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bdtutton 10-12-2019 08:24 PM

Biggest scare in a Model A

Just wondering what kind of close calls people have had that were unique to a Model A or similar old car. Something that may not have been an issue if they were driving a new car.

Here is my story....On Friday I braved a rain storm to drive down from Michigan to visit a friend that lived on the East side of South Bend, Indiana. I have a mostly stock 1930 Tudor with a vacuum wiper. The afternoon drive in the rain was challenging, but I did OK. I stayed longer than planned and stopped to pick up food to take home along the super busy Grape Road. (This road is many lanes wide and always busy...especially on Friday night.) When I waled out of the restaurant it was after dark and raining really hard. I looked at the radar and realized it was only going to rain a lot harder for the next few hours.

Here is the scary part....When I jumped into the very cold car my cloths were wet and I was carrying a big bag of steaming hot food. Just as I got up to speed on the main road all the windows fogged up at once. I could not see anything in any direction and the reflections were 10 times worse than anything I had ever experienced in the car. I tried wiping the inside of the windshield but it did not help. I was traveling 35 mph in heavy rain and traffic and could not see....I was panicked and thought I was going to die.

I decided to just roll the window down and try sticking my head out in the pouring rain to see the road. The good news is that after about 10 seconds the air rushing in from the outside cleared the windows and I could see face was wet and my heart was beating fast, but I had not crashed. I spent the rest of my trip rolling the window up and down, but it helped me see. I told my wife and she just looked at me and said....why don't you just drive a modern car??

So...why do we drive these old cars?

mhsprecher 10-12-2019 08:28 PM

Re: Biggest scare in a Model A

We drive them because we love them.

There are situations to avoid. I avoid rain and night time driving. I have good lights and reflectors, but it still makes me nervous. I would be very wary driving country roads at night that you don't know. I also avoid interstate and like highways.

I drove 4 hours back from Hershey in my Model A. It was a great trip. I got home not long after dark, but it was big roads that were well lighted after dark.

Mike Peters 10-12-2019 09:54 PM

Re: Biggest scare in a Model A

Yes, we drive them because we love them. 2X. We also avoid dangerous situations like then one you describe. Just have fun with your car and accept it for what it is and don't ask for more than it can give you, and leave your Model A home on those dark and stormy nights.

Steve Plucker 10-13-2019 03:26 AM

Re: Biggest scare in a Model A

1981...going North on Highway 97 into Bend, OR in my newly restored 1929 Standard Coupe after driving it to California thus heading back to Walla Walla, WA...

I had the steering ball replaced on the steering pitman (along with the other three on the steering arms) during restoration...Ball came loose and I had no steering going into Bend...

There I was in the middle of the road and no steering...pushed it into a gas station (which was right there Thank God) and called someone in Bend and they came down and they gave me another pitman arm so I could get back to Walla Walla, WA...I still would like to know just who that person was that helped me.

I put out a formal complaint of the person and advertisement who "fixed" the steering arms and pitman arm in the first place to MARC and MAFCA and they pulled the add from Model A News and The Restorer. (At the time...I guess this was a new way to fix these parts).

1984...North of Bakersfield, CA on Highway 99 going South...

It was so scary I almost soiled my britches...

Long story short...Stay off freeways with fast cars and trucks barriling down on your butt.

Yes, we drive them because we love them...But be safe when doing so...after all...they are 90 plus years old.


NZ28ModelA 10-13-2019 03:46 AM

Re: Biggest scare in a Model A

I've been caught out a couple of times with not enough braking distance..

No accidents, but I have to remind myself that you just can't be as close to the car in front as you can with a modern car!!

SAJ 10-13-2019 05:17 AM

Re: Biggest scare in a Model A

2 Attachment(s)
I had been doing 55mph through many miles of twisty mountainous bends on the way to the Art Deco festival in Napier.
Arriving in Napier, I pulled up to go round a roundabout when suddenly the car started wobbling uncontrollably. As I went to steer round the roundabout, instead of my steering input taking us round the curve, the steering wheel itself moved in and out of the column! I forced the wheel back down and slowed to walking pace and managed to get to our hotel. From there the car was towed back to Auckland on a flat deck.
What had happened was the 7 tooth box bottom thrust bearing had lost all its rollers into the grease space. How they could escape from between the races is a mystery, since there were no warning symptoms of anything coming loose. But previously, every now and then on tight low speed parking maneuvers I felt a clonk, which I thought was a loose fitting key on the steering wheel and insufficient bite on the associated taper. I had fixed this, but maybe there was more to the clonks than just this.
Before the trip I had the car at an alignment garage, where everything was found perfect on the laser machine.
See photos attached. The rollers can be seen laying free in the grease along with serious wear particles.

jquinlan 10-13-2019 06:26 AM

Re: Biggest scare in a Model A

Quite a few years ago when our kids were little and we lived in Michigan I agreed to use our Tudor in my cousin's evening wedding. The wedding was 30 miles from us on the other side of Detroit. After attaching a “just married” sign and some ribbons to a new trunk I recently mounted on the back of my tudor I felt it needed more ribbons. My wife told me we were late and there wasn't enough time to go to the store to get more. But I felt very compelled to add more so told her it I would hurry.

After the wedding reception a horrendous storm pounded us and I was faced with a trip home over terrible roads (southfield expressway) while my wife followed closely in our van with the kids. I had never driven in such rain with the Model A before and water was even coming up through the floorboards. It was difficult to see with the heavy rain and the dark night.

We made it home ok but the next morning when I went out to the garage I was shocked when I saw the Model A. The trunk was hanging off the edge of the luggage rack as the bolts had vibrated loose. The ribbons were all tightly wrapped around the bumpers where it looked like they were tied from the trunk to the car. They were the only thing holding that trunk to the luggage rack. I got chills down my spine at that moment thinking what might have been if those ribbons weren't holding the trunk and it had fallen off in front of the van with my family on that dark rainy night. I was compelled to put those extra ribbons on for a reason. May have been some angels looking after us that night.

Bob Bidonde 10-13-2019 08:24 AM

Re: Biggest scare in a Model A

The worst of my scary experiences both involved being cutoff by modern cars. In both cases my Coupe, having mechanical brakes, came to a screeching stop inches away from those cars.

On a road with some sharp turns that I have driven many times in my Coupe, I almost rolled my Victoria. I assumed that the Victoria would hold the road like the Coupe. Big mistake! The heavier Victoria was close to going around the bend on two wheels.

WHN 10-13-2019 08:31 AM

Re: Biggest scare in a Model A

Rear tire blow out.

Fingers crossed! My only serious problem in 60 years.

These cars are antiques. There are real reasons why our everyday cars have evolved over the last 90 years. The Ford Tri-Motor is a great looking plane, but would you feel safe in it during a thunder storm at 3,000 feet, at night.

Our 29 Sport Coupe has not been out in the rain for at least 50 years. Enjoy.

rosenkranswa 10-13-2019 09:06 AM

Re: Biggest scare in a Model A

Never really had a moment in one of the Model A's or T's, but a couple months ago in my '42 Jeep I was coming home from an event. We had left a little early because we could see rain clouds to the south, and WeatherBug showed it coming toward us. Got most of the way home when it opened up. The wartime Jeeps had hand-operated wipers like the T's, which are virtually useless anyway. I had the summer top on which has no side coverage at all. Couldn't see through the windshield, rain whipping in the sides, everything inside including me is soaked, so I pull in under a bridge to wait it out but couldn't pull all the way off the 4-lane road. Fortunately there wasn't a lot of traffic, but several cars apparently saw me at the last moment and I could see them swerve. I'm not anxious to do that again.

KGBnut 10-13-2019 09:52 AM

Re: Biggest scare in a Model A

I have a daily driver that REALLY is a daily driver. I drive it several times a week without worrying about the weather, or time of day. Snow, heavy rain, 3:00 in the morning... I don't really care. My only limitation is that I will not take it on limited-access highways. 45mph...even 50mph and she is happy as could be. When everyone else is doing 55...65...or a hell of a lot faster, I don't want to be on that road.

My point of saying all this is simply say that, to me, my Model A is just one of my cars. I often forget that I am driving anything special. I like to think that I drive it the way people did 60 or more years ago... just basic transportation.

Still, I am well aware of its limitations.

My scariest day was a routine drive to my office. I ended up on an unexpected detour onto a road I had never previously driven in any car. The road started as a long gentle downhill grade, about 40mph. However the last third of the road got suddenly very steep with sharp curves. At the end of the road was a long, straight steep grade that gave me a clear view of the line of cars that the red light, and the heavy cross traffic on one of the busiest roads in the area.

Early on I realized this was going to be a challenge. Thankfully, I had started pumping my brakes early on, but still, I was feeling the brakes fade. My Coupe still has the original steel drums, and the shoes (which the previous owner installed in the 60s) appear to be asbestos. As I approached the bottom of the grade, I was making calculations in my head; Did I have enough brakes to avoid hitting the cars at the bottom? Was there room enough on either side to go around them? What is someone turned into the on-coming lane? I really thought I was going to end up in the middle of the cross traffic.

As I reluctantly started to reach for the emergency brake the light turned green and the cars ahead of me began to move. I got to the bottom, still pumping the brakes, just as the light turned yellow. I quickly punched it and safely made it through the intersection.

I eased to a stop on the side of the road. I shut her down and left her in gear telling myself that it was to let the brakes cool, but I knew deep down inside that I was really just trying to get my knees back.

ryanheacox 10-13-2019 10:13 AM

Re: Biggest scare in a Model A

Scariest moment I've had was this past June coming home at night I hit a deer. I had just switched from LED bulbs back to the 50/32s and hadn't readjusted the height of the beam so it was low... if I had adjusted the lights I probably would have had enough time to slow down and go around the deer but as it sat I took one out at 25MPH. No damage to the car other than some fur on the bumper but you can rest assured that the second I got home those lights got adusted...

Second most scary moment was following a friend in a Phaeton up to a show in the rain. He apparently didn't see a red light and by the time he did, decided to slam his brakes. Well, we watched the car swing sideways and skid into the intersection... Fortunately the driver pulling out saw what was happening and gave plenty of room and the Phaeton didn't catch and roll. The drive home was much slower.

Tacoma Bob 10-13-2019 11:04 AM

Re: Biggest scare in a Model A

1971. I had street rodded my 30 ccpu with a small block chevy V-8. Thought I was cool with a late 40s flathead truck rear end with open drive shaft. On the freeway at 60 mpg the shifter kept popping out of third. By the 4th time I looked in the side view mirror the left rear slick was coming out of the fender. The axle had snapped clean. I was fortunate enough to get to the side of the road. A State Patrolman and good Samaritan stopped to help. We jacked the car up and the the wheel/tire fell in my arms.

vern hodgson 10-13-2019 12:54 PM

Re: Biggest scare in a Model A

Driving my stock rescued Tudor in 1970, my kids in the back seat and on a nice long stretch of highway 9 I observed a model A wheel pass me, before I could re-act my son said, dad did you see that? Well i never thought one could lose a wheel from the rear of the car and not notice it. The wheel? Buried itself in the grill of the only other car on the road, bounced over the top and was never found. The guy, an Arkansas hillbilly was nice and we agreed to tow the car to my house where we spent several days repairing it. A week later his former employer came and got the car, seems he stole the car and ran off with the guys wife and kids. He could not be charged with theft however as the wife said she had permission to use the car. Funny tho, I have trouble recalling people’s names but recall his after fifty years.

barnstuf 10-13-2019 01:13 PM

Re: Biggest scare in a Model A

It was late September 1950 and my wife and I were out for a Sunday pleasure ride in my 1929 station wagon equipped with oversize wheels and big tires for driving on the sandy beaches of Cape Cod. I pulled into a beach front parking lot which was defined by cement posts on three sides, and as it was off season for tourists the parking lot was almost empty. I put on the brakes as I approached the end of the parking area. Pedal went to the floor with zero resistance. My emergency brake was ineffective It was too late to swerve so I picked the two cement posts with the largest gap between them and we through the gap, dropping straight down about 15 feet onto the sandy beach. The motor was still running so we drove on the beach a bit and suddenly the engine stopped. I opened the hood and immediately saw the condenser had melted. I had struck a piece of driftwood on the beach as we landed and it had been pushed up and dislodged the lower radiator hose. The radiator had emptied in a flash, and the heat of the engine had melted the condenser. The station wagon did not have engine side pans which could have prevented the disaster. I was in the tidal plane and high tide would be a few feet deep in the area we were stranded in. Fortunately I hitch hiked 4 miles home, called my sister at her home and she came over and drove me back to the beach with water and condenser. With a new condenser and a good drink of water the station wagon started right up and by driving down the beach about a mile we were able to exit the beach and drive home.

I sold the station wagon in 1958 when the Cape Cod Seashore (National Park) banned beach driving. It is now a restored collector car owned by a friend in Vermont. The cause of the brake failure was the clevis pin at the base of the brake pedal was missing, either fell off or broke off. In almost 80 years of highway driving Model A's, around 300,000 miles, have never had a highway safety problem.

CHuDWah 10-13-2019 01:20 PM

Re: Biggest scare in a Model A


Originally Posted by Tacoma Bob (Post 1809118)
1971. I had street rodded my 30 ccpu with a small block chevy V-8. Thought I was cool with a late 40s flathead truck rear end with open drive shaft. On the freeway at 60 mpg the shifter kept popping out of third. By the 4th time I looked in the side view mirror the left rear slick was coming out of the fender. The axle had snapped clean. I was fortunate enough to get to the side of the road. A State Patrolman and good Samaritan stopped to help. We jacked the car up and the the wheel/tire fell in my arms.

I had pretty much the same experience about the same time in my stock 30 CCPU. Doing about 35 on a city street, I felt the rear end jerking side to side - looked in the side mirror and the right rear tire was coming off. Got her off the road before it came off completely. Axle had snapped - after 40 years of use and probably abuse, guess it just gave up.

Another time, same truck, same road, same speed, a car stopped short in front of me. I hit the brakes hard but saw I wasn't going to stop in time. I yanked the hand brake as hard as I could and locked her up - that stopped us real quick.

I think the truck and that road just didn't like each other. ;)

rfitzpatrick 10-13-2019 03:12 PM

Re: Biggest scare in a Model A

WOW!! Sure wish I could un-read this Post. Serious stuff

GPierce 10-13-2019 06:21 PM

Re: Biggest scare in a Model A

The entrance to Zion National Park has an unlit, 1.1 mile tunnel. My headlights failed just as I entered it this past Wednesday in my A. I was driving slow so I lost sight of the car ahead of me. The A behind me had the original lights so he didn’t light the roadway in front of me. Built in the early 30’s it is so narrow they stop on coming traffic when a camper is waiting to enter. It is not a straight line thru it so you don’t see the “light at the end of the tunnel” until you are all most to the end.

ryanheacox 10-13-2019 06:42 PM

Re: Biggest scare in a Model A

Just remembered another. Was driving home from chauffeuring a wedding and decided to turn on the dash light to check my speed. Turned it on and immediately lost all lights and engine... then I remembered the intermittent short in the dash light. Managed to coast into town under the street lights and replace the fuse. Very thankful nobody else was behind me.

History 10-13-2019 07:44 PM

Re: Biggest scare in a Model A

We just went through that tunnel in Zion, I bet you were nervous, I would have been.

Model A stranded on the beach,,,,,, with the tide coming in?????

I've been wondering how the brakes will feel on the hiway. I can slide the tires on gravel without a huge amount of pressure but I'm mashing the pedal pretty hard. Ive never driven another A so I have no idea what the shape the brakes are really in as far as the entire system. I don't see anything dangerous but after reading some these near misses. I'm fortunate enough that the Blue Ridge Parkway is like a quarter of a mile away from my shop, the negative is unfortunately in winter there's not much traffic if you have an accident or break down. I don't like to be held up on the hiway by slow traffic so I don't won't to hold people up either.

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