Obituary: Bruce W. McCalley / Top expert on Ford's Model T and its era

Feb. 4, 1926 - Feb. 15, 2012
February 20, 2012 12:29 pm

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Known as "Mr. Model T," Bruce McCalley knew more about the car that transformed the world than the company that made it.

In fact, when Ford Motor Co. had a question about its early history, officials there turned to Mr. McCalley, a man who spent his free time digging through the company's archives to become the foremost expert on everything from restoration of the car itself to the life of Henry Ford.

Mr. McCalley, one of the founders of the Model T Ford Club of America in 1966, died Wednesday. He was 86.

"There's a huge void," said Jay Klehfoth, his successor as editor of The Vintage Ford, the club's magazine.

"There's no way anyone can replace him within the club or the hobby.

"He was just unique."

Mr. Klehfoth explained that Mr. McCalley's fascination with the car began when a friend gave him a Model T with a bad engine in the mid-1960s in California.

Mr. McCalley, who was stationed in Alaska as a radio instructor in World War II and later worked for an electronics company, decided to rebuild the engine himself.

But when he began researching the Model T, of which Ford produced 15 million from 1908 to 1927, he was blown away by how little information was available.

Researching and, most importantly, sharing and disseminating information on the car then became his quest.

He authored several books, including "The Model T Ford Encyclopedia," "Model T Ford -- The Car That Changed The World" and "From Here to Obscurity." He also wrote several articles and technical manuals.

When "The Model T Ford Encyclopedia" went out of print, he made a digital copy to share and, until shortly before his death, he updated it with the newest information almost weekly.

He was awarded lifetime achievement awards by both the Model T Ford Club of America and The Model T Ford Club International.

Along his journey, he encountered kindred Model T enthusiasts from all over the world.

One became his wife.

Barbara McCalley said she and her husband met on a national tour with the club in Dearborn, Mich., in the 1970s.

"Bruce was a very laid-back, quiet, humble guy, but he had a tremendous facility with the language," Mrs. McCalley said. "He was a simple person, but he had a tremendous wit and great sense of humor."

The pair married in 1991, and he relocated from California to Pittsburgh to be with her.

Her husband, she said, had two Model T touring series cars from 1915 and 1923.

When he sold the last one a year ago, he said it was "an end of an era."

Mr. McCalley is survived by his wife, of McCandless, son David of Pasadena, Calif., son Stephen of Palm Desert, Calif., and one granddaughter.

There will be no viewing or visitation, and the burial will be private. A celebration of his life will be held at a later date.

Memorial donations can be made in Mr. McCalley's name to Animal Friends, 562 Camp Horne Road, Pittsburgh 15237 or to Gateway Hospice, 9380 McKnight Road, Suite 201 Arcadia Court, Pittsburgh 15237.

Taryn Luna: 412-263-1985 or tluna@post-gazette.com.
First Published 2012-02-19 23:17:08

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