Model A debate: Preserve my father’s coupe or make the car my own?


I rescued my father’s 1930 Model A from a life on jackstands. To keep it from regressing to its previous state, I plan to drive it regularly, which means it needs some work. All this leaves me in a conundrum: Do I make this car my own or keep it true to Dad’s vision?

Ford Model A
Becca Hunt

My father and I differ on a handful of things, but we both agree on one thing about his Model A: If he had put it up for sale, it would have invariably become a hot rod. The coupe is complete and rust-free. It would be a perfect base for a run-of-the-mill top-chop and flathead install… and I just couldn’t watch it go through that. Stock Model As are too much fun to drive; this car doesn’t need to be cut up to be cool.

Which has me doing my latest mental gymnastics routine. I sit in the garage and look at the car while my mind flips and flops and tries to decide what to do with the car. The A needs work, and no small amount of it, to be safe and road-ready in earnest. The brakes could use attention, the wheel bearings are just about used up, and the front spindles are so loose the car catches a speed wobble at just 12 mph. Oh, and the exhaust leaks. Badly.

model a exhaust gasket detail
Kyle Smith

I see two options. I can keep this car true to my father’s experience with it and only replace the parts needed to keep it drivable and as stock as can be; or I can continue the patchwork history of the car and make it my own. Mainly, I want to do a few period-correct modifications, but nothing beyond bolt-on parts—and nothing that couldn’t be finished by spring

The look of the Model A with no hood is just awesome to me. When I first got it running the hood was off, simply for easy access and for photos documenting the process. I put it back on and realized I like the no-hood look enough that I pulled it back off again. The thought of adding a high-compression head, intake manifold for a single downdraft carb, and an exhaust header seems super cool to me. I could label and store the “original” parts on a shelf, and a weekend of work would return the car to stock.

ford model a engine
Kyle Smith

Making these changes seems like a good decision to me for two reasons: The car isn’t factory-original or correct, and I see no reason to freeze it in time as it is now. The coupe in my garage is a mishmash of parts but full of history. It’s these changes and their documentation over time that makes vehicles and stories like this so compelling. They become more than cars; they show the passage of time and become historical artifacts. 

The best part about this Model A is that I have it now, and I get to tell its history while creating a new adventure for the car. I want the next chapter to be my tale of driving it and making it my own—while respecting the history it brings along. No V-8, no chop. Stock wheels and tires, and just a few little touches to make it mine. There are numerous factory-correct restored Model A Fords out there, and my struggle lies in my mentality that “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” But I can’t reasonably restore this one to perfect condition, so I might as well have some fun.

I guess I’ve made up my mind, but I invite your opinions in the comments below—who knows, you might sway me. No parts are on order yet, so there’s still time to reverse course.

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