Model A Fords

isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
edited March 2014 in Ford
Guess I can't shake the old car bug!

Answered an ad yesterday for a Model A "Tudor".

Had one a long time ago and remember it fondly.

I'll probably go look at it next week. The owner
said it had been "restored", runs and looks good,
no rust etc. He wants 5900.00.

Have I lost my mind?


  • mkovalskmkovalsk Member Posts: 114
    I am worried about that, too.

    I plan to only lift the car until the front wheels are just off the ground. With the small amount of suspension travel in the "A" it won't have far to drop.

    I will also block the rear wheels so it can't roll.

    Does your patent also cover only cutting enough of the head to cut the one remaning stud? ;-)

  • badgerpaulbadgerpaul Member Posts: 219
    Maybe, but it's the best kind of insanity to have.
    I'd go for it, but then I've always been a little partial to cars of that era, not that I was even alive then.
  • stickguystickguy Member Posts: 50,238
    You really get around (automotive wise). Not sure how you can go from an RX7 and 328 to a model A, but to each his own.

    An old guy around the corner from me has an old Model A pickup in his garage. Looks original, as in what a 70 year old car would look like (not at all restored. As far as I know it doesn't run, since I haven't seen it run in 3 years.

    That street reminds me of a new topic to start, and something to add to sports wagons. Might be a long night.

    2020 Acura RDX tech SH-AWD, 2023 Maverick hybrid Lariat luxury package.

  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    I've had three RX-7's The BMW is a 325i.

    I would be embarassed to try to list the cars I've owned in my 52 years. I doubt if anybody would even believe me.

    A Model A is a very primitive car and almost impossible to drive on the freeway. Anything over 50MPH is really pushing.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    It's a putt around city car at best, and the mechanical brakes are scary. But there are tons of them on the road, they are simple to fix, and you can get parts anywhere--and cheaply, too. Aside from a VW bug, there's hardly an old car you can name that is so easy to restore and keep going. But certainly the car has limitations as a practical driver. You need strong arms to steer, four big feet to stop and lots of patience getting anywhere.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Doesn't sound much worse than an early Mustang with manual steering.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    It's worse, believe me, although your Mustang 3-speed transmission will be in the rebuild shop a lot more often than your Model A 3-speed, that's true.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    Because you can't stop! If everything is adjusted just right, you just might get one wheel out of the four to skid a bit!
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    Back in the '50s when they were putting V8s in these things, how did they stop? Drag a foot on the ground?
  • badgerpaulbadgerpaul Member Posts: 219
    That's why cars of this era's bumpers meant business. They had enough flex in them to bump up against something and not be any worse for wear. The brakes on a Model A were great when compared to the external contracting brakes on GM cars of the 20's and early 30's. They could really get your heart racing trying to drive in modern traffic, especially when some "dead-in-the-head" individual would pull right in front of you to see what you were driving.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    To "juice" brakes back then. I think the later model hydraulic brakes from later fords would pretty much bolt on.

    Ford was one of the last to do away with mechinical brakes.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    You do see many Model As with converted hydraulic brakes. Good idea, too! Of course, you can always pull back real hard on the Model A emergency brake and that will lock up the rear wheels usually.

    They often didn't stop back in the old days...that's why there was such a slaughter on the roads, compared to now, where the fatalities per mile driven is so much lower. Of course, there are still over 40,000 killed every year in the US and ten times that mangled in one way or another.
    So I wouldn't say it's exactly SAFE out there, even with ABS, air bags and all the rest.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    The guy selling the Model A finally had it transported here and I went to look at it.

    It's funny what "restored" means to different people! It had been painted with a brush, the fenders were cracked, had the wrong wheels, etc.

    Still, it ran well and would have been a lot of fun I guess...

    The basics were intact. I just think that for 3000.00 more I could find one that was finished.

    Nice guy selling it and I'm sure it'll sell quickly.
  • rea98drea98d Member Posts: 982
    So you can add hydraulic brakes. What about power steering and seat belts?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Seat belts wouldn't be a problem, but power steering would be'd need to change everything, and probably the engine, too. It wouldn't be a Model A anymore.

    $3,000 sounds about right for that car if it's a good runner...any running, non-rusted, complete and un-botched Model A should be worth about that.
    These cars actually look good when they are a bit shabby, I think.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    REALLY liked this one!

    Seriously, it wasn't bad for a sixty year old car. Lots of painted over bondo that scared me/

    I agree with you on the shabbiness issue. A perfectly restored one looks better than it did when it left the factory. My idea would be about a condition 3 car.

    And I wouldn't micky mouse the brakes either. As you said, enough modifications and it's no longer a Model A.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Model As weren't all that well put together from the factory--most As today are much over-restored.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    And it's funny to watch the judges at a car show arguing with the owners about some dumb detail.

    I'll take a good daily driver. If a truck throws a rock that chips the psint, I won't care.

    Oh...a funny thing happened while I was looking at that Model A. We had shut off the engine and were standing about twenty feet away when it started rolling down his driveway!

    We both reacted at the same time and ran over to the car. I grabbed a door pillar and held on while he jumped in and re-applied the emergency brake!

    Isn't that a typical Model A?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Having seen somebody run over while trying to stop a car, I just let 'em roll now.....exception being if it were heading for a baby carriage.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    I agree except it wasn't going that fast at that point. We both noticed it at the same time...said the same thing...Oh S..t! and ran for it!

    Like a scene from The Three Stooges..!
  • rea98drea98d Member Posts: 982
    I don't recall ever having heard "Oh S..t!" in a 3 Stooges episode.
    As far as cars go (cars in general are expensive)
    would a Model A be a fairly good car to use to learn to work on cars. Are they (or their parts) hard to find? I came up with the crazy idea of buying an old VW Bug (ugly car IMHO, but simple and cheap), and some service manuals, taking the thing apart and reassembling it, just to learn how it works. Doing that to an A Model sounds much more appealing though. How much would a restorable one cost, and how much on parts?
    Can you still buy the skinny tires? (Or is that the T Model I'm thinking of?)
  • badgerpaulbadgerpaul Member Posts: 219
    Reminds me of a buddy in high school, he had a 65 Ford with a three on the tree. One day he decides to change the plugs on it, so he pulls it up in to his parents driveway sticks it in reverse and begins to pull the plugs. Well you can guess the rest, I think he had taken 4 out of it when it rolled down the driveway up over the curb and into the neighbor across the streets rose garden. Actually that white car kind of looked good in all those red roses.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    Yeah, with the spark plugs out, they do tend to lose a bit of compression!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Model As are a great hobby. There are still probably 1/2 million of them on the road, parts are CHEAP, and plentiful, too, and they are easy cars to repair. A car like this would be a fun restoration project, sure!
  • rea98drea98d Member Posts: 982
    Can we say "Wheel chocks"?
    Guess not.
    Thanks for that advice Shifty.
  • starrow68starrow68 Member Posts: 1,142
    My father in Law is restoring a 1930 sedan but upgrading brakes and electrical to 12 volts. I guess they had 6 volts back then and a little dim on the lights. I think he got his tires from Chile or some place in South America where they still make them because there are lots still in service, I guess. He has been at it slow for 3 years when time is available but by July 4 he hopes to have it out. In Nor Calif we've seen A's on the Freeway for short drives in the far right lane and they seem to get up to 55.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    It's amazing....Model As and AAs are still popping up in barns. I just saw a 31 Model A Mail Truck that had been parked 43 years ago in a tin shed! It was a mess, of course, but you know, it was all there. The mechanicals would be no problem, and some sandblasting and welding would take care of the front fenders and hood, but the big problem is that the body of the mail truck is all tongue and groove with framing. Lots of cabinetry work to do.

    Probably not "worth" restoring (you can find a restored mail truck for around $20K), but a rare item of historical interest. I bet not more than a few dozen survive.

    I have NO problem with upgrading Model As for safety and reliability. Good for him.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    A Model A on the freeway you can bet the rear end gears have been changed to the "high speed" type.

    That is a very worthwhile (and undetectable) modification!

    I'm not sure what the origianl ratios were but they were stump pulling low.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Yeah, about 55 mph is all you'd want to go anyway with mechanical brakes and skinny tires.
  • mkovalskmkovalsk Member Posts: 114
    How do you get a head off a Model A?

    The head on my '30 Tudor is cracked. I have a new head, but I can't get the old one off.
    All the nuts are off the studs, but it won't budge.

    I filled the cylinders with oil and cranked the engine by hand. Oil came out all around the
    head gasket, but it still won't budge. I put the nuts back on, but with 1/4 inch clearance
    and tried starting the engine. There isn't enough compression with the leaking head
    gasket to start. Now I have a chain fall holding the front of the car in the air attached to
    the head. It's been hanging there for two weeks, with periodic jumping on the front
    bumper. It *STILL* won't budge!

    Any ideas?

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    They can be stubborn. Sometimes you have to hammer them off in pieces. It is probably frozen to the studs.

    Maybe you could tap the studs and use lubricant or even some heat and just be patient. Or perhaps you could try pulling or loosening the studs with a double-nut process. But they may break if you twist them too hard.

    It's just an ugly brute force job, but sometimes lots of tapping and banging will do it. DON'T try to pry between the head and block (but you knew that!)
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    I once watched a mechanic literally bust a head off a flathead Ford V-8. This might be your only choice. Since the head is cracked anyway, this won't be a big deal. Get about a 48 ounce hammer and get to work. Be careful not to muck up any of the studs in the process!
  • tjparkertjparker Member Posts: 25
    I'll get slammed by all the hot rodders out there for this, but PLEASE don't butcher your old cars!

    I like stock stuff. In another 50 years, the restored Model A will be worth a lot more than the butchered version. And these days, there are enough fiberglass bodies and custom frames out there that nobody should have to butcher an original Model A. Build a kit car instead.

    Bolt-in mods are different, particularly if you keep the original parts.

    But things like juice brakes aren't just bolt in, if I'm not mistaken. Model A's are marginal for daily drivers anyway, and most people that have them already have a car for transportation. But if you want a daily driver, why not pick up one of the Shay replicas and drive that? I see lots of those for sale.

    Also, the mechanical brakes are okay if you keep them in good condition and adjust them frequently. One of the places that I find needs attention but doesn't get it is to replace the plates inside the backing plate that the rollers on the shoes rolls outward on when the rod pushes down (when you push the brake pedal). These wear so the shoes don't travel as far as they should. I replaced mine and they make a world of difference. ...but it still wouldn't hurt to practice grabbing the emergency break quickly from time to time to stay "in shape." And stay out of rush hour traffic!
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Yeah, the Model A emergency brake isn't too bad actually.

    Oh, I don't agree with you on value, though. I think the rodded or customized Model As will be worth more and more and the originals less and less. There are a tremendous number of Model As still on the road (some estimates say 1/2 million or more), and their prices seem to be dropping again, not appreciating. Rods often have a lot of money put into them and so should be worth more than a stock Model A. You can find a very nice Model A these days for $7,500, but a decent rod will cost you 2 or 3 times that, and a show rod of course even more.

    People have been modifying Model As since the day they first made them. Old catalogs abounded with accessories and mechanical add-ons and the pracitice still thrives. I think modification is part of the tradition of the Model A.
  • ndancendance Member Posts: 323
    At the risk of repeating myself (I think I mentioned this car a year or so ago), there was an article a while back (in Grassroots Motorsports, I think) about an auto-x car this guy built. The owner was a Lotus-7 nut, but had gotten bored with that whole scene so he built his newest car...out of a Model-T. It was this weird combination of 'T' track roadster, Lotus-7 style fenders but with original frame and main body sheetmetal. I think the engine was something unrelated (Toyota maybe?). Very, very, very cool.
  • tjparkertjparker Member Posts: 25
    I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. Sure, there are a lot more Model A's out there than 1924 Star touring cars, but I did see one of them modified about 10 years ago. What a loss! I think the half million estimate for Model A's was probably for those still existing in some form, not necessarily on the road. I'd be surprised if that many, fully 10% of the number built, were still driveable. Some A models are rather rare, too. I recently saw an ad for a modified 1929 panel delivery. Only thing Model A about it was the body, which I would have rather seen on a stock chassis. Also, too often the body is modified beyond any reasonable effort to return it to stock. I looked at a 2-door sedan body that had been chopped. Again, with the proliferation of fiberglass replica parts, there's no need to do that any more (the car is also lighter, so coupled with the high performance drivetrain, it could really fly).

    I don't mean to say these guys that do the mods aren't doing "good" work. Some are truly works of art. But the pallet seems like it would be a lot more open to innovation with using new parts from square one, rather than trying to accomodate a heavy, powerful engine in a Model A frame through extensive modification.

    There's also a big difference between using "original speed equipment" available in the 30's, like counterbalanced cranks, high compression heads and dual carbs, or even complete Model C engines and the modern speed equipment. And though technically not even a true "original speed equipment" modification, I once saw a 1929 A touring car with a mod-30's 60-horse flathead ford V-8 in it. You couldn't tell from the outside at all.

    Sure, hot rods are worth a lot because it truly IS more expensive to hot rod a Model A than restore one (I used to hear the opposite argument in the 70's - it never was true and it never will be true). But you can always put far more money into any "upgrade" than you can ever hope to get out of it.
  • dpwestlakedpwestlake Member Posts: 207
    There is another trick for removing a stubborn head; the rope trick.

    Get a coil of clothsline rope at the hardware store. get 1 to bdc or thereabouts. stuff as much clothesline into 1 & 4 as you can through the plug hole and turn the engine. the clothsline will push up on the ends of the head evenly. Same idea as the oil but it won't run out.
  • tombayertombayer Member Posts: 23
    Try a "heat wrench" aka oxy-acetylene torch. Heat the head around the studs, the metal will expand and loosen its death grip. If you use a cutting torch head, don't push the lever for cutting oxygen, just heat the head. I work in the engine room on large ships, if penetrating oil doesn't work we use heat. Usually there's only limited manpower available ( translation- you do it by yourself ), the torch has saved the day more than once.
  • groovy2groovy2 Member Posts: 5
    It's been several months now and I'm dying to find out if you ever got the head off and if so.... how?
  • crossedrealitycrossedreality Member Posts: 72
    Pixie magick?
  • spokanespokane Member Posts: 514
    You remarked that a Model-A transmission held up better than a Mustang 3-speed. I agree that the 3-speed used with the early Mustang I-6 was pitifully weak. However, those used with the 289 V8 were much beefier. Didn't you find them to perform OK?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    Yes, I meant the Mustang 3-speed in the six. It was pretty lame.
  • spokanespokane Member Posts: 514
    Thanks, Shiftright, I needed that. I'm getting accustomed to forgetting things but it really bugs me to remember incorrectly.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    That must have been the same unit I had in my '61 Falcon. When it feel into my hands in the very early '70s the odometer showed well under 100k but you had to touch second before going into first or it would graunch, even with the car completely stopped. They didn't synchronize first until '65 or so.

    I have to say that the tranny wasn't the reason the car ultimately fell off the road. After several years of reliable if crude motoring I sold it to a friend who promptly blew the head gasket.
  • mkovalskmkovalsk Member Posts: 114
    Not yet. It's still stuck.

    Due to other problems and priorities it sat from May until November. I've worked on it a bit more, but it isn't off yet.

    I removed almost all the studs. One of the studs that went through the water neck broke about 1/2" above the head surface. One other in the middle couldn't be reached by a stud puller. I'm going to weld a nut on it, then it should come out.

    Two others are the rear two. They are very close to the dash panel, and I don't want to damage the sheet metal.

    Next is to lift the car by the head and heat around the water neck to try and get the one partial stud to let go. I have an oxy-acetelyne torch, so I can get it very hot. I promise not to use the cutting torch! I should get time to do that this weekend.

  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    It occurs to me that lifting the car by the head might lead to unpredictable and potentially bad things if the head separates from the block suddenly. Just a thought. I was always a little nervous when I had an engine on a hoist. I had a car lift up over its blocks once and roll into a busy street. We laughed about it later--years later.

    I've been where you are and came up with a method of head removal I patented. Now every time someone uses a rip saw to cut a head off they have to pay me a nickel.
  • speedshiftspeedshift Member Posts: 1,598
    I'm easy. Good luck on your project.
  • dpwestlakedpwestlake Member Posts: 207
    Get #1 at BDC. Get a roll of clothesline rope and stuff as much as you can into cylinders 1 & 4 through the spark plug hole. put the car in high gear and push it. you may have to rock the car a few times. The pistons will force the head up from the inside. the rope is soft enough not to cause any damage to the piston or head. This is much safer than cutting the head apart and may actually leave the head in usable condition.
  • mkovalskmkovalsk Member Posts: 114
    Thanks! I'll give that a try.

    The head is scrap already. I'm removing it because my brother didn't drain the water last winter and there is a long crack in the head. I already have a new head, I just need to get this one off!

  • dpwestlakedpwestlake Member Posts: 207
    Let us know how it works.
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