AUSTIN – Legislative offices in Austin aren't often attractions, but none of them have anything quite like State Representative Joe Pickett.
"This is the last year of the Model T,” he said. “It's a 1927 Touring Car, and for a car that's this old, it's just in excellent condition."
The maroon antique automobile sits right inside the door of his office on the west side of the State Capitol.
It has quietly become an off-the-beaten-path tourist attraction. State Comptroller Glenn Hegar dropped in unexpectedly with an out of state guest on Wednesday.
"I thought it was all meeting rooms and things like that. I passed by and thought, ‘Oh I've got to go in there and check that car out!’” said Melissa Allen, visiting from Splendora.
Not only is the 1927 Ford a rare vehicle, this Model T runs and is believed to be the first car to ever be inside the Texas Capitol.
The State Preservation Board said there were some horses and carts in the basement at the turn of the century, Pickett explained, but never a car.
He pointed out that he drained all the fluids before reassembling it in his office. But the biggest question most visitors have is how he got a working automobile inside a 36-inch door.
“Well, everybody has said use the Johnny Cash song, "Piece At a Time." I had to disassemble it completely,” said Pickett.
He and his son carried it into the Capitol piece by piece last November. The veteran lawmaker from El Paso collects cars and currently has about two dozen vehicles. Pickett purchased the 1927 Ford in Wimberley last year.
So, why bring it to his state office?
Pickett said he appreciates history and wants to commemorate the 100th birthday of the Texas Highway Department, which later became the Texas Department of Transportation.
Besides the car, he has a nearly 100-year-old old gas pump from Bonham and 150 Texas license plates affixed to his walls; one for every year since the state started stamping them on metal.
"It was 100 years ago when Texas started officially issuing license plates,” said Pickett.
"This was the Texas plate we had in the 90s," he added, while pointing to the common blue and white license plate that had the space shuttle in the upper left corner. “When the disaster happened, Texas very quietly, unassumingly, to honor the astronauts that died, changed and enlarged the stars and put, put a U.S. flag on the shuttle.”
In 1965 for the first time, he added, Texas began offering vanity plates. Pickett has an example of one from that year, as well.
This is not the first time the state legislator has turned his Capitol office into something to see.
A few years ago, he transformed his office into an ice cream parlor. Before that he had a movie theater theme with posters of motion pictures that were filmed in Texas.
Pickett said his displays like the Model T actually assist him politically, as well.
“Yes. Very much so,” he said.
How? It's a conversation starter and can disarm opponents, which is the other reason Pickett places it there.
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