During this 200th anniversary of the Skowhegan State Fair, visitors will have the opportunity to see the history of the American automobile from its very beginnings. The Hight family of dealerships love cars and will share their collection.

Walter Hight said he and his entire family have collected and restored dozens of antique cars over the years.

“We’ve got a ’49 Buick and a ’35 Ford roadster, and we have some early convertibles that are fully restored,” Hight said.

Founder of the family’s love of cars 107 years ago was the first Walter Hight, the father, grandfather and great-grandfather of the owners and managers of today’s several dealerships.
To celebrate the bicentennial year of the fair, the family will bring 70 historic vehicles to the fairgrounds for a magnificent 10-day display of automobile history.

Much has changed over the past century, according to Walter Hight, namesake and grandson of the first car dealer.

The earliest models often had fittings that no longer are manufactured, Hight explained, and finding those parts for an authentic restoration is a painstaking labor of love.
The oldest in the collection is a 1913 Model T Ford Brass, which came from the Ford factory in Michigan.

The radiator is brass, he said, as are the headlight housings. Cars in that time period were shipped by railroad from Michigan to Lewiston, and the Hight dealership employees would drive to the station to assemble them and drive them back to Skowhegan. The Model T and the subsequent Model A were big hits with Maine customers, even though few had driven anything other than a horse and wagon at the time.

Henry Ford’s tin Lizzies changed life for central Maine people, including the way they worked, traveled and vacationed. Assembly-line automobile manufacturing in 1908 produced the first car that an average family could afford. According to History.com, more than 15 million Model Ts were built in Detroit and Highland Park, Michigan.

The first Hight dealership opened when Walter Hight added Ford cars to his inventory of hay, lumber and all sorts of other goods necessary to local farmers and business owners. He had to teach customers how to drive them, and stories of escapades, close calls and tough times have been passed to each new generation.

After the Model T, the automobile industry boomed. New models had new features, including the folding or removable top on the popular convertible.

“We’ll have a ‘39 Ford convertible with a rumble seat, which is the last year they made rumble seats,” he said.

The Hights’ collection spans the decades of the 20th century, and the display will be a chance for both car and history buffs to see the changes and improvements throughout the past century. Sports car fans will enjoy the collection of 12 Corvettes. The first full-scale Corvette concept was displayed as a “dream car” at General Motor’s Motorama in New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel in 1953. The 1956 Corvette introduced exposed headlamps, sculpted side coves and roll up windows. Factory-installed, removable hardtops were offered for the first time, according to the National Corvette Museum’s timeline.

“We have some Mustangs and Thunderbirds in the collection, too. They’re beautiful cars,” Hight said. “The oldest Mustang is a 1965 model.”

In the 1960s, American car buyers were looking for “muscle cars” that were both stylish and affordable. Mustangs were called “pony cars,” with long hoods and short rear decks, and they have been collectibles ever since.

Now, after 107 years of selling cars, staying afloat through several wars and the Great Depression and other challenges, the Hight family plans to share the legends and lore of the automotive industry. Family members will drive all 70 cars a few at a time to a big tent on the fairgrounds. Each day of the fair, someone will be available to answer questions for viewers. The display will be located next to the antique power collection.

Hight locations include the Chevrolet Buick GMC dealership in Skowhegan, the Chevrolet Buick GMC dealership in Farmington, the Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Madison and the Ford dealership in Skowhegan.

filed under:

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.


  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.