Swap to Street 2016: Purring engine gives Model A build team an ‘adrenaline rush’

For a while there, Day 3 of Hagerty’s “Swap to Street Challenge” looked like a reality television show, minus the drama.

Wayne Carini of Velocity’s “Chasing Classic Cars” stopped by and turned a screwdriver for a bit. Tom Cotter, host of Hagerty’s “Chasing Classic Cars” series on YouTube, chatted with our live-stream audience and gave away a copy of his new book. And Corky Coker, owner of Coker Tire and former star of the Travel Channel’s “Backroad Gold,” gifted us a set of tires and then entertained the crowd with his downhome Southern charm.

All that and we still managed to stay focused on the task at hand: four Hagerty employees are building a 1930 Ford Model A sedan in four days using parts sourced at the AACA Hershey (Pa.) Fall Swap Meet. With one day remaining, we’re feeling pretty good about our progress. Especially after hearing the sweet sound of a running engine on Thursday evening.

“How ‘bout that, eh?” asked a smiling Randy Clouse, who has spent much of his time at Hershey working on the engine. Teammate Brett Lirones answered, “Sounds like heaven opened up and angels are singing.”

Actually, that was just Davin Reckow. “What a huge adrenaline rush,” the project lead said. “Randy snuck over there and turned the key and everyone on the team was like, ‘What?!’ It was one of those big moments. It revitalized us. It was better than a good night’s sleep.”

Day 3 got off to a happy start when Cleveland’s Brian Happel, a Michigan native attending his 36th Hershey Swap Meet, showed up with four wood roof crossmembers and two large steel brackets that he thought we could use. Hey, every little bit helps – even if it requires a little ingenuity. Brad Phillips and Brett Lirones proved that point for the umpteenth time since arriving in Hershey by using some unconventional methods to create a window piece.

“We’re building a metal window channel out of wood – using tools designed to work on metal,” Phillips joked, except he wasn’t really joking. “Whatever works, I guess.” It did.

The project took a giant step forward when the moment arrived to lift the four-door sedan body we purchased on Day 1 and mount it to the chassis. Using the original mounting kit, the car really began taking shape. Then the doors didn’t come together like they did when the body was on the ground. We tried solving the problem with shims, but it worsened the front doors’ fit. Then Phillips had a light-bulb moment and realized the top bracket was installed backwards on both front doors. Voila!

“Now the doors fit like your grandma’s Lincoln Town Car,” Phillips said. “It’s such a relief when something stumps you and then you figure it out.”

A few minutes after solving that problem, Coker arrived pulling a wagon stacked with wheels and tires. “Y’all building a Model A? Are ya?” Coker asked. “We’re gonna put it on wheels!” Coker said the delivery was extra special because the tires “are filled with Tennessee air.”

For a moment we thought Coker’s gift would carry beyond the wheels, but when we tried to make door panels from the cardboard that covered them, it proved to be a bit too thick.

It wasn’t long before parts finders Kyle Smith and Will Corr arrived with a surprise – a set of seats from a two-door, four-passenger 1930 Model A sedan. Considering that until that moment we were looking at bare springs in need of padding and upholstery, even those tired castoffs were a welcomed sight. It certainly seemed appropriate when Reckow fired up the welder and rigged the newly found bucket seats to fit the metal front-seat frame that came with the body, then used “Swap to Street” t-shirts as temporary slip covers.

We hit a hiccup when the radiator we purchased didn’t work, so that will be among the priorities heading into Day 4. We also have to decide if we’re driving the car back to Michigan with a roof or if we’re building one. At least we don’t have to worry about the engine working.

“They didn’t think I could do it,” Clouse joked. “So I had to prove them wrong.”

For updates on the team’s progress and for more details on the vehicle, visit www.hagerty.com/swaptostreet. If you’re in Hershey and want to stop by and see us, we’re located on the Chocolate Field near the pedestrian bridge. Those of you who want to watch from home can subscribe to the livestream at www.YouTube.com/Hagerty/live.

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