The Model-A Ford

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Sir,

Thank you for printing Dr Woudenberg’s most interesting article on the Model-A Ford, the regard with which it is held in the United States, in my experience, is well founded.

I have used a 1931 Model-AF as daily transport for the last four years, during which time the car has covered more than 25,000 miles including two 1,000-mile tours of the West Country and one of similar length around South Wales. So far, serious troubles have not occurred apart from the untimely collapse of the front spring two days before the first MoT test had been booked. The car has a 2-seater plus dickey “cabriolet” body and is in quite good condition for its age, the two doors still close with that carriage “click” in spite of the obvious weakness of open car bodywork. The nearside footboard had rusted to a point where it felt unsafe and a replacement was bent up fairly easily from 22 swg steel sheet, fibreglass was used to repair the rusted lower door panels though the results of this operation tend to reflect the haste with which it was done. A two-tone colour scheme of black and beige looked very smart when freshly painted but eighteen months without a garage produced unmovable dirty streaks on the lighter colour and a rapid conversion to Henry’s favourite hue has proved more successful.

Mechanically all seems well (two MoT tests passed without adverse comments) though the engine could now do with a rebore. At first no oil was added between 2,000-mile changes but over the last few thousand consumption has risen to a pint per 550 miles, cylinder bores are 0.030 in oversize with 89,600 odd on the clock. A number of parts have been replaced, all well before failure point; the main items changed have been the king-pins, spring shackles, valves_ and brake linings. Our local Ford main dealers have always been most helpful in getting these spares, their stores staff have dug through dust-covered old parts lists, searched the remote corners of their shelves and argued amongst themselves as to whether this or that bit would fill the bill. I hope that I have repaid some of their efforts by shifting what would otherwise have been “dead” stock.

A purist would probably complain about non-standard parts but mine is a working car and after thirty years purity can work out to be a highly expensive creed. However, for the record, wheels are 17 in, Model-B with assorted B and V8 hub caps, the carburetter is a Zenith, the distributor has automatic advance and I have added direction indicators and Armstrong shockers to swell the list. I did get a quotation for fixing up the original Houdailles but my bank manager drew the line at such wild extravagance.

Performance does not quite compare with that quoted in the article though with a nominal bore of 3 in and a rear axle ratio of 4.55 to 1 all on the same body as the Model-A, one would hardly expect parity. Nevertheless it will cruise all day at 45 mph and reach almost 66 mph if pressed, but this sort of driving would be ill-advised and show little regard for other road users. Since the brakes have been relined the retarding effect is adequate providing that frequent and regular adjustments are made, petrol consumption average out at 25 mpg and tyre life (retreads) looks like 25-36,000 miles.

Ownership of this car has filled a personal requirement for individuality without capital outlay and depreciation, reliability and case of maintenance has been a pleasant surprise and the car is also quite an asset as a social introduction. For those of us who require cheap, reliable and interesting motor transport, this type of car is certainly a practical proposition.

GA Cooper. Cambridge.