The story of an antique, vintage, and nearly classic 1928 Model A Ford
I’m glad I’m not a car. If I had wheels, I would have been considered an antique as early as 1982 at the age of 20, according to some sources. If I were a vehicle, I could never be considered vintage because I wasn’t engineered between 1919 and 1930. And becoming a classic, for me, is even more unlikely. Classic cars can range in age from ten to fifty years old. Now show me a fifth-grader that qualifies as a classic!
My uncle Sherle owns a 1928 Model A car. It doesn’t fit on the official list, according to Classic Car Club of America, but it looks like an antique, vintage, classic to me.
Henry Ford made the Model T cars from 1908 to the mid-1920s but closed the factories in 1927 to make way for the new Model A series. This car was the first to carry the blue Ford logo and the first to use driver controls with a clutch, brake pedal, throttle, and gearshift (Wikipedia – Ford Model A).
In 1957, seventeen-year-old Sherle bought his old car for $35 from his brother-in-law Richard. It showed 79,000 miles on the odometer. The car was painted red because previous owners worked at a Central PA International Harvester dealership. The original paint color was valley green, and the engine was green.
The hood lifted from the driver’s side, and the car came with crank and electric start options. The vehicle had a drum-type clutch and flywheel. It was the only model with an emergency brake in front of the two-foot-long gear shift that rose from the floorboard. (The center console wouldn’t come along until the 1960s.) The tires were 21 inches, which is large by today’s standards. The car had leopard skin seat covers, and the horn made an oogah sound.
Sherle and his future brother-in-law Philip liked to test the old car’s ability to function in bad weather. They would drive through snowy fields until they got it stuck, then shovel it out, sometimes standing on the running board and shaking the car free. When both young men were needed to shovel away the snow, Sherle’s ten-year-old sister Judy would do the driving. Sherle’s dog, Tippy, loved riding in the car, too.
Once, Sherle and Philip drove the car to Philadelphia. When Philip pulled up to the tollbooth on the turnpike, the attendant asked if the old car would go 50. The speed limit at that time was 60 mph. Philip answered with confidence, “Oh, yeah. Easy.” It did go 50. Once Sherle even got it up to 65. But the car’s performance wasn’t perfect on the trip to and from Phillie. Smoke came out from under the dash when they started through a red light. Someone had to jump out and push the car through the intersection.
Sherle drove the Model A daily from 1966 to the late 60s when he worked at Aumiller’s John Deere in Milroy. The vehicle was licensed until 1968, when it failed to pass inspection. My uncle replaced his first car with a 1950s Pontiac. The old girl sat along a dirt road across from my uncle’s house. I remember pretending to drive it as it slept, uncovered at the edge of the woods. It rested there for nine years until the family had garage space. Sherle often wished he could bring the car back to life, but the cost was prohibitive.
In 2016, Sherle’s son-in-law, J.B., began a remarkable transformation. The underside of the front seat concealed a mouse’s nest that needed to be removed. A new coat of black paint was added. Broken parts were removed and replaced, and original parts were shined up like new. The total cost of restoration would probably have been around $35,000. But this was family. When Sherle stopped by his daughter’s place for a visit, the car was finished after only three months of loving care and expert handling. Sherle’s granddaughter Kendra included the newly restored vehicle in her wedding photos.
J.B. Owns B & H Restorations in Belleville, Pa. He sees restoring old cars as an art form rather than a job. I asked J. B. What advice he would give when tackling the restoration of an old vehicle. He said, “Be prepared for a lot of unknowns. And expect the cost to be twice as much as you think.” Sounds like wise advice for any project.
I got to ride in this beauty one Sunday afternoon last September. We didn’t go far. Smoke started pouring out from the dash, just like it had done over 60 years ago on the road from Philadelphia. My uncle Sherle doesn’t like to drive his Model A often because it’s nearly impossible to replace some parts. So this lovely old car will sit around in a safe place looking like the antique, vintage, classic beauty she always was.
Someday down the road, I’m hoping to do the same.