1929 Ford Model A Tudor Restoration

Note: Each photo below can be clicked for a larger view

Chapter II - Chassis Restoration

While Dick and I worked on paint preparation, Dan started on the chassis. First he removed the engine and transmission with a little help and set them on the floor. Then he tackled the brakes and steering joints. The car originally had steel brake drums but cast iron replacements are available, at least now, and Dick wanted to convert. This required the services of a machine shop to turn them to match the shoes. There was also something else that I don't remember for sure, I think related to mating them to the lug bolts or hubs or something.

Next Dan worked on all the steering joints. These arms and levers operate through ball joints that are part of the original castings. Over time, these balls wear into an oval shape, causing dangerous steering slop. Some of the parts are replaceable and some are not. Repair kits are available, however, in the form of replacement balls and the mating cups they fit into. These balls include a shank. The old balls have to be cut off then the base piece is drilled to accept the shank of the new ball and the whole thing welded together. We again sent these to a machine shop for the actual repair. Replacing the cups in the mating parts was fairly straight forward except for having to deal with a really stiff spring in each one.

Engine on Stand To take a break from sanding, Dick wanted to build an adapter to mount the engine to our engine stand. The reason for the adapter is the Model A flywheel that extends a full 2 inches beyond the rear of the casting. Then the clutch goes another 2 beyond that. He scrounged up a piece of 3x6 inch by 3/8 thick angle 76 inches long. I'm not sure how he dragged it to the shop but he did, alone. We got the pieces cut and fit but ran out of time before welding. I'll post pictures of the finished product tomorrow. By then it is forecast to be too cold and wet for painting.

So here it is. Dick did the design and I did the welding. I'm not really a welder so I did it with some trepidation. We did leave it loosely attached to the hoist with some slack in the chain overnight just in case. As Dick said, "we trust the welding but we wouldn't sleep under it tonight." Well it held so I guess it is all right. The adapter is only attached to the engine at the motor mounts on both sides near the rear. The reason for mounting it from the front is so the gearbox can be mounted to it while still on the stand. That is the gearbox on the floor below and behind in the photo. It is cast iron too.

Engine left side Engine right side We have done a lot of paint preparations over the last few weeks, mostly the high-build primer and block sanding. Meanwhile we have also refinished the engine, including hand-lapping and adjusting the valves and general de-carboning. We wanted it to look like it did when it came from the factory. Ford painted the parts before assembling the engine so we did the same. Every piece that could come off came off and was painted separately in the original color. Dick got a spray can of the proper engine paint. It was then reassembled with a new gasket set. Show judges don't want to see any paint on the gaskets and they won't on this engine. Dick always says this is not a show car but we intend to do the best we can to make it look like it is. The fan belt is what holds the generator against its adjuster. The fan/pump pulley was damaged and has been ordered so we can't install the belt yet. The string is temporarily substituting for the belt. The casting above the exhaust manifold is the heat source for the cabin heater, somewhat similar to the heater on my Volkswagen.

Meanwhile, Dick and mostly Dan have been working on the brakes more. Getting it all put back together, we have determined that a brake job on a Model A is not a one man operation; upon occasion it sometimes even takes all three of us. The backs are particularly challenging with the dual shoe emergency brake setup. Apparently the law at the time called for an "emergency brake" entirely independent of the service brakes. Ford's answer was two separate sets of shoes and two corresponding surfaces on the rear drums with a separate set of rods to actuate them. Remember, these cars had mechanical brakes. Assembling them can be quite challenging with all the fiddly bits involved. And of course we tried to do it in the wrong order of steps at least a couple of times. Another corollary to Murphy's Law: "if there are two ways to assemble something, you will first try the wrong one." Another concern is adjusting. There are no equalizers in the system. The independent rods to each wheel must be adjusted individually so as to equalize the braking from each wheel. This is not trivial. Then with some more new parts we got the brakes at least working and roughly adjusted. Final adjustment probably can't really be done until it is driveable.

Left front Right front After the steering joints were either replaced or rebuilt, we finally reinstalled the motor and transmission, clearing up a nice section of shop floor space. Dick sent the wheels to Wheel Works, a local shop, for powder coating and ordered a new set of Lucas tires. When these all arrived, the guys got them assembled and mounted on the chassis. Dan installed, removed, painted and reinstalled the radiator. This is how it looks now. With that, the chassis is about as far along as practical until we can actually give it a good rolling test.

Almost ready Broadside Meanwhile, the guys got the chassis far enough along and I had been teasing them "almost time for a test drive". Dan called me one morning before I got to the shop and asked if he could remove my temporary seat from the Prefect, which I agreed to. When I got there, he had it already installed on the A and Dick took it for a test drive around the parking lot. In fact, he looked like he almost took it out onto the street at one point but backed off. These photos show the conditions during the test drive. If I can figure out how to get a video off my iPhone, I will try to post it here. Here is the proud owner getting ready and the chassis almost ready to pull out. See the temporary gas can attached to the radiator. The following photos show the chassis just after the test drive, back in the shop, with my Prefect temporary seat installed.

Right quarter left quarter Close up detail