1930 Ford Model A: Improving your Model A
In its day, the Model A was considered a reliable car with good performance. Henry Ford continued many of the Model T's virtues, and eliminated many of the T's annoying idiosyncrasies. The comparatively light and flimsy look of many of the Model A's parts was a big selling point for Chevrolet, but time has proved that Henry's insistence on keeping weight down was a good idea. However, by today's standards, the Model A has a few points that just aren't considered good enough. Fortunately, there are modern fixes for all of these. So, if you are considering buying a Model A for the first time, you'll want to know about what modifications are available especially if you intend to drive the car on any long trips.
First, the engine, while reliable by early 1930's standards, is short lived by today's. The main weak point is the relatively light duty crankshaft with it's babbit main bearings. High speed driving (anything over about 40-45 MPH) tends to whip out the center main bearing. As these bearings are only replaced by pouring in new babbit metal and line boring, this isn't something you want to happen thousands of miles from home. Fortunately, there are several engine builders who can instal a balanced crankshaft with modern thin-shell insert bearings; a modification that greatly improves the smoothness and performance of the engine, and it is undetectable from the outside, except for the smoother running.
There are several more minor problems that can also be eliminated today. One of these is the fan's propensity to throw off blades through the radiator. Better quality fans are now available along with water pumps that don't leak and throw grease all around the engine compartment.
The original brakes are often criticized, although when they are in good condition and properly adjusted, they are well up to stopping the car safely. Front wheel brake floaters can do wonders for stopping power. The hand brake on the Model A is probably the best ever put on a car and when operating properly, can easily lock up both rear wheels.
Open models, when properly sorted out, are a delight to drive. The noise and vibration from the engine doesn't resonate the way it can in some of the closed bodies. Here again, modern sound proofing materials can help bring down the extreme noise level in the closed bodies.
The Model A's steering can be heavy and vague. The use of a needle bearing steering sector bearing can lighten up the steering, and careful adjusting of the steering gear, drag link and tie rod ends can help the overall feel. Shortened pitman arms are available, and can help lighten the steering.
For higher speed highway driving, there are several options available. These include a higher back axle gear ratio, a conversion to a modern 5-speed transmission, or the addition of an overdrive. With either changing the transmission or adding an overdrive unit, the car will no longer be original, but either is probably a worthwhile modification. Changing the axle ratio will help the cruising speed, but will lower acceleration and hill climbing ability.
The original charging system isn't too bad, but the generator/cutout system has its faults. Long drives can over charge the battery, and reliability was never that good. There are solid state solutions to the common sticking points in the cutout, and there are now alternators available that look like the original generators.
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