From its handcrafted radiator and Ford logo to the meaningful license plate at the rear — a life-size wooden Ford Model T at Karlock’s Kars and Pop Culture reflects the legacy of a man who shared compassion and smiles with all around him, and a good friend who finished the model “his way” when he was too ill to continue.

From its handcrafted radiator and Ford logo to the meaningful license plate at the rear — a life-size wooden Ford Model T at Karlock’s Kars and Pop Culture reflects the legacy of a man who shared compassion and smiles with all around him, and a good friend who finished the model “his way” when he was too ill to continue.

Mike Sohn crafted an endless variety of wooden creations — including a full-size 1909 Harley Davidson Twin model on display at the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum and Hall of Fame — and a smiling Spongebob Squarepants his youngest daughter, Laci Sohn Zimmerman, helped him make. Around 2011, Sohn completed the front portion of a new creation, crafted from its tires to the tip of its windshield out of wood. But when he became too ill to continue, there was one person — his friend, Larry Gibbs — he wanted to take the helm on the car he adamantly wanted to stay in Hannibal.

Gibbs said that Sohn had been in and out of the hospital when he they discussed passing along the Model T project. Gibbs had worked on wood projects for years with Sohn, recalling when they met at a local tire shop in the 1980s. From the start, Gibbs could tell that Sohn had an engaging, funny personality — along with a crystal-clear vision of what he would create, coupled with the dedication and attention to detail to bring it all together.

“He was a card. I do a little woodworking, so that’s how we got to know each other,” Gibbs said. “I do some woodworking; I don’t do anything like he does.”

Gibbs said the Model T represented about six years of work altogether, from when Sohn began crafting the car to when he passed it on to Gibbs. Other people offered to take over the project, but Sohn wanted the task to go to Gibbs.

“It was his baby and I really wanted to make sure it was finished,” he said.

During the process of carefully cutting, steaming and fitting each wooden piece, Gibbs fashioned fenders from century-old Redwood siding used on a barn that belonged to his girlfriend’s grandfather. Gibbs said he works on wood the same way Sohn did, using materials that are available instead of throwing them aside. He noted endless details reflecting Sohn’s creativity, from the intricate steering wheel to the engine’s spark plug wires fashioned from grapevines.

After Gibbs’ work was complete, the car was in its new home at Karlock’s Kars and Pop Culture on S. Main St., unveiled during a celebration on Thursday, June 29, hosted by museum co-owners Jackie and Steve Karlock. Gibbs knew he brought the Model T to the right home for his friend.

“That was his main request, to have it in a museum,” Gibbs said. “And I told him I would make sure it would be displayed some place. When this place opened, it was perfect so people who knew him could actually see it.”

Steve Karlock said the painstakingly-crafted car was joined recently by a smiling Spongebob Squarepants figure, standing between the Model T and a plethora of vintage toys overhead.

Karlock remembered it was an emotional moment for Sohn’s friend who donated the figure with a pat on its head.

“He said, ‘Goodbye, Bob. You’re going to a good home,’” Karlock said.

Laci Sohn Zimmerman, who helped her father create the figure, said with a smile, “I haven’t seen him (Spongebob figure) in years.”

Gibbs remembered how Sohn always enjoyed doing nice things for kids, echoed by a fond memory from Jenny Curtis, Sohn Zimmerman’s Pre-K Director at St. John’s Lutheran School. She remembered how Sohn whittled birds, flowers and other small trinkets for his daughter to show — and she held onto them all day long.

Sohn Zimmerman said that no one could have done a better job than Gibbs at realizing her father’s vision for the Model T — adding personalized touches like the license plate that reads “Sohn-1: 1941-2014 and a framed collage featuring his Navy seal, several of his creations and the familiar smile that friends and family will always remember.

“My dad would have loved it, Larry did such a great job,” Sohn Zimmerman said. “It was left to probably the best person it could have been left to, it was in very good hands. Especially the license plate, I love that.”

Susan Osterhout remembered that Sohn’s creativity was matched by the joy and laughter he shared with everyone around him.

“Mike was a character, one-of-a-kind,” she said. “We’ll miss him, that’s for sure.”

Sohn’s oldest daughter, Pam, said her father left an indelible mark throughout Hannibal.

“If you met Dad, you never forgot him, did you?” she said. “And Hannibal is a much quieter place without Dad. But it’s quieter for the worse and not for the better — he was a great American.... But wasn’t he talented? It’s amazing what he could do.”

Gibbs didn’t hesitate to praise his late friend’s unique skills, too, noting there are countless parts Sohn crafted that are hidden from view once the fenders and other body panels were in place.

“He was the artist, when it came to that. I could work with wood, but he could work with magic,” he said.

Sohn Zimmerman said Gibbs stayed true to her father’s motto: “I did it my way.”

“He would have been proud the ways things are and he would have loved to be here tonight,” Sohn-Zimmerman said. “It’s exactly how he wanted it.”

Reach reporter Trevor McDonald at trevor.mcdonald@courierpost.com