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My First Ford - 1930 Model A Tudor


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Always thought I might have a Model A, but didn't think it would be original. I found one on c-list about a month ago, only ~500 miles away, done as a street rod. Looked pretty neat, so I watched the price in the ad get lower each week and finally called the guy. Turns out it was built about 30 years ago, and soon after sold to someone who liked the street rod look but didn't know anything about taking care of a car, then 5 years ago bought by this seller. He'd fixed a lot of things that were wrong - complete re-wire among other things. But he didn't want to move at all on price, because he'd finally hit the point where me & 1 other guy had called. Then the ad expired (at exactly a month, as the c-list car ads now do). He re-placed the ad, this time using all the photos this time (first ad was just a couple of photos). The added photos showed that the car was much more dated when you saw more of the parts. I'd want to separate body & frame, completely disassemble the chassis & rebuild & repaint everything. He told me the engine was a run-out SBC with who knows how many miles - he'd replaced valve guides to cut down the smoke. More & more it sounded like may as well start somewhere else for that price.

 

So I searched '28 - '31 Model A's on one of the old car selling sites - over 700 available right now today. Pretty overwhelming. Took me a couple of days to get through them all.

 

Then just up the road in Phoenix one popped up. Actually the pretty far side of Phoenix from me. Reasonable price, and restored / original, not hot rodded. Respond by email only. Got a message in, and had an appointment for black Friday. I've still got a full-time job - working now more than ever since I've been based at home for most of this year. So on Friday I had to:

 

- gas up the truck

- reserve & pick up a Uhaul trailer

- get cash out of the bank

- get clearance to go (no errands / chores or other requests)

- make the drive, extra slow with the trailer

- check out the car

- negotiate the deal

- get the car loaded

- drive it back - through Phoenix rush hour, even slower now with the load

 

But I got him back. Seller said it was restored about 30 years ago, and their family got it in 1998. Passed to them in ~2005 (inheritance) - covered or indoor storage this whole time. It's not quite 100% - been some chips & dings along the way, but overall pretty good. They said it originally was in Tucson, and the lack of rust underneath (or anywhere else) would seem that's true. Seller also gave me a book "Henry's Lady", and told me this car is pictured on pages 187-188, with a Tucson owner listed. Sure looks like it.

 

Miata moved outside for a couple of days while I re-arranged the garage, but I got them all in there. Sure helps that the A is same length as the Miata - lots of stuff stacked in the front of the garage. Other than the Miata, this one is the most put-together and running "old car" I've had, so hopefully the list of needs isn't as extensive as some of these I've worked on. Engine seems to be set up right - starts right up. Brakes are decent, but probably time to adjust. Car's done about 5500 miles since the restoration (there was a notebook where they wrote down when & where it went). Speedometer glass is cracked but easily replaced. Water pump leaks a little.

 

Looking at lists of things to add/change for safety/usability - ones that jump out at me are adding a fuse by the starter so that a short elsewhere in the car doesn't burn it down, and doing something for more of a tail light - if I bring it to the cruise night, by nature, that's driving at night, and the single left-side tail light isn't such a great idea anymore (from what I can tell, even Ford thought it wasn't a great idea just a year after the car was made, asking their dealers to add right-side tail lights since 1931). There's other things people do, but you quickly go down a slope of making it something it wasn't. I like the fact that if you don't know how to start it, you won't start it.

 

 

 

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Really nice Model A Eric! Great stablemate for that Studebaker. Love the blackwalls, somehow white walls never looked "right" to me on a Model A. 

 

I too would like to have a Model A one day. I better get moving on it tho, before I can't drive anymore. :D

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Glad to see you are back! My Model A Tudor + 1991 Miata (my all-time favorite car!) keep us busy in the old car hobby. My three close friends in the Studebaker club are always on me to get a Stude.....I better not show them your posted garage picture! Good luck with the A and keep us posted on your adventures.

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Nice looking Tudor, we had one for a number of years as well, always thought it was well proportioned.

 

While "Henry's Lady" is one of the great Model A books (actually the series is great), pick up the Les Andrews books if you haven't already.  The red one is basically the most useful tool you will own for your A.  Looks really nice as it sits. 

 

Just don't expect to be lonely at the shows!  😉  Here is a random row of Model As from a show a while back.  Ours is the last one way in the back.. Enjoy Yours!! 

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Edited by Steve_Mack_CT (see edit history)
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Thanks for the comments. Of all the years, this was busy - found another place with enough land for a separate garage. Got through the purchase process, moving & selling of the other place, then the water heater failed & flooded the garage, damaging some of the walls. Got through the restoration & insurance process with that - took about a month. Also replaced the dishwasher. A big part of moving was to get a place with space for a built-in pool in the backyard (we had one of those above-ground / temporary pools at the other place). Been working with pool companies for about 4 months now. Other than salesmen / designers, the first builder-type person will be here tomorrow to mark it out on the ground. Then who knows how long until the job is done. They say 55 days - we'll see.

 

I did mark out an area in the yard for a garage. Had 3 builders here - got 2 astronomical estimates, and the 3rd guy (who we've had do other things) connected me with an architect. She pulled the permits for the property, and I had the building laid out exactly in the septic field. So re-figured where the building could go, and the new spot will be more convenient, both for vehicle access and for getting power to it. But for anyone building, right now isn't a good time for materials prices. There's some forces at work right now that are temporary, so I'll take some time on the garage, especially since I have all the non-daily cars inside.

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Studebaker's still in good shape. Earlier this year, I took on a complete re-wire. Got that done, and last thing left was replacing a defroster hose under the dash because it fell off in the rewire and was too dried up / cracked to go back. Finally got some hose a couple of weeks ago and made that fix. That allowed the radio to go back in, and finally the blank-off gauge on the right side of the cluster (the one that could be a factory-option clock) to finish off the dash.

 

Adventures with Ford today - called the DMV, and they handled the title transfer & new plate completely online & over the phone. They had me take photos of the old title & title application and upload them. Took a while, but would have taken that long to go there, wait in line, etc. anyway - and their office has changed process dramatically this year to keep people out - it's by appointment only, and generally only for things requiring them to take your photo or conduct a driving test. So in that respect, it was pretty impressive that they got this done with no in-person activity. I'm not sure I was supposed to get a temp tag with a 5-year expiration (see photo), but the plate will be here in a couple of days anyway. Did that online also - download & print the temp tag.

 

With a temp tag & insurance, I took my wife for a ride down to the gas station. She hates it if I let it run while pumping so I shutoff the engine. Of course, this meant it wouldn't restart. So I opened the hood to let it cool off. It almost started once or twice, and then the battery was just too flat. She phoned a friend who lives nearby, and they went back home to retrieve a car with jumper cables. I checked on here for advice on jumping 12v with 6v (I've done it several times with the Studebaker, and man, that starter is happy with 12v, though I smoked a light bulb way up under the dash). I took the conservative method, since I didn't want to smoke the coil or anything - just let the 12v car charge the 6v for about a minute, with everything off in the Ford. Disconnected the jumper cables, and the 6v battery was then really happy to start the car. Drove home.  It gets up to about 45mph, but I didn't really play with the mixture or spark to see if there might be more there. Though it's easier than I thought it might be to tell when the spark is too advanced.

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12 hours ago, Eric W said:

then the battery was just too flat.

That is what the hand crank is for.  You should have one, or get one and learn the proper way to use it.  You do not want to break an arm.  It is handy when tuning/checking the engine and a real lifesaver when you are 100+ miles from anywhere and your battery fails.

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Nice car.

With a healthy and in-tune engine you should have a sweet spot  at 45-50 mph and have quite a bit left over.

There is a Model A learning curve, though.

I'd suggest doing some research on your brakes, they usually have suffered lots of neglect over the years.

Enjoy and stay well.

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On 12/4/2020 at 11:37 AM, Eric W said:

 

........................I took my wife for a ride down to the gas station. She hates it if I let it run while pumping so I shutoff the engine. Of course, this meant it wouldn't restart.........................almost started once or twice, and then the battery was just too flat..............I didn't really play with the........spark to see if there might be more there.................... it's easier than I thought it might be to tell when the spark is too advanced.

 

Edited by C Carl (see edit history)
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Checked for the hand crank, as there were a couple of tools under the back seat. Only jack, jack handle, and a couple of wheel wrenches. Took it out just now for ~10 miles to get good and warmed up. Shut down in back in the garage. Waited a minute. Ignition, gas valve on, levers up, touch starter - good start. Shut down & waited another minute. Same thing - very quick start. To be more like a fuel stop, let it continue to heat soak & went back out a couple of minutes later - same thing. Key difference - don't touch the choke/mixture knob. When it's warmed up / hot - that knob doesn't need anything at all. 

 

Brakes seem well balanced. Ordering an 8-point socket to make the adjustment, as they could be tighter.

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i am having trouble composing my response, so have had to split posting between the above, and my continuation here.

 

First, congrats on an extremely lovable “A”. Looks period perfect. Sure we would love to see pictures inside this treasure. I drove my first “old car”, a Model A, 60 years ago. There have been 2 of them I would have bought for sale on the forum here, but too late in life for me.

 

From what you have written regarding spark timing, perhaps your static timing is too advanced. Yes, static timing may , and should be advanced somewhat against modern 87 octane gasoline compared to around 50 octane 90 years ago. I suggest verifying timing, and adjust to a happy medium between very gracious running at full advance , and enough retard at the other end of the range for safe , easy starting. I expect the   Model A community will have this down to the last recommended degree. Perhaps a well engineered re-curved distributor solution. ALWAYS use FULL retard when starting, whether by starter or crank.

 

Many happy , safe , reasonably trouble free miles ahead of you, Eric. Please don’t forget to post more pics when you can. I love your black walled  Tudor !!     -   Carl 

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On 12/1/2020 at 2:47 PM, JFranklin said:

 Nice car. An LED light bar is available that goes in the rear window. It is very visible and has the ability to act as turn signals with some added switching.

Have you got a link to one? I’d like to adapt one to the Cadillac 

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4 hours ago, Eric W said:

 

I found this searching for 6v CHMSL:

https://www.brakelighter.com/category-s/100.htm

 

Looks very similar to Mac's, slightly lower price, though shipping options & ordering other things may make one or the other vendor more cost effective.

 

I've got one of these Brakelighter units in my '54 Studebaker sedan, like it a lot. I have it hooked up so it also flashes when using the turn signals.

 

Edited by r1lark (see edit history)
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Received the Brakelighter today and installed it. It's brighter than I expected.

 

Needed to pull the rear seat to run the wire behind the seat back, and I used an existing small opening in the floor to get the wires out. Modified a ring terminal (drilled hole larger) to use one of the bumper bracket bolts for ground, and tapped onto the brake light wire. Got lucky there - completely expected to tap onto the running light wire, then have to do it over. Because when there's 2 wires, you always tap onto the wrong one first. Tried to ID by color - I could see under the tail light bracket that the brake light wire has a green stripe, but up under the body, any stripes are long gone.

 

I also bought a set of magnetic-base LED towing lights from Harbor Freight - these are 12v, so I got a small 12v battery from Wal Mart. This is a completely independent and removable tail light system. I'll add photos when I get a chance.

 

Also started cleaning the roof material. It's got decades of crusted-on dust. Scrubbed w/ soapy water & a brush, wiped off with wet rag, then added Meguiar's rubber restorer. That's a big, high roof to work on. Got about half of it done.

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Edited by Eric W
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I like the Brakelighter system. I will get one too.  I would probably wire in a switch and a flasher too. That way if I were slowly climbing a big hill, or broken down road-side, I could turn it on as a flashing hazard light.  That led bar would work really well as a flashing hazard light too.

 

The 12V Led trailer system you purchased, you could add a 6V-12V 10A DC converter to your car. They work well.  Would need to confirm the amp draw of your LED magnet light system. I bought this one shown here in the link below. I put it up behind the dash. I wired in a USB charger to it so I can charge my cell phone. I hid the USB socket inside the glove box.

 

https://www.amazon.com/DIGITEN-Converter-Regulator-Waterproof-Module/dp/B019GY2FLW/ref=sr_1_5?dchild=1&keywords=6V-12V+converter&qid=1607876266&sr=8-5

 

Just to give you an idea what I did for additional modern convenience:

 

 

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Edited by keithb7 (see edit history)
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Thanks Keith - I'll take a look. Being LED, the tail lights don't draw much current at all. Here's another photo showing the difference on the before/after on the roof. Multi stage process - scrub with soapy water using a brush, small area at a time. Wipe off the loosened dirt & water for each small area with a damp cloth. After scrubbing one half of the roof this way, then go back, small area at a time with Meguiar's "ultimate black" rubber/vinyl restoration product. Drop some on the surface, spread it out by hand (maybe 6" x 12" at a time), work it into the surface with a stiff brush, then wipe off the excess/residue with a cotton towel, frequently refreshing the towel surface. The Meguiar's partially acts as an additional cleaning, as the excess that wipes off is really dirty. 

 

Here's a couple more photos of where I took the exterior photos yesterday to show more of what was around the car. It's a road that slopes upward out the west side of town, and has an amazing view. The photo with car in center and two mountain ranges - that's the Tortolitas on the left and the Catalinas on the right. I looked at a lot for sale along this road, but what few lots are left aren't flat at all (would require some very costly earthworks to add a house and workshop), as well as there being association requirements and approvals as to what you can build. It's about 5 minutes from my house, which is quite a bit lower elevation and closer to the city.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Rebuilt the fuel gauge yesterday. It had a bunch of goop sealer all around the gauge-to-tank interface. Turns out, they had the cork on the wrong side of the glass, so it was probably a big leak problem. I haven't refilled it up past the glass yet, but hopefully cleaning off the surfaces & getting the parts in the correct order will have it seal like it's supposed to. Nice to replace the "indicator line" washer as well. Before photo shows what it looks like when it's got a soggy, sunken cork for a float. The new float is some sort of synthetic - supposed to be able to withstand the garbage that passes for fuel these days.

 

Working with Bert's in Colorado, as that seems to be the nearest major parts supplier. Got their catalog. Highlighted a possible shopping list. The water pump continues to leak, and there's an option with a modern seal system which should fix that. Also need to finish cleaning off the roof. Didn't get through it all last weekend. You can see in these photos that the speedometer glass is missing right over the speed dial, so there's another thing to work on. That all works - speed, odometer, trip meter - so I'll just get a glass & gasket for that.

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Edited by Eric W
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Decided to diagnose the horn. Wires in the steering column seem to be doing what they're supposed to. Then when I went to look at the wires out the bottom of the horn, one came out. So it's probably dead there. Got the horn off & wires disconnected from the car, then powered using a screwdriver to jump over to the contact on the horn motor. Motor is good & horn makes noise, so it should be ok with fresh wire soldered to the contact. Flaked off the loose paint, scotchbrited & shot w/ some rattle can Rustoleum. Need to order the gaskets, as the paper that was in there crumbled when I disassembled, and I don't know that paper would end up with the correct sound anyway.

 

When I went to the store for the paint, decided to get the trans / diff oil. Checked online, and came up with a 50/50 mix of 2 modern products that would approximate. Got the trans & diff drained & refilled. Took it for a little drive. Seems like it's shifting better. Should get even better when I let it warm up more.

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I have not seen very many 1930’s with the oval speedometer. May be a very early ‘30 as the switchover was sometime in early Spring of 1930.  I actually did own one with the oval back in the late 80’s.

The horns, when adjusted properly, do really sound great. I have found several of mine over the years did need constant attention to maintain the proper sound.

Love following your project.....looking forward to reading more!

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  • 1 month later...

Received a couple of gift certificates to the Model A Store. Ordered a few things: new sealed water pump, speedo glass & seal, LED tail light bulbs, door latch striker plate, horn gaskets, safety fuse, horn data plate, windshield washers, LED headlight bulbs. They didn't have the LED headlight bulbs, so need to try that again sometime. Got the LED tail light bulbs installed - much brighter, and you can see the LED elements when it's on, so it doesn't look stock. But I'll use this car for evening cruise nights, so visibility is more important to me than originality in the light bulbs, and they're easy enough to change back.

 

Installed the windshield side bracket washers. Was supposed to be a pack of 4, but there was only 2, so I'll order another pack next time. These seem to do a MUCH better job of holding the windshield side brackets than the plain flat washers that were in there. These have rubber molded onto one side of the washer to keep tension on the knob and stop rattles.

 

Added the safety fuse. This is on the starter, and is between the starter post / battery cable and all of the rest of the electrical in the car. There are no fuses in these cars - only smoke if something goes bad. Adding the fuse was easy, since it's designed to be a screw-in / bolt in item.

 

Did the speedo glass next. Received the Model A maintenance guide as a Christmas gift, so it was easy to follow the directions in there to remove the gauge panel and get the speedo apart. Hardest part was getting the ignition switch back in place - 3 little screws, and the screwdriver accesses two of them at an angle.

 

Tried the door striker plate, since the driver's door will open while driving. When I pulled it off, I noticed it's about 1/8" longer than stock - built up with welded-on material. So I just put it back. I also bought the door latch spring kit - that's what I really need to work on, as the latch in the door is sticky, and doesn't pop out inside the door frame very well to hold the door closed.

 

Installed the horn data plate, mostly because the one that was on there broke off when I was cleaning it up for paint (2 very tiny rivets, which come with the replacement data plate, but aren't available separately). In seeing the replacement, I don't think the one that was on there was original, as they both looked exactly the same, and look like there's spots for stamped numbers or letters that aren't stamped. Got the horn gaskets installed between the motor and the sound plate. These have a clocking hole that lines up with a stamped bump on the motor side. Soldered new (vintage-style) wires onto the horn, since one of the wires had broken off, and the other was in sad shape. Got the horn reconnected, and the horn button works. Need to work some more on the horn (lube, brush adjust), since it just barely works. I did adjust the horn adjuster - it goes from too tight to turn to too loose to make sound in about 3 clicks. There's only 1 or 2 clicks that actually make sound, and the motor isn't strong enough to turn very well.

 

Water pump is more involved. I'll save that for another time. Need to drain radiator, pull hood, pull radiator, etc. for access.

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Got to the driver's door latch today. Replaced the latch support pin and latch spring. Seems to be working better. Found some photos online that showed the latch spring is supposed to hang over the edge of the latch base plate, and you push the spring inside the door opening with a screwdriver. The additional rotation on the spring by doing this brings the spring fully up to tight. I had some good luck with getting the outside door handle off - some of the things I found online made it out like this was a horrible, multi-hour ordeal. I had it off & back on in less than a minute. Here's some photos of the other items described above. The LED in the tail light also has LED elements along the "sides" of the bulb so it shines down onto the license plate. Speedometer almost looks like there's no glass in it at all. One of the dash panel screw threads wore down so much the screw wouldn't stay in - it looks like it's the screw that's worn down, so I'll get another one and hopefully the bracket in the dash still has threads.

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Ignition cutting out on a short drive a couple of days back. Just did the 5-step diagnosis per the Les Andrews handbook. Voltage where it was supposed to be. Found a new-in-package condenser in the small box of parts that came with the car and swapped that in. Did NOT make a test drive to see if problem solved, because I just noticed why the water pump is so weepy. Not sure how I missed it before (see photos). Anyway, I've got the new sealed-type water pump already here to install, so that's the next job.

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Eric, thats a pretty impressive fracture.

You may want to check your fan for cracks or other damage, also for excessive runout in the fan drive pulley.

I'm sure you are aware Model A fans have developed the bad habit of shedding blades at speed.

Maybe a past owner was prone to running the fanbelt really really tight.

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About 2 1/2 hours to disassemble, swap the pump, and reassemble. Again using the Les Andrews handbook, though it looks like he was working with a '28-'29. I didn't have to pull the rear hood bracket, just loosened the radiator upper rods and leaned the radiator forwards a little to get the hood off. Pull radiator shell & radiator to allow removal of a pump with an aftermarket 4-bladed fan. So to the comment above, this is a much more recent fan - didn't look like any problems there. Yes, the pump was truly in 2 completely separate pieces. Went back together pretty easily. Didn't have time for a test drive to see if the ignition is cured, but at least it's ready.

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Thanks guys. Yes, the pump probably wasn't moving water very well, though the accessory thermometer radiator cap would just barely show any temperature. It's winter here, so I haven't seen how well it does when it's over 100F outside. Swapped in LED headlight bulbs to see a little better, since the cruise night that I usually go to is really at night, and because this is a "dark sky city" there are very few streetlights. The right side headlight's internal wires decided to crumble with this disturbance, so I've ordered some replacement wiring. Hopefully that shows up in the next week or so - wires internal to the headlights, the forward main wire harness (from light switch to all lights & horn), and while I'm doing this, a fresh one from the generator to the terminal box, though that one looked ok.

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On 2/13/2021 at 11:48 AM, Jeff Perkins / Mn said:

I always have had an aftermarket fan on my Model A’s as once, years ago, I had a fan blade on the stock two blade fan separate. Luckily  it went down instead of up!

Where did you get the aftermarket fan?  I'm making my list of places to source things. 

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