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Projects Drdave accidentally buys a Model A. Now what?

Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by drdave, Jun 17, 2018.

  1. It was bound to happen, even a custom guy is gonna end up with an earlier car eventually. I was at this auction, see, and there was this really solid ‘30 A Town Sedan. I didn’t give it much thought really, other than, “hey, that’s a cute dune buggy.” The auction was an airplane guy’s place and I actually went for equipment and maybe some airplane junk (none of which I ended up with). A friend of mine ended up winning an old Pietenpol barnstormer with a hopped up Model B motor in it (which plays into this tale in a bit). He got it super reasonable and as the lots went by, stuff was going pretty cheap. Up comes the Model A. I keep my hands to myself expecting to go beyond what I’d pay so no sense getting involved. As quick as it started, bidding stalls at what I considered a good deal. I couldn’t help myself....I just couldn’t let it go for that, so going once, going twice, new bidder in the back. No one counters me and the next thing you know I own an A model.






    Good looking car really. Running, driving and all in working order. No doubt and older restoration. Paint is cracked and peeling, top leaked a bit, but I think I have that fixed. The interior looks to be the original, but is sagging a good bit, splitting at a few seams and has a bad spot in the corner of the rear seat. Floors, fenders, doors all solid. Only rust I’ve found is a spot at the bottom of the body in the passenger wheel well.

    My first thought was flip it, but I had fun putting around town in @FLAT-TOP BOB’s T roadster when we were in Wellington last fall and I’ve thought it would be fun to have a little putter car like that. A closed sedan makes it even a bit more attractive. I could leave it as is and do just that, but hey, you know guys like us just can’t leave well enough alone. Just seeing the article in TRJ on Vern Tardel’s new book on making a quick hot rod out of an older restoration is suuuuper tempting. Dropped and raked, a bit more horsepower, juice brakes, new interior kit, done. I think that’s where I might be headed. Nothin' crazy, largely bolt in, and have a cute little rod.

    I picked up some ‘35 wires and a T spring at the swap meet this weekend. The guy that bought the barnstormer is going to take the hopped up B motor out to replace it with an air cooled motor, so I might have a crack at that. Quick research leads me to think that might not be exactly bolt in and be a bit of a snag on working out a synchronized trans, and for the effort and money I might be better off stepping up to a flat head. I do have a good running 302 coming out of my dad’s ‘69 Mustang I’m redoing, but me thinks that’s further down the road than I want to go. 40-48 juice brakes maybe, but I haven’t looked into that a whole lot yet other to realize maybe self energizing F1 brakes would be just a bit better way to go. Dropped axle I assume and perhaps an F1 steering box? These are all things I dunno yet. @1stGrumpy sent me a bunch of links to threads he’s found helpful on his build which is much along the same lines I think I’d like to go. Search function and a few Model A books and here we go.....I don’t have a problem, I can quit any time. LOL
    Last edited: May 5, 2021
  2. tfeverfred
    Joined: Nov 11, 2006
    Posts: 15,792

    Member Emeritus

    Looks to be in great shape. Good luck with it.
    drdave and Hombre like this.
  3. jim snow
    Joined: Feb 16, 2007
    Posts: 1,511

    jim snow

    Congrats. Cool dune buggy. Lol.Snowman
    drdave and Genes12320 like this.
  4. hfh
    Joined: Oct 22, 2012
    Posts: 367

    from Western MA

    Looks like a lot of fun! Enjoy the ride.
    drdave likes this.

  5. Moriarity
    Joined: Apr 11, 2001
    Posts: 23,303

    Staff Member

    got it made.....
    -Brent-, drdave and LOST ANGEL like this.
  6. alchemy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2002
    Posts: 18,039


    I think a Tardel style build would be great for that car. Maybe the V8 flathead and newer trans later if you get tired of putting. But leave the 302's for the Mustangs.
  7. pwschuh
    Joined: Oct 27, 2008
    Posts: 2,582


    drdave likes this.
  8. lake_harley
    Joined: Jun 4, 2017
    Posts: 1,700


    Looks to be a nice, solid car. If I had it to do over I would have looked for a nicer A than the one I bought late last Summer. Seems the more I look at my A the more I see that is just wrong or cobbled and pieced together. Oh well.....I wanted a project.

    Good luck with your A. If 1st Grumpy is advising you I think you're in good hands!

    drdave likes this.
  9. belair
    Joined: Jul 10, 2006
    Posts: 8,872


    drdave likes this.
  10. Flatty be good,302 might need more room.
    drdave and Hombre like this.
  11. Squablow
    Joined: Apr 26, 2005
    Posts: 15,964


    I like it, and I bet I'll like it even more with 16" wires and reverse eye springs/T spring and a bit of hop-ups. But if there's one thing I've learned it's that you never take a good running engine out of a driving car. It's never worth it. Bangers are fun, learn to love to double clutch. Too many engine swap stories end with "and it never ran again". If you want to build a project, buy a project.
    Hot Rod Nut, verde742, brEad and 4 others like this.
  12. stanlow69
    Joined: Feb 21, 2010
    Posts: 6,244


    Get back to work on your Merc.
  13. chargin03
    Joined: Jan 8, 2013
    Posts: 502


    Cool have fun
    drdave likes this.
  14. stuart in mn
    Joined: Nov 22, 2007
    Posts: 2,131

    stuart in mn

    Nice car. I met Mr. Pietenpol once, at a fly-in breakfast back in the early 1980s. He was pretty old at the time but he still flew his Air Camper to the breakfast. :) I grew up in a town close by where he lived.
  15. sloppy jalopies
    Joined: Jun 29, 2015
    Posts: 5,196

    sloppy jalopies

    wise bid indeed ! ... show us its progress, whatever your plan...
    drdave likes this.
  16. flynbrian48
    Joined: Mar 10, 2008
    Posts: 7,366


    I'd leave it alone aside from lowering and 16's. We've found that comfortable cruising in the '34 is 45-50- your A wil do that all day long. Nice score. Take us for a ride!

    Sent from my iPhone using The H.A.M.B. mobile app
    RDR, brEad, drdave and 1 other person like this.
  17. thirtytwo
    Joined: Dec 19, 2003
    Posts: 2,641


    Very neat car , me personally I’d never look at it as a trad hotrod perse I think it would be neat as a freeway flyer like Jim Jacobs 34 put it on a new chassis , Vega box, 9” something that goes 80 mph all day long, see the country... put a old roadster body on the stock frame
    straykatkustoms and drdave like this.
  18. manyolcars
    Joined: Mar 30, 2001
    Posts: 8,696


    The putt putt original is a hazard to other traffic. One high compression head and you are running with modern traffic in town. Screw the crappy Lockheed 39-48 brakes. Go to Bendix self energizing self adjusting. Add the NuRex timing strip so you set timing with a timing light. Drill the distributor shaft do you can oil the top bushing. Yes on the dropped axle. Reversing the eyes made my tires hit the fenders. For 16 inch rims use 2005 Rave4 radial tiRes from tirerack. Ravfour-Toyota. Stupid phone won't spell right A one wire 12v
    alternator makes sense. Later youmay want a 1984-87 Ford truck. fully synchronized 3 speed with overdrive. Its wonderful. Notice that all my changes are small and easy and you have a very traditional hotrod with a superb transmission
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2018
  19. Hombre
    Joined: Aug 22, 2008
    Posts: 1,063


    Great score! me I'm a hot rod guy, but that is such a nice car I like your idea of doing it quick and dirty to make a driver out of it with a little more power and Oh Yea the juice brakes. Before you think to hard about the 69 small block Ford get a tape measure and do a lot of measuring. Its doable I know I have done it, but those early SBF are way long in the front. The can be modified but for what you are wanting there are a lot of engines that don't require that work. Flathead would be very cool as well as a banger. Lot you can do to a banger to make them easier on Sunday afternoon.

    No matter what you decide it is a very cool car and good luck with the build...
    sloppy jalopies, drdave and Hnstray like this.
  20. Dan Greenberg
    Joined: Aug 18, 2008
    Posts: 7,940

    Dan Greenberg
    from Parker, CO

    Very cool! Congratulations David!
    drdave, 1stGrumpy and jim snow like this.
  21. Congratulations, you made a good purchase. Snag that Model B. It is about as near to a bolt in as you will ever find (assuming you use the Model A transmission), about as difficult as putting a 283 in a 55 Chevy. You cut off the back of the Model B oil pan (see photo of the one that has been cut when I put it into my ’31 RDPU). Once the back of the oil pan has been removed everything will bolt in using the Model A flywheel housing. There are probably only a few parts that are airplane unique and they can probably be easily sold and replaced with the car parts (how about a few photos?). I assume since it was used in an airplane it was properly built. It is one thing to “walk” home but entirely a different matter to “fall” home. With a properly built block there are a lot of parts that will bolt on (see second photo for a nice flathead I saw at LARS a couple of years ago, current or original overheads are even better). Drive it as is and you might decide to keep the original transmission. If you decide to go to a ’32-’39 Ford V8 transmission there are kits to do that. If you want to go to a modern transmission there are a lot of people that have done that but it gets more complicated. I would keep the original Model A transmission as I did in my RDPU.

    The ‘40-48 juice brakes would be good. Are the Lincoln Bendix brakes better, of course. It is just a matter of money. Remember you will need adapters to use the ’35 wires on the later drums (see I think I have read if you use F1 brakes you will have trouble using the wire wheels, they will require a VERY thick spacer. You might search the archives. The Lincoln Bendix brakes might be a better way to go. You will need the same adapter to use wire wheels on the Lincoln drums that you did for the Ford drums. They make a strong battery box for the Model A that incorporates a master cylinder mount.

    The F100 box is a good idea. Randy Gross is the person to contact, (714) 292-8660, Search on and you will see a lot of good comments about his product. I have been to his house and seen his product. It seems straight forward at first but to do it right it is a lot more complicated that you would think. He converts them in production “lots”. If I needed one he would be the source I would use.

    Charlie Stephens

    IMG_5916.jpg IMG_3382.jpg
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2018
  22. manyolcars
    Joined: Mar 30, 2001
    Posts: 8,696


    Charlie Stephens you use the 12" backing plates, shoes and bits with 1940 drums. No thick spacer needed. F1 box? Do you mean F15o transmission or steering box? I am still using the A box but with rollers
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2018
    Nailhead A-V8 and drdave like this.
  23. Good to hear that you can use the 1940 drums and solve the problem. Are they a bolt on or is there machining required? When I said F1 box I made a typo, I meant to say the F100 steering box. I have gone back and corrected my original post.

    Charlie Stephens
    micamountain likes this.
  24. manyolcars
    Joined: Mar 30, 2001
    Posts: 8,696


    Bolt on. I have a post with,pictures and info
    kidcampbell71 and drdave like this.
  25. wide34
    Joined: Mar 2, 2006
    Posts: 552

    from Texas

    Wow, great find but you know that flathead has to go in there and then........
    Congrats and hope you have a lot of fun with it.
    drdave likes this.
  26. PONTNAK123
    Joined: Jul 10, 2008
    Posts: 524


  27. Congrats on your new acquisition! Welcome to the dark side!!! :eek::D:D:D
    drdave and Stogy like this.
  28. Personally, I like the A 4 doors better than the 2 door sedans. I'd do it with stock paint, dropped down with full fenders, healthy flathead V/8, juice brakes, 35 ford wheels and a T-5 transmission. I did a ratty ol 33 pickup with a stock 59AB and a T-5'.....loved the way it drove!
    On second thought, I might even keep the 19s on it but slam the suspension.
    drdave likes this.
  29. Dave... There is one other transmission option that works well but is a little pricey. Mitchell Mfg. makes a very nice synchronized transmission using the original Model A transmission housing but with new gears and such. The nice thing about this is that there is no modifications necessary, it's a true bolt in. They also make a overdrive unit that is a bolt in deal as well.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2018
  30. LOL....dunno about that.

    That one hits home a bit....I"m guilty of that. Wise advice there, thank you!

    LOL. If you ever knew me as a kid when I was building models, this whole thing makes perfect sense.....lots of projects, very few finished ones. LOL

    Thanks for all the advice guys, I sure appreciate it. Simple is certainly the plan. Good news is that this will be just for around town 30-40mph and not something I need to be a reacher. Glad to know the Model B is largely bolt in. I'll have to weigh the cost of acquiring that vs just hopping up the one that's in the car a little. Brakes are another thing I'll have to research a good bit, since I'd like to go with the 35 wires and didn't think about the bolt pattern not fitting the later brakes. I'm encouraged that the current trans may fit the bill just fine for what I want to do with the car for now. If it ends up being a keeper, maybe the flathead and T5 on down the road....after I finish the Merc. I don't need @stanlow tapping his foot behind me because I'm knee deep in a Model A instead of my Merc. :D

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