ITS inspiration was driven to the summit of Britain’s highest mountain.
Now it is hoped a sculpture of a Model T Ford will drive tourists to Fort William.
The statue will be unveiled on Saturday in the town’s Cameron Square and commemorates the 1911 ascent of Ben Nevis by Henry Alexander.
Henry Ford might have said customers could get his landmark car in any colour they liked as long as it was black, but Lochaber’s latest monument only comes in bronze.
His grandson, Mike Munro, will attend the unveiling after almost £55,000 was raised locally and by Model T enthusiasts around the world, in addition to a £35,000 grant, to fund the full-sized sculpture.
Chris Robinson, chairman of the Bronze Ford Project, said: “People will know Fort William because of this model, just as people are attracted to the Falkirk area by the Kelpies.”
The genesis of the sculpture, which weighs more than three tonnes, can be traced back to 2011, when 77 people each carried a piece of a Model T Ford up Ben Nevis to mark the centenary of Henry Alexander’s feat.
They assembled it at the summit and it was later reassembled to go on display at the town’s West Highland Museum.
Five years ago, an architect commissioned to redesign the square saw the car in the museum and sketched a picture of a Model T in the revamped town centre.
The owner of the car, Neil Tuckett, contacted his friend, Ayrshire sculptor Mark Stoddart, who confirmed it would be possible to make a bronze model of the vehicle.
Edinburgh foundry, Powderhall Bronze, was given the commission and over the last eight months has been taking each individual part of the original vehicle and creating a mould from it.
“I’ve never known for something to be created in this way,” said Mark, who has had commissions from, among others, the king of Saudi Arabia, Buzz Aldrin and Elton John.
“Everything was used for a mould. I’m astonished at the detail, right down to a ripped seat.
“It’s great that it was done in Edinburgh, where Henry Alexander set off from.”
Henry was the son of Scotland’s first Ford dealer and thought it would be great publicity to drive the Model T to the summit of Britain’s highest peak.
It took him five days, crossing burns, navigating trackless rocky hillsides and negotiating bogs.
When the car became stuck in a peat hag at the halfway point, sticks of dynamite were used to destroy the hardy turf!
Having reached the 4,411ft summit of Ben Nevis, Henry descended to be met by huge crowds and the achievement made headlines around the world and boosted car sales for his dad’s business.
The daredevil drove to the top of the mountain again in 1928, this time in a Model A Ford.
Mike said: “What he did was really dangerous. There were times when it could have gone catastrophically wrong.
“A running joke in the family was that his father told him his pocket money would be stopped unless he did the drive. He was 22 at the time!
“To us three grandkids he was Poppy. He would take me fishing and visited us every Sunday. I would show him my wallet to prove I was saving and he’d give me a 10-bob note.
“It will be a proud moment on Saturday when the sculpture is unveiled, although I don’t know what right the Royal Family thinks it has organising a wedding when we’d booked that day first!”
Mark added: “I think this will be a huge tourist attraction.”
The Model T, which will also have a model of Henry Alexander behind the wheel, is the latest addition to Fort William’s Bronze Trail, which also includes the Commando Memorial, the Bronze Furnace, which is a statue of a worker at the local aluminium factory, and Sair Feet, a model of a man nursing his feet at the end of the West Highland Way
The car and the Ford logo could not be used on the statue without permission from the motor industry giant but, helpfully, through Dyslexia Scotland, Mark knows Sir Jackie Stewart and asked him if the racetrack legend could help.
He said: “Jackie had a long relationship with Ford, so he got in touch with them and the next thing I knew I had a letter granting us permission from William Clay Ford Jr, great-grandson of Henry Ford.”
Enjoy the convenience of having The Sunday Post delivered as a digital ePaper straight to your smartphone, tablet or computer.
Subscribe for only £5.49 a month and enjoy all the benefits of the printed paper as a digital replica.Subscribe