When Ford introduced the Model A in late 1927, it was remarkably different from other automobiles offered at the time, even Ford’s own Model T. In many ways, it was a clean sheet design when compared to Ford’s previous line. Many similarities abound, but the Model T and the Model A differ in more ways than they are similar. And four years later, when the Model B came along, the story was very similar. If the brass at Ford at the time were learning things as they went, it was pretty obvious that they were incorporating those things in real time. So, it should come as no surprise that as the new models came out, hot rodders borrowed parts for their older Fords. Wheels, brakes, shocks, transmissions, engines, even complete frames were common swaps for the earlier T and A models as better components were introduced on Ford’s latest offerings.
One of the early hop up techniques for the Model A was to swap to the larger 1932 Model B Zenith carburetor. Equipped with a similar, slighlty upgraded flathead four-cylinder engine, the Model B Ford was fed by a slightly larger updraft carburetor (1 1/8-inch) than that found on the Model A (1-inch). While that small difference in size may not sound substantial, it actually equates to a 26% increase in area which translates into more air and fuel that can be fed into the A engine. That small increase can yield upwards of 4 horsepower. Another inconsequential sounding number, but when added to the A’s paltry 40 horsepower, results in a net gain of 10%. Not too shabby for the 1930s!
When it comes to owning a 90 year old car, one thing is for certain: there’s always going to be something to work on! That has been the case with our 1930 Ford Model A coupe since we purchased it a year or so ago. We rebuilt the carb, rebuilt the water pump, swapped the transmission and went through just about every other mechanical item of note trying to make things “safe and sound”. But after multiple attempts at adjusting the steering box, it either felt too sloppy or too tight, with no option in between. It was fast becoming obvious that it was time to pull the box out of the car for a proper rebuild.
Thankfully, that task is rather simple after removing the floorboards (which we already had out) and pulling the starter. From there, it’s a matter of disassembling the box and inspecting for damage. Normally, damage isn’t something one wants to find. But when it comes to solving a mechanical problem like a tight steering box, not finding damage means not solving the problem. We want damage and we want to solve the problem. So, we tore into the box, pulled the sector housing and carefully inspected the bearings, races, worm gear, and sector, and came to the conclusion that there was some serious pitting on the bearing races, wear in the sector and worm gear, and zero oil in the box whatsoever. Damage? Check.
Great article from Ryan on five speed conversion of a Model A
A Model A Ford can be one of the simplest machines in which to work. That’s a good thing because if you own one, chances are there’s something that needs to be worked on. When I purchased my ’30 coupe, there was a laundry list of small things that needed to be done and an even larger list of things I wanted done. I tackled that small laundry list first with things like rebuilding the water pump, carb, and updating the ignition and electrical to 12volts. These were things that were necessary; the water pump and carb leaked, while the wiring harness was held together with residential wire nuts. Back on the road, it became painfully obvious by the ever increasing noise emitted from the transmission that it would require my attention next. That’s when I had to make a drastic decision; rebuild the existing transmission or upgrade the stock 3-speed with a T5.
If I’m honest, by the time I was ready to pull the transmission, I had already decided the coupe could use not only a couple more gears, which meant I could now make a slightly safer attempt at highway driving, I was also done with the double clutching, no syncro-shifting driving that occurred using the original transmission. The fact that I had a good T5 with an S10 tailshaft sitting under my work bench made the decision even easier.
There have been a handful of T5 kits available on the aftermarket, but they all seem to lack one thing or another. Some use the stock Model A bellhousing (so as to keep the pedal mount) with an adapter, but that can push the trans too far rearward. Others use a custom bellhousing designed to replace the Model A unit, with the T5 bolt pattern machined in place. Some were fairly inexpensive while others were outwardly the opposite. Most were out of business or unavailable. Unsure on how to proceed, it was while surfing the ‘net one night looking for a solution that I came upon the website for Vintage Metalworks. I jotted down the phone number and gave Dave Farwell a call that following morning. Turns out they not only had a kit to do the swap, but also offered a couple other solutions I hadn’t thought of.