's been happening in Paradise, that has left Mr Westbrook, 71, and his wider neighbours without their homes. Mr Westbrook himself only left his home with minutes to spare before the fire approached, having spent the day in hospital having a check-up after a recent heart attack and subsequent open-heart surgery. Sadly the hospital has also since burned down.
In his brief time at home to gather possessions before the fire came, Mr Westbrook did think of taking the Model T, deciding wisely instead to escape with one of his pick-up trucks.
‘I thought, “You know what, it’s stupid to risk a life for a Model T when there’s so many people trying to evacuate,”’ Mr. Westbrook told _The New York Times_, after watching his house burn down on a television news show.
The car was purchased a year before for $16,000, and is one of many classic cars that he's owned. With the help of a mechanic he fixed the car, and took it along the local roads, occasionally even hitting 35mph. That is in a straight line though. With skinny tyres and confusing pedals, it's risky for anyone to take a car that old around corners at speed.
Such difficulties led to Mr Westbrook choosing to sell the car, but finding a buyer is now of little priority to the pensioner.