"something of an extraordinary nature will turn up..."

Mr. Micawber in Dickens' David Copperfield

Kit Foster's



March 30th, 2011

1928 Model A Ford Special Coupe - front

Frank McMullen has been fascinated with Model A Fords since he was five years old. He built most of the Hubley diecast kits, and religiously watched The Waltons on television, drawn by the distinctive exhaust note of the Model As on the show. Somehow, though, real Model As always eluded him, the available ones being either too ambitious a project or too expensive a purchase.

The summer before last, however, he was checking about the car corral at a local AACA meet in eastern Pennsylvania when he came across a perky 1928 Special Coupe. It had been painted Rattle-Can Black and had a number of issues, but it had four decent Allstate tires and no ominous puddles underneath. After a short ride, Frank was able to make a deal, but the local Model A guru, who was handling the sale for the owner, insisted on going through it before letting it go. So it was a cold and snowy January before Frank could drive it home. He gave it some exercise in a local park, then put it away, next to his 1961 Rambler American convertible.

But he really wanted to drive it, so he began driving it to work when the weather wasn’t too bad, appropriate because he works in a building the same age as the car. Come spring there were some coolant issues to be addressed, followed by head gasket replacement. He found what were clearly original pistons and valves, at somewhat more than 80,000 miles. He’s put another 5,000 on it since, mostly commuting and some touring. It celebrated International Model A Ford Day in September at the local Ford dealer.

He liked driving it so much that this past winter – the winter from hell in much of the country – he kept it on the road for all but the sloppiest days. It started easily on the coldest day of the year, though sometimes relished a bit of thawing. It didn’t mind being out in the snow, but on really cold nights he bundled it up.

A couple of weeks ago, he gave it a bath before the first spring tour of his local club, Steamtown A’s of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Convoy-fashion, they visited Loch’s Maple and Fiber Farm in Springville, Pennsylvania, where craftspeople, alpacas and rising sap were holding forth. The folks had fun, and the Fords got a chance to catch up with their cousins.

I know from experience that Model A Fords are good winter cars. Nicely balanced and not overpowered, their narrow tires are sure-footed in snow. They’re not especially warm inside, even when equipped with a manifold heater, but the coupes, like Frank’s are cozier than open cars or sedans. Frank has the right idea. He has plans for more cosmetic and mechanical work, he says, “that is, if I can ever stop driving it long enough to do some serious work.”

Serendipity: n. An aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident.
“They were always making discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things they were not in quest of.”
Horace Walpole, The Three Princes of Serendip
© 2004-2018 Kit Foster
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