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Featured Projects What to look for when buying a Model A Roadster

Discussion in 'Traditional Hot Rods' started by J.Ukrop, Jun 24, 2020.

  1. J.Ukrop
    Joined: Nov 10, 2008
    Posts: 1,115

    J.Ukrop
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    Hi everyone,

    As you may have heard, I'm on the hunt for my first old car project. I've been turning wrenches on vintage motorcycles for almost a decade, and I'm finally getting ready to jump into the world of hot rodding. I'm planning to check out a 1930 Model A roadster this weekend. It's all stock and appears to be an older restoration. According to the seller, it runs and drives. It's a little over an hour away, so a buddy and I are driving down there Saturday.

    Buying any sort of project is a leap of faith, especially when it's something like an early Ford. I've been writing about these cars here on The Jalopy Journal for seven years and for The Rodder's Journal for over five. I have a good grasp on the history and I'd like to think I'm okay-ish at turning wrenches. But when it comes to the buying part, I'm looking for some advice.

    What sort of things should I be looking for when checking out this car? It has a clean title and is currently registered here in California, so that's good. I know to look for patch panels on the lower cowl and scour the thing for structural rust. Is there anywhere I should look extra closely?

    The plan is to turn it into a fenderless, channeled hot rod with a dropped axle, juice brakes and V8 power. That'll be a different thread altogether.

    Thanks in advance for the help. With a potential purchase this big, I want to be prepared.

    Joey
     
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  2. 31Apickup
    Joined: Nov 8, 2005
    Posts: 2,086

    31Apickup
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    Many were very amateur restorations, as they were affordable. Not uncommon for brazed on patch panels if done in the early 80’s or before. Look at the rear subrails over the rear axle, tend to stress crack. The rear wheel wells, they made panels to go over them that bolt on with the fenders which hide the rusted panel behind. If it’s a California car, that may not be an issue. If you want a channeled car, then you may want to look for just a body and frame.


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  3. Be sure the number on the title matches a number on the vehicle. The number may be the one stamped on the boss on the side of the engine. Post a photo of the number and people can tell you if it is the correct font which would indicate the it is original and not something added later. California DMV may have added a tag to the door with their own number which if acceptable. Post a picture of it, it needs to be something the DMV installed with their special rivits not something bought on EBAY (See attached).

    Charlie Stephens

    nLEktTnPQMW8NaUZORVNZA_thumb_6b3a.jpg
     
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  4. hemihotrod66
    Joined: May 5, 2019
    Posts: 154

    hemihotrod66
    Member

    Make sure you get an assurance from the owner that the frame numbers match the title... You have to lift the body off the frame to see them... They are usually by where the a pillar bolts to the left frame rail...If they don't match you could have titling issues....Here in Nevada I had to lift the body to have that number verified by DMV...
     
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  5. 51504bat
    Joined: May 22, 2010
    Posts: 1,727

    51504bat
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    Model A's were originally registered by the engine number. There was also a matching number on the frame but it is under the body and can't be seen without lifting or removing the body. In the last 90 years it is very possible that the original engine has been replaced at least once if not several times. So, like Charlie says make sure the number on the pink matches the engine number or it has a DMV assigned vin that matches the title. If not you are on a leap of faith that the frame number hidden under the body matches the pink.
     
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  6. 51504bat
    Joined: May 22, 2010
    Posts: 1,727

    51504bat
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    One more thing, I'm not a Model A expert (although my first car was a '31 Model A coupe that I bought when I was 15) but I've been told that back in the day Ford sold replacement engines called Diamond Blocks that didn't have numbers stamped on the block. This allowed anyone with a set of authentic looking Ford number stamps to stamp the block with whatever number needed. If this isn't the case I'm sure a Model A guru will set it straight.
     
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  7. Good luck on your first traditional hot rod project, I know you have a vision of what you want to build and don't doubt it will turn out as you envision it.

    Try to buy the best body you can, the money spent up front will be a savings when it's time to do body work.HRP
     
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2020
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  8. 41rodderz
    Joined: Sep 27, 2010
    Posts: 4,413

    41rodderz
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    from Oregon

    The cost of what he has versus what you are actually going to use . Ex: body , frame and title. A lot of frames have had some sort of butchery done over the years , wether repairs or extra holes, notches , add ones or brackets cut off. Check over frame carefully for the above past deeds as well as the body. Check body for rust or previous repairs that may have body out of alignment. If previous wreck could have a great repair or a bad one, leading to rework to get the body squared up.
     
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  9. Very exciting Joey! I always buy with my heart instead of my brain but that’s not great advice, ha! Do the opposite?!
     
  10. hotrodjack33
    Joined: Aug 19, 2019
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    I couldn't have said THAT better.

    Also, I know it's great to get a really nice complete car to start with...but be careful, do you really want to pay a lot of money for parts that you aren't going to use? You don't need the fenders, engine/trans/drivetrain, wheels/tires, axles, interior, wiring, radiator etc. A nice complete '31 roadster may cost you $15k, when all you need is a really nice $3-5K body and frame.
     
  11. Look at the hood from the side, if the gap between the cowl and hood gets larger as it gets closer to the frame then the frame is sagging. Take a flashlight and crawl under it to look for floor or frame damage or bad repairs. Last, don't believe anything your told from the owner unless you check it yourself.
     
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  12. J.Ukrop
    Joined: Nov 10, 2008
    Posts: 1,115

    J.Ukrop
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    That's a thought that has crossed my mind many a time, @hotrodjack33. In my current state, I'm gravitating towards a running/driving project that I can enjoy and learn about as I collect my pile of hot rod components. Like most of you, I'm always buying and selling parts. I plan to sell off what I don't need to pay for what I do. That being said, if you know of any titled, steel Model A roadster bodies and frames sitting around in the $3-5K range, let me know. I've been searching for quite some time and haven't found anything too promising.
     
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  13. sloppy jalopies
    Joined: Jun 29, 2015
    Posts: 3,918

    sloppy jalopies
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    A bodies tended to bow out at the top pooching the door fit, check the b pillar mounts,
    the spare tire and mount hanging on the panel below deck with the frame stopping over the rear, that caused a crack in the skin where the beltline splits into combimg and beltline, when the trailing wood mounting blocks got weak...
    check for bondo there...
    i have seen turnbuckels in side the quarters before...
    check for frame sag where the motor mounts bolt on... it will pooch the hood gaps... my $0.02.
     
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  14. This comment along with title are the most important! We tore down a raodster and a touring to modernize for a gentleman. Both were nice looking restored cars. BOTH of them had tons of bondo, cardboard, screendoor parts hiding in them. Anything on the lower parts of the bodies needs to be looked at closely. T A restorers were a snobby bunch, many still are. The rest died and left their sins hidden under Lucite Enamel paint they layed down in 1979. BEWARE
     
  15. J.Ukrop
    Joined: Nov 10, 2008
    Posts: 1,115

    J.Ukrop
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    @Tman, well put. This is going to make me sound like the rookie I am, but how would you go about checking this. To be honest, I've never bought a car. Is it okay to be tapping the thing? Or using a weak magnet on it?
     
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  16. Take a refridgerator magnet. it wont stick to thick mud. Also, look at the shape, smoothness of the panels. the crispness of the body lines and edges etc. Listen to the sound when you tap. Good tin sounds different than mud. if you can see the backsides you can tell what is hidden. A lot of this comes from experience. But, looking like you know what you are looking for might cause a seller to be a little more forthcoming
     
  17. alchemy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2002
    Posts: 15,322

    alchemy
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    I can picture the Bondo layered over screen when I hear this phrase. Make sure to remove the interior panels and look in the bottoms of the cowl, quarters, doors, and tail panel. MANY old restorers were sticklers for originality except when it came to restoring the steel to "all steel". Their best friend came in a can, and it wasn't the Budweiser kind.

    If they won't let you remove the interior panels, pass on that car. Any old restoration has got to have a kind of tattered interior by now that shouldn't be too harmed by undoing a few screws and clips. If they won't let you investigate, they are probably hiding something. Take some screwdrivers and a putty knife to do this removal. Or have the owner do the removal.
     
  18. And to go with what @alchemy said. A good restorer will have photo documentation of the whole thing
     
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  19. hotrodjack33
    Joined: Aug 19, 2019
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    In that case, find the nicest one you can in your price range and drive the crap out of it:D Good luck, let us know how you make out.
     
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  20. J.Ukrop
    Joined: Nov 10, 2008
    Posts: 1,115

    J.Ukrop
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    Thank you guys, I really appreciate all this good advice. Playing to the old adage about pictures, here are the pics from the ad.

    And the description from them...

    1930 Model A convertible
    mostly original,
    rumble seat
    6v
    runs/drives good
    clean title
    00000_9JBkgmqEEIv_0CI0t2_1200x900.jpg 00a0a_fhzelIeMj1l_0CI0t2_1200x900.jpg 00c0c_bdflXzm8Xc_0CI0t2_1200x900.jpg 00D0D_iVBvF0sVadF_0CI0t2_1200x900.jpg 00k0k_exudNjONJGZ_0CI0t2_1200x900.jpg 00Q0Q_a5SLNyJyeS4_0CI0t2_1200x900.jpg 00Z0Z_6Gwmw9Z2WwY_0CI0rk_1200x900.jpg 00z0z_keNmXd38BHK_0CI0t2_1200x900.jpg 00303_gh2OUz4MYnw_0CI0t2_1200x900.jpg 01313_fGaJ2jdfKCm_0CI0t2_1200x900.jpg
     
  21. alchemy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2002
    Posts: 15,322

    alchemy
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    Looks really complete, and probably not one they would let you pry apart the upholstery. So do take a magnet to check all you can. Don't be scared to ask though. Usually the quarters can be seen inside if you look from the rumble seat end.

    And if you do find rust or bad patches, don't be afraid to point them out and ask nicely if they can lower the price? You always wanted to learn to do proper bodywork, didn't you?
     
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  22. It seems to be a good car. But, as someone already said, all you really need is a body and frame. Go to some cruise nights, local car shows, and talk to people with a car similar to what you want to build. Most times those people know what is around, and what may be available.
     
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  23. That looks like a nice one to start with... and listen to all the advice you've been given.

    As far as channeling goes; I own a '31 roadster that was channeled 4 inches long ago. Besides the fact that it screwed up the relationship between the seat, pedals and steering wheel, at 6' tall I don't fit. When I tear into that one the body is going back on top of the frame where it belongs.

    It's your project and your choice so do what makes YOU happy!
     
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  24. 51504bat
    Joined: May 22, 2010
    Posts: 1,727

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    Two things, it looks like the left front fender had some repair in the past. The cracking says bondo to me not just old paint. If you're going to remove the fenders not an issue to you but might make their resale value less. And that was some big cat leaving foot prints on the fender.:cool:
     
  25. Lots of good info above. Look at everything is probably the best. One thing I have seen often is when checking the numbers on the frame, they might not be visible. There is a fabric webbing between the body and frame. It can hold moisture and rust the metal obliterating the numbers.

    Just a funny story: a friend was working on a another friend's Special Coupe. He asked if I could help him adjust the rumble lid that he was having trouble with. Sure enough, the lid was not lining up square in the opening. So I looked inside the area and saw that the quarters were all screen wire & Bondo! Sorry guys, can't help.

    Look everywhere.

    BTW the roadster looks good, nice find.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2020 at 2:25 PM
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  26. sloppy jalopies
    Joined: Jun 29, 2015
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    sloppy jalopies
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    fellow had a 30 coupe, white, chopped... sold it, new owner crashed it...
    the roof over the door was made of expando-foam, nothing else... magnet in a paper tissue !
     
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  27. 31Apickup
    Joined: Nov 8, 2005
    Posts: 2,086

    31Apickup
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    The quarter panel lower bead looks like it gets wider as you go back and the intersect where it goes around the fender is squared off, not correct. I’m guessing it’s full of mud. That’s based on the photo with the people in the car.



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  28. That's the first area I would look along with lower cowls
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  29. J.Ukrop
    Joined: Nov 10, 2008
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    J.Ukrop
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    Will do. So as the day gets closer, I'm constantly building and rebuilding this thing (or my future car, wherever it may be) in my head. Truth be told, I've been doing that for months/years. Being 6' 3", I'll have to sit in a few more channeled ones to see if that's the direction I want to go. Regardless of channeling, I'm looking to build something along the lines of this with V8 power and different paint (probably the existing finish) and details. 31 aroadster.jpg
     
  30. 31Apickup
    Joined: Nov 8, 2005
    Posts: 2,086

    31Apickup
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    At 6’3”, a channeled roadster probably won’t be the best choice. The black roadster pictured would be a great basis for the look to go for.


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