Behind the wheel of his 1924 Studebaker, Powell Sigmon took pleasure in roaming through the countryside of eastern North Carolina and observing smiling onlookers.
“I would like to charge them for all of the pictures they took,” Sigmon said with a chuckle and a grin, referring to all those marveling at his vehicle.
Sigmon, a Newton resident and classic car enthusiast, joined others for the spring tour for the North Carolina Regional Group of the Horseless Carriage Club of America (HCCA). Members spent two days traveling the backroads of eastern North Carolina on Friday and Saturday. Some of the participants came from Ohio, Virginia and South Carolina to fellowship with North Carolinians,
“It makes you slow down and notice the surroundings,” Sigmon said about the tour, which made its way into Sampson and Clinton. “We get on the interstate and go and we don’t know what’s between us and where we started from.”
But that’s not the case with members of the HCCA.
“You get in these old cars and you drive at 35 and 40 mph and you notice the scenery and the people,” he said about driving the antique.”
The club welcomes any pioneer gas, steam and electric motor vehicle built or manufactured before Jan. 1, 1916. Membership in the organization is open to anyone interested in the vehicles; owning one is not required.
In the early 1900s, automobiles were called horseless carriages because of their capability to transport people and freight without a horse. As a result, trips were completed faster. Along with completing tours, one goal is to preserve the vehicles while using them for their original purpose — driving. Another one is to promote the preservation of their historical value.
Sigmon humorously discussed the differences between driving a modern and an antique car.
“We drive a lot of back roads and if you’re driving one of these you may end up in someone’s driveway or barn,” he said. “If you do it with a modern car, they’re out there with a shotgun because they’re intimidated. If you do it with one of these cars, they’ll welcome you in and offer you coffee. It’s just a another world.”
Member Bill Adams of Lexington owns a 1926 Pontiac and enjoyed the tour with his wife Libby.
“It’s fun having people watch you down the road,” Adams said. “It’s a lot of fun and you meet a lot of people.”
During the tour, members traveled through the backr oad and stopped at places such as historic Bentonville Battlefield, Harmony Hall Plantation and Elizabethtown. After returning to Clinton, the travelers enjoyed a banquet together at the Veterans of Foreign Wars building.
Organizer Joe Dabbs, a Clinton resident, has been a member of the club for five years. He owns a classic 1925 Roadster and compared it to owning a favorite bicycle as a child or pedal car.
“As you grow older, your toys get bigger and better,” Dabbs said with a smile. “It’s just a great big toy that we enjoy having fun with and driving.”
The speed of the vehicles are typically less than average speed limit signs in Sampson County. Most people enjoy watching the horseless carriages. During the tour, Dabbs said one onlooker took note and the drivers are preserving the past with the hobby.
“Some people like to play golf,” Dabbs said. “This is our hobby, we play with cars.”
After touring the backroads Friday, Larry Wright prepared his 1912 Cadillac for the second round of the tour. The Sanford resident found the car 17 years ago in Hershey, Pa.
“Sometimes you have to scratch your head becuase you don’t have any manuals to go by,” Wright said. “You have to figure everything out. Parts sometimes are not available. So you have to have them made or make them yourself.”
The upkeep of the vehicles can also be an expensive and time-consuming challenge. But overall, owning a horseless carriage is something he enjoys.
“It’s a lot of fun to get out with people who have similar cars, enjoy the fellowship and the idea of driving a car that’s more than one hundred years old. It’s still getting down the road and I hope I’m still in good shape when I’m 100 years old.”