Minnesota Model T enthusiast killed in crash of antique car

  • Article by: BILL MCAULIFFE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 26, 2013 - 10:02 PM

Karen Johnson, president of a Minnesota car club, died in a Utah rollover while on a national Model T club tour.

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The Model T in which Karen Johnson was riding overturned near Zion National Park in Utah.

Photo: Photo provided by Utah Highway Patrol,

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An Owatonna woman who was a well-known antique car enthusiast was killed Thursday when the 1915 Model T in which she was riding crashed on a highway shoulder outside Utah’s Zion National Park.

Karen Johnson, 51, who was president of the <URL destination="https://sites.google.com/site/ttotalersofminnesota/home">T-Totalers<PARAGRAPH style="$ID/[No paragraph style]">cq

The wooden spokes on one wheel apparently collapsed as it hit the edge of the pavement, causing the open-top car to roll over, Hawkes said.

Johnson was killed. Three other passengers had minor injuries.

Johnson’s husband, Tim, was following in another vehicle and was at his wife’s side when she was airlifted to a nearby hospital, where she died.

The roadside terrain was relatively flat without any steep mountainous drop-offs, Hawkes said.

The Johnsons were on a six-day annual tour through southwestern Utah with the Model T Ford Club International, involving 170 cars and more than 400 people, said tour chairman Russ Furstnow in a phone interview. Motorists drive at their own pace and not in convoys, Furstnow said, and they cover from 83 to 160 miles per day. The cars’ top speed is about 30 miles per hour.

The tour ended Friday with no other accidents, Furstnow said.

Karen Johnson was “outgoing, caring, just a wonderful lady — a definite sparkplug,” Furstnow said.

Andy Loso, of St. Joseph, Minn., vice president of the T-Totalers, added that Karen and Tim Johnson worked together restoring cars and that their several cars were well-maintained.

“Karen was always smiling and outgoing,” Loso said. “Most of the women in the club — I don’t want to stereotype, but they mostly sit around and visit. Karen was always in the garage working on things, getting dirty. She’d grab the other women and bring them in and try to teach them stuff.”

In a President’s Letter on the club website, Karen Johnson indicated that she and her husband farm and have four children and that antique cars have been a family passion for several generations.

The Model T in which Johnson had been riding Friday was not outfitted with seat belts, Hawkes said.

But Loso and Furstnow said they do not regard driving Model Ts as risky.

Loso said the wooden spokes are not regarded as a particularly vulnerable point on the cars.

 

Bill McAuliffe • 612-673-7646

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