Johnny Cloud (owner of the Cloud Museum) told me his father first purchased a Ford Model TT truck for their farm south of Yuma. (Pictured above) Then he drove it for at least a million miles when he was only eight years old. Now, this Ford Model TT truck is the star attraction at the Cloud Museum. This story about Johnny’s million-mile trip is why I put the picture of this 1926 Ford Model TT one-ton truck at the top of this blog.
When Johnny was driving his dad’s Ford Model TT, it never left the farm. Johnny wasn’t big enough or strong enough to drive it, let alone start it. As an eight-year-old child growing up on a poor farm south of Yuma he said that didn’t have many toys, so he sat in the Ford Model TT truck and pretended to tour the world. Driving, even without moving, was better than chores.
All that about his dad’s Ford Model TT changed over the years and he has driven it and he has restored it back to a museum-quality Ford ModelTT truck. The biggest difference is it is now painted white and sometimes he will haul it to town to drive it in a parade. He probably still has chores to do, but they will wait.
His father’s Ford Model TT truck
His father’s Ford Model TT truck is not the only Ford Model TT Johnny could drive in a parade. He also has a beautifully restored yellow Ford Model TT delivery van.
Unlike his father’s truck, Johnny didn’t drive this one for a million miles growing up on the farm. Just the same, this yellow delivery van is all painted up to represent the family farm in Bard. Unlike the farm south of Yuma, Johnny owns a farm north of Yuma, in Bard (California), where he decided to open his museum.
Now Johnny is a farm owner but not a farmer
A few years back Johnny decided to lease out his farmland to big-time Imperial Valley commercial farmers, so in 1990 Johnny turned from farmer to collector. He started collecting pretty much anything that was old, but his specialty is Ford Model T and Ford Model A cars and trucks. Now he shares them at the Cloud Museum in Bard California as part of his family farm.
The Cloud Museum is Johnny’s personal collection. He didn’t start collecting to start a museum. Instead, he told me that he always loved his father’s Ford Model T Truck. When he leased his farm, he still had his shop and his dad’s old Ford Model T. He also had lots of old farming equipment sitting around.
Over the years Johnny started collecting so that he could work in the shop and keep the old vehicles running. He didn’t start the Cloud Museum until he had dozens, perhaps hundreds of visitors to the collection.
The Cloud Museum
The Cloud Museum isn’t open in the summer. Understandably it is just too hot. In the winter, however, Johnny told me he loves the visitors and is often at the museum. When it isn’t too hot, Johnny opens the Cloud Museum seven days a week from 7 am to 4 pm. When Johnny isn’t there, he has a caretaker on the property who will show people around.
Johnny has collected an astonishing number of old cars at the Cloud Museum. Other than his father’s Model T, he only started the collection in 1990. If he asked me, I would have told him that he was too late to start collecting Ford Model T(s) and Model A(s) and that most of the possible collection was either gone forever or converted into hot rods. (That shows you what I know about collecting.)
Johnny’s collection shows you that it is not too late to start a collection, even in the 1990s, and that if this is your goal, with enough work you can achieve major things. The Cloud Museum shows that it is possible.
Not afraid of rust
Johnny isn’t afraid of rust or that rust may ruin his collection. First of all, most of the collection was rusty when he got it. Second and most importantly, the location of the Cloud Museum, Yuma is very, very dry. Rust requires moisture to get really bad. There is plenty of heat in Yuma, but hardly any moisture.
Not for sale
Johnny told me he is a buyer, not a seller. He often ventures far from Yuma to expand his collection. Sometimes he only buys parts. Sometimes he buys already restored cars in groups. The Oldsmobile (pictured below) is an example of a car he purchased as part of a fully restored group of cars.
He might trade
Like most collectors, Johnny might trade you something he has for something equally as wonderful to “fill a hole” in his collection. Not being a collector or even knowledgeable about collecting I couldn’t tell if he needed anything or if could have any holes in his collection.
Johnny has a story about the country doctor that had to make a house call when his sister was born. What happened is that his dad jumped into the truck (the white one at the very top of this article) and went to fetch the doctor for the birth.
The story about fetching the doctor was a good story and it was a good thing that it was a bright moonlit night with no clouds (common in Yuma). Anyway, the lights on the truck failed during the trip. This set us into a discussion about headlights.
The acetylene gas was either held in a pressurized tank (uncommon) or created while driving by adding a little water to calcium carbide inside a special tank that then fed the headlight. If you add water to calcium carbide, the mixture produces acetylene gas to run the headlights. Essentially you had two little fires on the front of your car producing the light.
Back to headlights, you would light the acetylene gas with a match. Coal miners used the same technique to light their way through the mine. I have explained this before in this article. Coal Mine Life
They all run
How is that for a statement? They all run! Johnny drove every one of these cars into the museum. He said that if he were to put in some gas and put a battery on any of his cars in his collection that each car would run. Of course, after getting them started he would have to get the tires to hold air. That might be a challenge.
Is that an RV?
The genius of Ford manufacturing.
The genius of Ford manufacturing was that Henry Ford realized two things. In the video, (below) Dave asked me about the assembly line process. That was only one of the key genius ideas. After I thought about it for a while, I realized that I failed to first establish that Ford insisted on interchangeable parts.
Until Ford, most everything was custom made and parts were not easily switchable between one car and the next. Interchangeable parts make the assembly line possible. As for the video, Dave does a good job speaking “off the cuff”. As for me, if you are going to ask me something and then put it on video. I need to think about it for a while.
The Beverly Hillbillies
The car in the Beverly Hillbillies show was Johnny’s grandfather’s car. Johnny’s grandfather chopped the body off a 1921 Oldsmobile Model 46 and made it into a truck. Then the movie folks purchased it from him and made it famous. The Oldsmobile now sits in the Ralph Foster Museum in Missouri. Here is a link. Ralph Foster Museum
Not just about the cars
Johnny collects most everything associated with life and living on a farm. I think the only rule is that it has to be old. Did I see a 1966 Rambler? Perhaps I wasn’t paying attention.
Speaking of anything that was old. Right next to the front gate is a horse-drawn road grader. Johnny even has some Penny-farthing (high wheel) bicycles that are nearly 150 years old at the Cloud Museum.
Several items in the collection are outside or visible from the parking lot. I think Johnny uses these old farm equipment items outside as part of his attraction. He doesn’t really need to. I was ready to go in based on the sign at the gate.
More farm tractors are inside the lot along with all the old cars and trucks. Johnny also has one building set up like an old post office, another set up like an old General Store, and of course, a farmhouse stuffed with antiques.
Video at the Cloud Museum
Dave shot a Youtube video while at the Cloud Museum. You can watch it here or perhaps on Youtube.
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Ralph Foster Museum with the Beverly Hillbillies Oldsmobile