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Old 06-27-2010, 01:59 AM   #1
30Tudor
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Default Confessions of a Model A Modifier – Model A Upgrades?

I’m always interested on this site about how when people suggest they may want to add a more modern item to their Model A to improve performance or reliability how much debate it garners. This applies to alternators versus generators, regular brakes versus floaters, etc. I really appreciate the opinions because it helps me realize that the stock Model A was pretty good in its day and for most people the modifications are trying to mask other symptoms rather than actually fix problems. For example an alternator will not fix wiring/electrical issues.

I’m hoping that by posting this thread it will solicit opinions from people on the value of modifications they have made to their Model A and where you think the biggest bang-for-the-buck is. I suspect something similar was likely on the old fordbarn. What would your top three bang-for-the-buck modifications be and why?

I like to experiment and tinker so here are some of the crazy and unfortunately expensive things I have done over the years – this stuff adds up but I sure enjoy the hobby. My car is a driver and I have no desire to have a points car (well OK maybe I do someday). I am trying to preserve the stock look of my Model A as much as possible.

I suspect some people would prefer this post be on the “hot rod & customs” forum rather than here. I don’t mean to insult anybody or cause a fight (I have no opinions on oil). I'm just trying to contribute something to this forum and perhaps help out others based on what I learned - and am still learning thanks to all of you.

Here we go....

· Modern Engine mounts – A guy gave me an extra set of his and I put them in. Not sure it was worth the trouble. My frame hasn’t buckled yet as some people claim it will. I put the rear support in and believe it is necessary to be installed.
· Oil filter – this is a “feel good” thing for me as I still change the oil every 500 miles regardless. With the filter I can now spend more money and make more of a mess everytime I change the oil.
· Air filter – I use the large K&N filter to make the air flow resistance as low as possible. Can’t understand why you wouldn’t use an air filter if you want your engine to last? Where would the bugs have gone that get trapped on my filter?
· Modern Starter Bendix – I had a bendix bolt in my previous p/u (not retrieved by the previous owner) jam between the flywheel and the housing bringing the car to an abrupt grinding stop – fortunately there was no damage and the bolt came out easily using a magnet pick-up through the starter hole after I got everything unstuck by pushing the car backwards in gear. The old bendix now terrifies me.
· LED Brake Lights – huge difference in brightness as I suspect the halogen bulbs are as well.
· LED Centre Rear Light- huge safety upgrade from a rear visibility perspective – a necessity IMO.
· Cast Iron Drums – safety and reliability improvement – very expensive but you can’t put a price on being able to stop after braking down a long hill.
· Brake floaters –Currently installing “Ted’s” – My stock brakes are in excellent shape and are properly set-up however, there is absolutely no question in my mind, based on my experience, the floaters improve braking responsiveness and ease.
· High Compression head – huge bang for the buck for me in terms of power improvement and drivability.
· Ported and polished intake and exhaust ports and manifolds (did it myself when I rebuilt the engine) – hard to tell as I didn’t have a reference but I think it made a big difference. I did the HC head, B cam, porting and muffler installation all at the same time and the impact of all of these was huge.
· Model B cam – A very generous guy in our club gave me an NOS camshaft. Again no reference point for me but I think it made a difference.
· Aries muffler – I considered the dyno test results showing a HP increase but the bigger issue was I could never really get my old muffler to properly seal to the manifold even after hours of metal bashing, sleeves, gaskets and trying everything else. I have a used muffler for free (less shipping) if you would like it.
· Alternator – absolutely made a huge difference to headlight brightness, however, I really like the look of the generator and am considering going back but adding an EVR. If I keep the alternator, I think I will add the better bearing and sleeve set on the water pump. Also intend to add the exciter circuit.
· Mitchell Overdrive – I actually don't use it in third gear most of the time on tours because the average speed is 40 -45 MPH (I may have 3:54 gears in my differential), however, I use it in second gear all the time. If I ever get permission from "the boss" to order the Mitchell synchromesh transmission I will be looking to get better 2-3 gear spacing. These are big expense items and I’m not sure they really offer a high bang for the buck.
· Aluminum cam shaft gear – my prior fibre gear had some teeth come off it – there is no difference in noise between my car with the metal gear and other cars which have the fibre gear. I also shimmed up the thrust plunger so the clearance is 2 to 5 thousands to stop any shaft movement. It's a crazy thing we do in our club but it seems to work.
· Four blade fan – I’m assuming this is an improvement. I’m just terrified of the 2 blade fan after hearing that the blades may come off – do I need to be? I like the look of the two blade fan better and theoretically it would even reduce the probability of having my fingers cut off by 50%.
· Radiator overflow tank – got a little concerned about seeing people’s radiators overflow on tours and the amount of antifreeze that was getting spewed on the road. With the standard set-up it’s a bit tricky to find the right level and people always seem to be topping up wether they need to our not. The overflow tank makes this trial and error process a none-issue and its good for the environment.
· Shortened pitman arm – turning ease – definately good bang for the buck
· Modern water pump seal – big improvement and a no brainer - haven’t had a leak since. Installing the front thrust washer is a must.
· Downsizing my carburetor jets – my theory was that with modern higher energy content fuels the original jet sizes are sized too large. I undersized my jets by two drill sizes each and I know I get better way gas mileage than others (prior to the overdrive), although I haven’t actually measured it - I just compare tank fill amount with others when we gas up on tour. Further adjusting the GAV actually makes a difference. What do you think - I must be crazy and my engine is going to blow up?
· Bowl fuel filter – Luckily it’s not catching any chunks of rust which is a good thing, however, I had to modify it to make it fit into the sediment bowl cap better.
· Amber Cowl Light signal bulbs – home painted. There is no question people coming toward me can see my front signal lights. I didn’t see much other use for the cowl lights as they don’t really provide that much light.
· Turn signal buzzer – definitely makes me aware my turn signals are on when I turn or change lanes at the beginning of the season. By the end of the season I am actually turning off the signals in my regular car manually. Then we freeze up here in Canada for 6 months and I have to re-teach myself all over in the spring. On tours I like to time how long it takes people to turn off their turn signals – I think the longest so far is 30 minutes.
· Additional ground cable – one from the battery to the frame and one from the battery to the engine – no issues with a sluggish starter. Question this if you have engine splash pans as I do.
· Babbit versus Inserts – I went with babbit and hope I never have the opportunity to debate the merits of babbit versus inserts again –touch wood.
· Modern points – not sure on this one - the big thing is probably the condenser location and getting it further away from head and manifold heat. I have the wireless bottom plate and I’m a bit nervous based on some feedback on this site about it potentially burning out. Keeping an eye on it.
· Modern ignition switch – replaced my old pop-out switch after having had a person with an issue on a tour. I will likely add some gauges down the road and if they are lighted, this can’t be done as effectively with the pop-out. If doing it again would get the switch with the accessory position.
· Number 8 stud clamp modification – I can easily take the ignition cable off without having to undo the number 8 stud and risk head warping or a gasket failure. Not sure I even need the cable clamp anyway. Previously posted a picture on this.
· Rear Trunk – absolutely couldn’t live without it when we go on tours or trips. Where else would I put my 50lbs of tools and all the spares I require if my modifications don't work.
· Premium gasoline – avoids ethanol issues which in Canada is sometimes a problem with the 87 octane regular. Haven’t experienced any knock or ping, however, maybe I don’t know what they sound like anyway.
· Stone guard? Considering installing one after seeing the picture on this site showing damage that a rock can do falling off of a truck. On the other side of the argument, I hate the idea of having to clean the bugs out of my radiator as this is easy without the guard.
· Step plates – ordered a set a while back and they are still in the box. I am now thinking that too much “bling” may not be a good thing.

So in terms of the biggest bang for the buck, my top three would be the; high compression head, the rear trunk and the rear centre brake light. Any thoughts on the above?

What would be your top three modifications and why?
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Old 06-27-2010, 02:18 AM   #2
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Default Re: Confessions of a Model A Modifier – Model A Upgrades?

hmm... I like your radiator overflow and airfilter. I was surprised to not find one on my A or find any pictures of one. I would, however, suggest you create a heat shield for your airfilter as all the heat coming off your engine is negatively affecting your car's performance.. if that's even an issue on these cars! haha

good thread!
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Old 06-27-2010, 06:32 AM   #3
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Default Re: Confessions of a Model A Modifier – Model A Upgrades?

I have lots of the modifications you mentioned. Add to that a lightened flywheel.

I recently removed the radiator overflow. I am searching for a ghost problem. I did the normal dumb thing by changing two things at once. I installed the radiator overflow with a sealed radiator cap and I changed from aluminum to cast head. After these changes, I could no longer run with 50% antifreeze without running hotter when pushing the car. It runs cool with 20%. The jury is still out on the overflow causing the problem.

The reason I suspected the over flow is that it caused the water pump to run at slightly higher head pressure. Centrifugal pumps will pump less with higher head. I don't know if the slight difference is enough to cause this problem.
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Old 06-27-2010, 07:19 AM   #4
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Default Re: Confessions of a Model A Modifier – Model A Upgrades?

I've modified my 30 Tudor with a lot of performance-safety mods.None that couldn't be changed back.

Top 3 are probably:
seat belts.

Lincoln hydraulic brakes( tried to get floaters to work on a restored mechanical set up. Gave up after 3 years. good brakes when they worked right).

and F150 overdrive transmission
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Old 06-27-2010, 08:06 AM   #5
Tom Wesenberg
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Default Re: Confessions of a Model A Modifier – Model A Upgrades?

1. Add counterweights to prolong babbitt life.

2. Add the stand up filter to the shutoff valve to prolong the shutoff valve life and keep junk out of the carb.

3. Install an electronic voltage regulator to prolong the life of the battery and put less drag on the belt and engine. I'll bet almost no one adjusts the third brush as they should each time the demands change.

4. Add a high compression head to help efficiency, and for the most horsepower gain for the buck, for those wanting more power.

5. A locking collar on the water pump, so you can use the same pump on any engine and don't have to repair a worn thrust pad on an old head.

I tried, but just couldn't limit it to 3 as I feel these 5 things are well worth the money.
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Old 06-27-2010, 09:08 AM   #6
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Default Re: Confessions of a Model A Modifier – Model A Upgrades?

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Tom,
Do you use carb. air filter's on your A's? what do you think about them, are they any help to an A model? i've heard arug. on both sides. it seem's like it would be a good idea, but Henry must not have thought so.... Appreciate your thought's.....Louis.
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Old 06-27-2010, 09:18 AM   #7
John LaVoy
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Default Re: Confessions of a Model A Modifier – Model A Upgrades?

You left air conditioning off! We have reviewed many of these modifications in the Model A Times along with air conditioning for the Model A, but that is the modification that my wife says was the best!
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Old 06-27-2010, 10:00 AM   #8
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Default Re: Confessions of a Model A Modifier – Model A Upgrades?

I've been accused of being a purist but I do like my aluminum 2 blade fan, the locking collar on my waterpump, and my high compression head. If you're going to tour, an overdrive is also nice.
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Old 06-27-2010, 10:25 AM   #9
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Default Re: Confessions of a Model A Modifier – Model A Upgrades?

Hi 30tudor, If I absolutely have to keep it to 3, I'm going to say hi-comp iron head, B cam, and slung crankshaft. This assumes everything else is operating properly, of course! Happy Motoring!
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Old 06-27-2010, 11:08 AM   #10
Jim Mason
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Default Re: Confessions of a Model A Modifier – Model A Upgrades?

I have a page on 'are modifications needed' on my site...fwiw,jm
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Old 06-27-2010, 11:15 AM   #11
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Default Re: Confessions of a Model A Modifier – Model A Upgrades?

#1~I use the 'Air Maze' air filter can without a paper or foam filter. I do encircle the can with a 1/16" or so wire mesh to keep the light rocks from being drawn in. And bees or other exoskeleton bugs from holding my butterfly open, as happened on my 1875 cc VW Dune Buggy carb.

#2~For the guy following me, not the entire LED rear plastic lens amber over red brake lite, but rather the adapter and halogen lamp. That way I can keep my glass. Brighter in the daylight is better. Especially with one side only lit. I do have an alt. but don't need it.

#3~No pop-out and a modern point set on the upper plate.

Those would be my three picks. Oh and seat belts for when the doors swing open!

Nothing else needed. As to 'Higher Energy Fuels'...???

· Downsizing my carburetor jets – my theory was that with modern higher energy content fuels the original jet sizes are sized too large. I undersized my jets by two drill sizes each and I know I get better way gas mileage than others (prior to the overdrive), although I haven’t actually measured it - I just compare tank fill amount with others when we gas up on tour. Further adjusting the GAV actually makes a difference. What do you think - I must be crazy and my engine is going to blow up?

30Tudor; Wait! Here Is What Fuel Was In 1918...About the same BTU's as today. So why change the jets? From the Gas Motor by Max Kushlan, 2nd. Edition, 1918. The Branch Publishing Co. Chicago

About180,000 btu/gallon



skip.

Last edited by skip; 07-01-2010 at 10:13 PM.
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Old 06-27-2010, 11:26 AM   #12
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Default Re: Confessions of a Model A Modifier – Model A Upgrades?

I added a cd player/ipod,
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Old 06-27-2010, 12:28 PM   #13
Glenn C.
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Default Re: Confessions of a Model A Modifier – Model A Upgrades?

30 Tudor forgot to add a bronze labrinth seal and thrust face.
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Old 06-27-2010, 12:40 PM   #14
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Default Re: Confessions of a Model A Modifier – Model A Upgrades?

Quote:
Originally Posted by John LaVoy View Post
You left air conditioning off! We have reviewed many of these modifications in the Model A Times along with air conditioning for the Model A, but that is the modification that my wife says was the best!

Why have a model A....isnt that the fun, did we forget the car did fine over 80 years... But really air conditioning.. Buy a Shay!
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Old 06-27-2010, 12:58 PM   #15
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Default Re: Confessions of a Model A Modifier – Model A Upgrades?

I'm a purest and like to keep my A's stock. Original carburetor, distributor, transmission, brakes, etc.

The 3 modifications I believe in are :

1. ENGINE: counterbalanced crankshaft, lightened flywheel, adjustable lifters, "B" camshaft, modern clutch & pressure plate, leakless water pump, high compression head, balanced engine.

2. DIFFERENTAL: 3.54 gears

3. TURNSIGNALS : Logolite (has its own wiring system) Note: they don't teach hand signals in school anymore. A good safety item.

I live at 3500' elevation, a lot of our tours take us higher, the additional horse power by the internal engine modifications is well worth the expense and increased engine life.

Ron
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Old 06-27-2010, 01:53 PM   #16
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Default Re: Confessions of a Model A Modifier – Model A Upgrades?

I have tried lots of modification on my model A's over the past 50 years. I'm not trying to tell anybody what they should or shouldn't do. I feel that everybody should be able to make whatever mods that they want without rude comments from the tight ass die hards.

Here is what I believe are the worst. Modern points, electronic ignition, floating motor mounts, air filters on the carb, distributor heat shields, any type of automatic advance on the distributor, thermostat, the old four blade fan that were used on the 33 and 34four cylinder trucks, hydraulic brakes and micro filters .

Here is what I believe are the best for reliability. Stand up filter in the gas cut off valve and I think this is a necessity, Voltage regulator and I have had great results with the Fun Projects cut out style, aluminum repro 2 blade fan, heavy duty radiator with 8 fins per inch, brass rear water pump bushing with 2 Chicago rawhide seals from Snyder, Brass pack nut with seal from Bratton because their aluminum sealed packnut sticks to the rear bushing, and the sealed pack nuts from Snyder has a black seal that is visible in the front and is obviously not original look, modern front water pump bearing and sleeve from Bratton, I use the water pump shaft collar and the water pump bolts that look like studs. with these mods to the water pump you don't need packing and some of my water pumps are working great after 15 years with NO maintainance needed except to back off the packing nut and apply grease. I feel that a water temperture gauge is a needed accessory. I use and have had NO problems with the wireless lower distributor plate, this is the style that is used with original points and uses a brass acorn nut. I use the modern barrel starter drive and have had NO problems in 4 years since first using them. i use the i 1/2 inch shortened pitman arm and teflon buttons in the tie rod ends and drag link.

Here is the performance mods that I use. Regular Brumfield 5.9 higher compression head. I use this head on three of my model A's and believe it to be the best performance mod for the buck. Winfield super street 3/4race cam used on two of my cars and ground by Bill Stipe. This cam has 317 lift , idles good and has great low and mid range with better all around performance. I use the Pertronix flame thrower coil and believe that it gives better performance than electronic ignition. I use a model B flywheel in my roadster, it is nearly 20 pounds lighter and gives better throttle response and helps with smoother gear shifts.
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Old 06-27-2010, 07:07 PM   #17
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Default Re: Confessions of a Model A Modifier – Model A Upgrades?

Purdy Swoft,
Well said, some good idea's on modifications, and good common sense, Thank's.
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Old 06-27-2010, 08:16 PM   #18
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Default Re: Confessions of a Model A Modifier – Model A Upgrades?

purdy why dont you like the floating motor mounts thinking about these on a 30 im doing would like your imput thanks
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Old 06-27-2010, 08:31 PM   #19
Chris in WNC
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Default my top 3:

seat belts

Mitchell overdrive

high compression head.


the original posting above cries out for a long detailed "Marshall Daut-type"
reply. perhaps another day.......
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Old 06-27-2010, 10:33 PM   #20
Purdy Swoft
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Default Re: Confessions of a Model A Modifier – Model A Upgrades?

allen, I installed a set on our 31 coupe a few years back and soon regretted it. Clutch chatter started shortly afterwards. With the original rear mounts you have a solid crossmember between the frame and the flywheel housing. With the engine and transmission floating and the torque tube and rear end connected to the transmission the whole drive train has a tendency to lose some stability. Usually the drive train will creep foward from the pressure of using the clutch and brake pedals and from the force of the rear wheels as they pull the car foward. Some of the early flatheads had floating type motor mounts but they had torque rods that attached to the rear of the engine to stabalize the drive train. With the floating motor mounts installed in the model A you don't have the torque rods. The frame will be weakened and will eventually sag at the cowl and a wide gap will appear at the lower rear corners of the hood. You will lose the ability to use the engine pans that help so much with cooling and grounding the engine to the frame. The only good thing that I can say about floating motor mounts is that it is easier to remove and replace the engine because you won't need to use a frame spreader.

This is just my views and experience with float A motor mounts. I don't recommend them. Many people seem to like and use them and it is not my intention to offend anybody that uses them.
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