Margaret Dunning may not officially be the oldest active driver, but with 94 years of experience under her belt, it's probably safe to say the "Belle of the Concours" has been driving longer than most people.
Dunning, a spry 102-year-old from Plymouth, Mich., first learned to drive as an 8-year-old, tooling around her parents' dairy and potato farm in an Overland touring car and Model T Ford. She learned about automobiles at her father's knee, and her familiarity with machinery remains. (Dunning still changes her own spark plugs and oil, according to Jalopnik.)
After her father died, Dunning, then 12, was in charge of driving her arthritic mother anywhere a team of four horses couldn't go, according to The New York Times.
“If you had just a little knowledge and some baling wire and bob pins, you could keep the thing going,” Dunning said of the Model T. “It was the little car that made America.”
In 1950s America, an era when an auto industry bailout was inconceivable, Dunning can recall racing unmolested down dirt roads and hobnobbing with Henry Ford, a friend and neighbor who lived minutes away, according to The Times.
Befitting such a queen of the roads, Dunning drives a beautifully maintained, cream-colored 1930 Packard 740 Roadster -- a car she's owned since 1949. The Packard, pre-World War II antique, has an inline, eight-cylinder engine, black fenders, a rumble seat and a storage compartment in back.
"The beautiful Packard has four speeds," Dunning said at a recent car event, "And I've tried them all."
Dunning and her Packard have become veritable celebrities on the classic car circuit ever since The New York Times ran its first profile on her last July. Since then, the centenarian has been wooed by such shows as the Keels & Wheels Concourse d'Elegance in Seabrook, Texas, whose chairman coaxed an appearance from the star with a bouquet of yellow roses, The Vindicator reports.
This August, Dunning spent four "exhilarating" days at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Élégance. "It was a fairy-tale whirl,” Dunning said, according to another report by the Times. “I’m walking 10 feet off the ground.”
During the event, which raised about $1 million for charity, Dunning was treated like royalty, presented with a silver brooch and a Classic Car Club of America award from Jay Leno.
In addition to the stunning Roadster, Dunning also owns veritable classic car show of vintage vehicles, including a 1966 Cadillac DeVille, a 1975 Cadillac Eldorado convertible, a 1931 Model A and her "everyday car," a 2003 Cadillac DeVille.