No Place To Store It: 1929 Model A Phaeton

One of the biggest problems our hobby faces is storage.  Many potential entrants into our hobby live in apartments and condominiums, and if they even have a garage it is usually taken.  A collectible car takes up a lot of room, and when you add to that the tools and spare parts required to keep it on the road, then you see how losing your storage space would be a catastrophe.  That seems to be what happened to the seller of this 1929 Ford Model A phaeton, found on craigslist in Deland, Florida.  While the situation is unfortunate, someone may walk away with a good deal on an open Model A.  This well sorted, and well used, ragtop is being sold for just $10,750.

Model A Fords used to be the most restored cars in America, as these simple cars were a huge part of the World War II generation’s lives.  Often, Model A Fords were the cars that got their families through the horrors of the Depression, and many learned to drive behind the wheel of one.  Thousands of people had Model As for first cars, and later they returned the favor by restoring and driving them in amazing numbers.  The Model A Ford Club of America and the Model A Restorers Club both served to organize legions of Model A fans.  The clubs made possible monthly meetings, regional and national meets, information, and even went to great lengths to promote family involvement in the hobby (a focus that could benefit many clubs today).

While these clubs are still around, and they still have the same benefits and goals, the numbers aren’t what they used to be.  People tend to collect what they grew up with, and the Model A generation is sadly leaving us.  The good news is that the club structure and information are still there, and a lot of new people are discovering the simple charms of Henry’s lady.  With that, a number of older restorations are coming on the market, and the lower demand has resulted in some occasional great deals.  If you are a fan of these cars, there is no better time than now to start looking.

Of all the Model As for sale out there, open cars and Victorias are usually the most expensive to purchase.  So, this phaeton, which is a four door convertible with side curtains rather than roll up windows, may be a real steal for a lucky reader.  While it is not clearly stated in the ad, this car looks like it was fully restored in the past, and has been driven quite a bit.  Touring is a big deal for Model A clubs, and both national organizations encourage owners to go out and have fun with their cars.  An average Model A is not very happy on the interstate, but they will cruise comfortably around 45 mpg or below, and can keep up with traffic when driven around town and on secondary roads.  Despite its slightly disheveled looks, this car has benefitted from a large amount of upkeep and repair work, and is said to be ready for the open road.

The good points about purchasing an older restoration are many.  First off, a running and driving car can be enjoyed right away.  Second, they have usually been garaged for a majority of their lives, and the hard to deal with problems such as rust and collision repair have already been tended to.  Third, any shoddy body work will have shown itself by now,  On the negative side, they usually need to have all of the wear items replaced, and fuel system work can be a headache for cars that have sat for a long period of time.  Some feel that brakes are an issue on Model As, as they are equipped with mechanical brakes.  While you don’t have hydraulic issues to deal with, adjustment of a mechanical braking system requires a bit of knowledge and some patience.  There are brake equalizers out there that make these systems more efficient, and the apparatus isn’t too costly.

This particular Model A has a set of turn signals added, but the steering wheel seems to have a crack in it.  The seller tells us that there were some problems with the gas tank, forcing the replacement of the gauge.  In addition, the gas tank has been removed and professionally cleaned.  For those not well versed on the Model A’s peculiarities, the gas tank is in the cowl.  Henry Ford was obsessed with simplifying everything about these cars, as extra parts were extra money and extra time on the assembly line.  The tank’s location was a problem for some states, and a few politicians moved to outlaw the car in their states until “persuaded” by Ford that this wasn’t really an issue at all.  Funny how that still works.

Moving to the rear in the interior, we see that the upholstery in the car looks to be serviceable and matches the overall used and enjoyed condition of the car.  The material appears to be vinyl, and its installation may have been tended to by a talented amateur.  The mats in the front and rear also appear to be useable for a few more years, but a refurbishment of the running boards may be in order.  Another negative is the absence of side curtains.  Side curtains are the cloth and clear plastic “windows” for the car when parked or driven in inclement weather.  A set of curtains and all of the metal rods and hardware that are needed can be had for around $1,000.  Or, you can just drive with the top down on sunny days.  The seller also says that a convertible top replacement is in the future, and that will likely run another $1,000 if you include a top boot.

Under the hood is the standard Model A four cylinder engine, which has been gone through again by the seller to make it road ready.  The radiator has been flushed, and a new distributor has been installed.  The car has a new six volt battery, so I am guessing that the car is still wired for six volts.  Thus, the alternator you see here, which is visually identical to the more common twelve volt models, surely must be a six volt version.  The seller goes on to state that the transmission has been inspected, and that it shifts great.

Cars like this present both buyers and sellers with a dilemma.  While sellers like to get every dime out of a sale that they can, and buyers want the best possible car for the money, a well used but well cared for driver can present a quandary.  Cars like this are already running and have most of the bugs sorted out.  They won’t be trophy grabbers, but they can be enjoyed and driven whenever the mood strikes the owner.  Perfectly restored cars often spend years as garage and trailer queens, as their owners want them in perfect condition for the next show.  The problem there is that nobody is having any fun.  A Model A like this one can be a whole lot of fun, from Saturday night trips for ice cream, to a weeklong tour, and, of course, parades.  If you live in a small town, parade organizers will find you, and you will be hauling Santa during the Christmas parade until you die or sell the car.  One could find worse ways to spend a life.

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Comments

  1. glen

    You couldn’t restore this, or most any car, for the price he’s asking. This is a good deal!

  2. Fred w.

    Another advantage to older restorations: Cars restored 30 + years ago were often restored with NOS parts, or at least quality US made reproductions. Many of the Asian parts available now are a far cry from this level.

  3. Nrg8

    Neat! Think it’ll do 60? It looks like it’s all kinds of out of alignment from the front view. Probably true itself up the faster you went.

    • CrazyGeorge CrazyGeorge

      It will do 60 if you go down hill… The Babbitt bearings wont take the heat ! The oiling system is the splash type. There’s no oil pressure so you cant keep the revs up for long… Ask anyone who has owned a Model A, It’s a giant 4 cylinder Briggs and Stratton ( it sounds like one too ! ) and yeah it’s toed out a lot !

  4. Joe Haska

    This car and your comments ,are very current to the hobby today. Storage being a big deal, and as time goes on it will get worse. Especially for collectors growing older, downsizing and not able to store and take care of more than a car or two. I live in the Phoenix area, and I see it all the time. The other thing that is happening ,and not fun to talk about is older owners passing away, and no one in the family wants the car, or can take care of it.
    The plus thing and this will probably cause an out cry, but the model A’s are one of the cheapest cars on the market, this Phaeton is a perfect example of this, a real deal! This is the part, that’s going to upset everybody, they are an absolute steal, if you want to build a super hot rod. Get an after market frame ,late model running gear, and you have saved all the money, you would have spent on body work paint and interior. I know this will flip everyone out that thinks model A’s are rare and need to be saved. It is really not worth an argument, its just a point of view, and people are doing it! I doubt that it ever will deplete all the restored Model A’s on the planet. So don’t panic.
    One more observation, a Phaeton is not a Convertible, never has been never will be. Convertible ,roll up windows, Phaeton and Roadster side curtains. Convertible’s were originally called Cabriolets. As time went on convertible, became the more accepted term. Also, because some Cabriolets left a post or frame with the windows and top down.

    • Beatnik Bedouin

      Or, you could drop a B or C block with an overhead conversion under the hood – one of the few things that JC Whitney didn’t offer for Model As – which could be changed back by a subsequent owner.

      You’re spot on with my generation of collectors finding storage a problem. Think of it as an opportunity for younger folk to score some cool rides.

  5. Brian

    FYI – the car has been sold.

    • glen

      Where does it say that?, do you know this because you bought it?

  6. Bud

    Having restored 15 Model A’s over my life and turning a few more into freeway drivable hotrods, I can say that this car is a steal for someone. Phaetons are not desirable for freeway speeds because of the turbulence in the tops at speed, although with the top down they are OK. More rattles and more weight than a coupe or roadster, they still are a fun car around town. Keep it stock and pile the family or friends inside and go to the ice cream parlor. Woo Hoo!!

  7. Lawyer George

    Every time I see a car that I could deal with (drive upon arrival) , it is always on the east coast, Florida, Texas, or southern Calif.–oh, okay, thank You, Brian: Sold!

  8. Coventrycat

    I don’t think Model A’s are rare by any stretch, but the last thing we need is another hot rod with clear coated “patina” or matte paint job. Then we’ll have a bunch of those nobody will want in 30 years.

  9. duaney Member

    When ever I hear no storage available, that really means that the owner just wants to sell the car.

  10. LD71

    Great write up, lots of spot-on comments about the hobby today. I have 2 cars in storage garage and looking at big bucks to repair the old building on my property to bring them home, but can’t let them go.

    Only issue with this Model A is lack of side curtains. With storage it would work, sunny local trips only
    LD71 :D

    • mike

      LD71, I’m in the same boat. Vehicle rich, garage poor….at least my storage isn’t costing me money.

  11. Edward Skakie

    Nrg8, don’t worry about the toe-out: that’s how they build F1 cars today, so Henry was ‘way ahead of his time!

    Brian says “FYI – the car has been sold.”, but I just viewed the original ad, and it says nothing, unless there is some sort of indicator I haven’t seen. Maybe there is, as the ad is 13 days old.

  12. Pete

    TAKE MY MONEY! That is a solid deal right there. I wish I had that much to buy it.

  13. mike

    What? No chicken clucker, or wolf whistle? :)

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