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Old 09-24-2019, 05:28 PM   #1
M2M
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Smile My 1st decent drive of Model A and discussion

I've owned my late 31 Tudor for a couple of years but only started driving it this year. I had to learn to use the non-syncro box so my first drives were on flat roads near my house. In July I finally went on a decent drive of 100+ miles, half of which was on a hilly and twisty state highway, and the other half on a mostly uphill section of an 70mph interstate.

It was a good drive and all went well...almost.




A couple of miles from home I heard a rattling sound (water hitting the fan?), then saw steam. Eventually, but not straight away, I pulled into a car park not far from home. The top hose that burst was purchased this year and had only a couple of dozen miles on it before the trip. I was very lucky not to destroy the engine...I lost 90% of the water. I didn't have the thermo-quail that came with the car on the car that would have warned me sooner because I was not able to stop the piece of &%#* spraying water on local test drives prior to the trip (I purchased the supplier thicker gasket and that also didn't help) so I fitted a standard radiator cap. Lucky this happened near home as I walked home got the old radiator hose I took off, drove back in my modern with 3 gallons of water. I really like motometers and on Model Ts there are no issues with them. I guess I'm going to have to fit a temperature gauge; I didn't want to do that.

Obviously, I'm not going to buy new radiator hose kit from a supplier again. Can someone suggest where I can buy a high quality radiator hose? Maybe Napa?

Anyway...

My car is an older restoration (but with very little usage) and is 100% stock I believe (6v, factory carby, no hi-comp head, no o/d, stock gearing).

Although my "restored" car looks good and is usable it became obvious during the long drive it needs work...steering box, front end, brakes are not as they should be . Disappointing but not a surprise. At least I purchased my car at a fair price.

The engine runs strong. The car does 50mph (GPS speed) fairly comfortably even uphill, and can do 55mph without being thrashed to death.

Now it's decision time.

As far as upgrades...a stock A is a big upgrade coming from Model Ts. I was very happy with what my stock car can do. A bit more power and higher gearing to sit on 55-60mph more comfortably would be good but an o/d is not an option. I'm a semi-purist (I'm only okay with 1931 era accessories, and modern changes that are out of sight) so a Mitchell o/d, Weber, radial tyres, 16" wheels, etc. are off the table. Upgrades I feel okay with are Police head, Stipe, Aries and changing the gearing using 5.50x19 bias ply and/or fitting a 3.54 diff. Police head, Stipe, plus Aries would add 10hp (20+% more power) from what I've read.

The toughest question is what to do about the engine and rear axle. They both seem good but are unknowns. I plan use the car as daily driver and to do long trips; I don't like unknowns. If I head to Alaska I want to be reasonably certain the crank, con-rods, babbitt and axles are in great shape. Without tearing things apart is it possible to form an opinion on their condition? Or should I bite the bullet and rebuild everything? What would you do in this situation?
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Old 09-24-2019, 06:05 PM   #2
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Default Re: My 1st decent drive of Model A and discussion

Let others chime in as I am far from an expert on these cars. My dealings with older cars and motorcycles is inspect, replace/repair what you are not sure about. I feel your pain as I sink more and more into my car just to make it roadworthy, and have confidence in it. Nothing ever breaks at an opportune time though I guess your hose did.
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Old 09-24-2019, 06:06 PM   #3
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Default Re: My 1st decent drive of Model A and discussion

you probably need a radiator. It may not be draining back enough for the poor seal of a thermo quail. high comp head and big tires will give you 55.
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Old 09-24-2019, 06:15 PM   #4
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Default Re: My 1st decent drive of Model A and discussion

Good to hear you have finally gotten it out of the garage. I've been wondering how things were going.
IMO and experience, if you want to do trips like Alaska, you'd be a looong way better off putting in a counter balanced crank shaft and rods (invisible). Whether you run them on babbit or inserts, I don't think makes all that much difference. The weakest point in the bottom end is the middle main bearing so I pressure feed it but not the others. I'd also go for a head with higher compression than a police head. 6:1 sounds good to me. A mild cam is also invisible and makes a world of difference to these motors. You wouldn't believe how much!
With a motor like that and wanting to travel at the sppeds you mention, I think a higher diff ratio is a must. 3.54 at least. 5.5 tyres increase your overall gearing by about 5%. A 3.54 diff increases your gearing by about 6% (from memory) over the the 3.78 ratio. If you do both, you have 11% higher gearing with the advantage of more rubber on the road. At the same revs you would have been doing at 45mph, you would then be doing 50 which I think is enough in a car with poor (by modern standards) brakes, suspension and steering.
Another alternative is to go to a 3.27 diff. That will give you a gearing 15% higher than standard so you are in the same ballpark. 3.27 with the larger tyres gives you near enough, 20% higher gearing which is getting close to having an O/D (26ish%) in there but you can't shift down for hilly terrain or traffic without going back to 2nd gear (not recommended).
As you know, I have done plenty of long distance touring and would be glad to discuss this with you. I think you have my number.
If you have the $$, you can put in the Mitchel synchro cog house for easier gear changing. It cannot be distinguished from an original gearbox from outside and the closer spacing between 2nd and 3rd gears is a winner.
There are lots of options to mull over!
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Old 09-24-2019, 06:24 PM   #5
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Default Re: My 1st decent drive of Model A and discussion

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you probably need a radiator. It may not be draining back enough for the poor seal of a thermo quail. high comp head and big tires will give you 55.

Radiator is excellent. The quality of the reproduction thermo quail is the problem. It leaks only at 50+mph but I drive at those speeds. Many people have reported the same problem and there are solutions but I had enough. My car has a good paint job so I don't want to risk anti-freeze spray from the quail destroying it.
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Old 09-24-2019, 06:24 PM   #6
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Default Re: My 1st decent drive of Model A and discussion

I would concentrate on the brakes and front end . A total rebuild might turn into a very long term project. Watch for leaks and do a compression check this will tell you a lot about the condition of them .listen for any slight knocks this will tell you if your habits getting bad.i can tell when my model As are getting by how they smell . Lots of people will argue with me but I feel 55 is pushing it I my cars . They’ll do it but I like 50 for a top speed much better.Good luck and go for it
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Old 09-24-2019, 07:46 PM   #7
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Good to hear you have finally gotten it out of the garage. I've been wondering how things were going.
IMO and experience, if you want to do trips like Alaska, you'd be a looong way better off putting in a counter balanced crank shaft and rods (invisible). Whether you run them on babbit or inserts, I don't think makes all that much difference. The weakest point in the bottom end is the middle main bearing so I pressure feed it but not the others. I'd also go for a head with higher compression than a police head. 6:1 sounds good to me. A mild cam is also invisible and makes a world of difference to these motors. You wouldn't believe how much!
With a motor like that and wanting to travel at the sppeds you mention, I think a higher diff ratio is a must. 3.54 at least. 5.5 tyres increase your overall gearing by about 5%. A 3.54 diff increases your gearing by about 6% (from memory) over the the 3.78 ratio. If you do both, you have 11% higher gearing with the advantage of more rubber on the road. At the same revs you would have been doing at 45mph, you would then be doing 50 which I think is enough in a car with poor (by modern standards) brakes, suspension and steering.
Another alternative is to go to a 3.27 diff. That will give you a gearing 15% higher than standard so you are in the same ballpark. 3.27 with the larger tyres gives you near enough, 20% higher gearing which is getting close to having an O/D (26ish%) in there but you can't shift down for hilly terrain or traffic without going back to 2nd gear (not recommended).
As you know, I have done plenty of long distance touring and would be glad to discuss this with you. I think you have my number.
If you have the $$, you can put in the Mitchel synchro cog house for easier gear changing. It cannot be distinguished from an original gearbox from outside and the closer spacing between 2nd and 3rd gears is a winner.
There are lots of options to mull over!

I've been mulling over things for quite some time! Just needed to see for myself what a stock A can really do.

The Model A crash box tranny is a pain in the a#% but I feel it's part of the car's character; so Mitchell syncro is off the list for me. If I had wife/kids wanting to drive the car it would make sense though.

I fear a 3.27 diff, or 5.50x19 bias with 3.54 diff, would not work well in mountainous terrain or if you wanted to do towing or you had four passengers in the car, even with a 50hp engine.

Actually, 5.50x19 bias gives slightly higher gearing than 3.54 diff, see:

https://www.fordbarn.com/forum/showthread.php?t=266536

I already have two BF Goodrich 5.50x19 bias tyres, I just need to fit them to wheels. Before buying two more I want to check to see if they fit the front of the car without hitting brake rods or whatever. If they don't fit to the front of the car I will run smaller tyres on the front. Note that the Nokia 5.50x19 bias are smaller than BF Goodrich. If Nokia were also too big for the front I could use 4.75/5.00x19.

The beauty of the 5.50x19 bias with 3.78 diff option is that if you wanted to you could have two extra wheels fitted with normal 4.75/5.00x19 tyres and change to those if you were, for example, planning on doing a long tour towing a trailer in mountainous terrain. So effectively, your car would be BOTH 3.78 and 3.54, changing rear tyres to/from 5.50x19 bias would determine which diff ratio you have.

You're correct about the building a new engine to suit my plans...it's just that the engine in my car now runs real nice; be a pity to take apart a good engine. Think I might do a compression check, and pull the pan and check condition of babbitt, etc.to really see how good it is.
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Old 09-24-2019, 08:39 PM   #8
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Default Re: My 1st decent drive of Model A and discussion

With a standard engine, I think 50mph is too fast on longer trips. I know there will be some who will poo-hoo that but from experience, the middle main bearing won't last. That's why I suggested a counter weighted crank - they ease the pain a bit on the middle main.
A Canadian friend (British Columbia) did a trip with 7 other Model As to Alaska years ago. They travelled at 42-50mph. 7 out of the 8 cars made it there and back fairly trouble free. The one that didn't was the only one with a plain crank. It didn't even get to the other end.The motor will take that sort of (ab)use for a while but eventually,...... Take a good pair of shoes with you!
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Old 09-25-2019, 09:44 AM   #9
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Radiator is excellent. The quality of the reproduction thermo quail is the problem. It leaks only at 50+mph but I drive at those speeds. Many people have reported the same problem and there are solutions but I had enough. My car has a good paint job so I don't want to risk anti-freeze spray from the quail destroying it.
I doubled up O-rings on my motometer and now it seals tight and any extra water goes out the overflow instead of all over my windshield.

I also agree about sticking with the stock non-synchro transmission. To me, along with manual spark advance and the GAV, it's one of the biggest things that makes an A an A. Once you use it enough it'll be a breeze going up and down through the gears. And don't worry about crunching gears from time to time, they don't call them crash boxes for nothing
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Old 09-25-2019, 02:37 PM   #10
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With a standard engine, I think 50mph is too fast on longer trips. I know there will be some who will poo-hoo that but from experience, the middle main bearing won't last. That's why I suggested a counter weighted crank - they ease the pain a bit on the middle main.
A Canadian friend (British Columbia) did a trip with 7 other Model As to Alaska years ago. They travelled at 42-50mph. 7 out of the 8 cars made it there and back fairly trouble free. The one that didn't was the only one with a plain crank. It didn't even get to the other end.The motor will take that sort of (ab)use for a while but eventually,...... Take a good pair of shoes with you!

What causes this strain you mention on the main bearing? Apart from counter weighted crank are there other ways to tackle it?

What counter weighted cranks are currently available?
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Old 09-25-2019, 06:17 PM   #11
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Good afternoon...With a stock engine perhaps a 5.5 head from Snyder's and perhaps a 'B' Carburetor...and maybe a one wire six volt Alternator and that's it. Drive her 40 miles an hour and give the breaks a good cleaning and adjustment. She'll do fine around town...long distance touring...normally requires either a touring engine or 40 miles an hour and watch the temperature! Ernie in Arizona
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Old 09-25-2019, 08:11 PM   #12
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Always wondered what this sign meant
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Old 09-25-2019, 10:39 PM   #13
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What causes this strain you mention on the main bearing? Apart from counter weighted crank are there other ways to tackle it?

What counter weighted cranks are currently available?
I think just about all of the four cylinder, 3 main bearing engines of the day were weak at the middle main bearing. They were simply under done for the way we drive them today. To improve its longevity, I feel a counter balanced crank is the best (though expensive) option. Prfessure feeding oil to it helps. That puts more oil through the bearing, helping to prevent it getting too warm. Probably the easiest way to look after it is to keep the speed down.
I'm sure others who have played with this longer than I will have more thoughts.
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Old 09-26-2019, 05:26 AM   #14
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Luckily here in England counter weighted cranks are available and plentiful and cheap .Ford in England built AA trucks into 1936 many thousands also thousands of industrial units through WW2 . These were fitted with the fully counter weighted crank .They can be fitted into an A engine by turning down the mains, normally the big ends are left stock sometimes the pan needs to be "massaged" to give rotational clearance. Seems to work just fine . I have a whole heap of B cranks collected over the years all very very cheap but you pay the shipping !!!

John in sunny spells rain showers Suffolk County England .
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Old 09-26-2019, 01:26 PM   #15
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No reason a quail should "leak". Try a variety of gaskets til it stops leaking. JMO
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Old 09-26-2019, 02:39 PM   #16
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Hi M2M
My brand spankers new radiator leaked below the top inlet shortly after installing it. I feel the reason was engine movement pushing the return pipe at the top tank. The hose was new and I reckon too rigid. I searched ebay and found this synthetic rubber connector which I am about to order. I think this will address the problem. cheers, gary
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Old 09-26-2019, 05:33 PM   #17
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Luckily here in England counter weighted cranks are available and plentiful and cheap .Ford in England built AA trucks into 1936 many thousands also thousands of industrial units through WW2 . These were fitted with the fully counter weighted crank .They can be fitted into an A engine by turning down the mains, normally the big ends are left stock sometimes the pan needs to be "massaged" to give rotational clearance. Seems to work just fine . I have a whole heap of B cranks collected over the years all very very cheap but you pay the shipping !!!

John in sunny spells rain showers Suffolk County England .
Counterweighted cranks and B anything are not very coomon here. They are about but you have to look for them. I have a counterweighted B crank and looked at putting it in an A engine. There is a space of 2" between the main bearing bolts in an A block so the mains journals would have to be turned down to fit in there. I looked at running it on inserts. What bearings do you guys use and do you make new bearing caps? I'm not sure there would be enough of an original cap left by the time it is bored out to take the much larger journal. I have been told there is a particular model Toyota that is a source of inserts and that the Holden red motor big end shells will do the job. If I ever do this rebuild, I'd prefer trimetal shells over the bimetal ones most used these days.
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Old 09-26-2019, 06:08 PM   #18
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The main journals on the crank are turned down to A block and cap measurements. A local machine shop here does fully pressurised cranks and bearing shell conversions but I dont know what shells they use but I could find out .

John in same place same weather .
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Old 09-26-2019, 06:19 PM   #19
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I put a B crank in an A block a few years ago, turned the mains half way between A and B sizes. It worked out very well but if I were to do it again, I would turn to 1.800" and use available inserts. 'C' cranks are fairly common here in the States too, but not cheap!
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Old 09-26-2019, 08:48 PM   #20
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I'd want to leave the main journals as big as possible. I see no advantage in going to all that trouble if they are turmned down to the same size as the A crank. About 1.75-1.8" (45-6mm) sounds about right, IMO.
Boy, hasn't this thread gone sideways!
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