I can’t tell about my last old car without first mentioning my first old cars.
None of my family, friends, or neighbors owned or cared about old cars. Yet, early on, I bought and read every ‘little book’ hotrod type car magazine I could get my hands on. They fit well in the open pages of my math, English, and other school books.
My dream was to own a Model A coupe and later a 1940 Ford coupe. The Model A came only months after we married as a project that took years. Like a fool, I sold the 1931 A coupe before I finished it.
Our third child was already growing up and riding her trike down the sidewalk along the cul-de-sac near our next larger home with a much bigger garage. She came running home saying "the neighbor said he will sell you his old Ford for $25 daddy!"
The first time I saw that metallic green 1939 Ford coupe I made it clear to the young couple who’d just moved down the block, I want that car! They both worked at the factory where I worked and the ’39 Ford was his driver.
Right off, his young wife made it clear that John needs to get rid of that old clunker and buy a decent car of his own, like she did. They both worked different shifts in different parts of town.
Personally I’d gotten another wife!😆
Well, that old Ford coupe was a 1939, but in my mind, even better than a 1940 Ford coupe. Regularly I’d mention to John that I’d like to buy his old Ford. I'd assumed the price was $2500. I beat my daughter back down the block, didn't argue about the price, and finally had my '40, ..😄.. '39 Ford coupe. My two dream cars became a reality!
It was disappointing to find it had a small block Chevy and Powerglide. Those dual red cherry bombs made it sound like a Flathead Ford. Minor detail, as I'd just buy a Flathead and build my dream Ford machine. I already had a SHARP aluminum dual 2-barrel intake and had my eyes on a pair of SHARP heads. Nearly 50 years later and that little 2 barrel 307 and Powerglide is still in the '39 Ford!
I’d find out that ’39 Ford once had a hot 454 and dual quads. It was a drag race car until the owner needed money. The 454 was swapped into a 70’s Malibu and the nearly new 307 dropped into the 1939 Ford to sell it. The chrome fuel block is still on the firewall.
Of course, this story is about my LAST old car. My wife and I dreamed of someday owning a red 1931 Ford convertible, a tudor phaeton to Ford people.
Family, money, work and play made me forget about another Model A. I did own and drive several Model A sedans over the years. The times we brought it up about a phaeton, the cost, location, and rarity made our dream seem unlikely.
Tri-five Chevys and other vehicles seemed to follow me home and there was no room or time for a Model A. I could probably be talked into writing a short shoebox Chevy story or two. Those also involved my wife. It was great having a loving wife who also loved old cars.
Fast forward to getting old and re-retiring from sunny central Florida back to wonderful central Illinois. My wife’s health and short term memory were getting worse, yet she often talked of another Model A Ford. Being much older, I realized I can’t get out and under an old car to do the constant adjusting, oiling, and greasing needed on a Model A.
Yet, in the spring of 2020, with the help of my oldest son, I began checking Facething and local ads for a decent Model A Ford driver, any body style, any color, not far from home, and affordable. Something to get my wife and I out of the house and something to satisfy that 50 to 60 year old dream.
Smarter than I used to be,🤣 I decided I need a Model A with a few modern updates like hydraulic brakes, 12V, and a little engine that will keep up with today’s traffic. Amazingly there seemed to be millions, well hundreds, of rebuilt, reworked, even modified Model A’s of every shape and color with updated Model A engines for sale.
As before, a ready to drive Model A phaeton at an affordable price was not to be found. So, I nearly recently bought a Shay. Yes, even way back in the late 70’s we’d looked at the, then new, Shay replicas with Pinto running gear. Not bad yet not a real Model A Ford. A Florida company, I believe Glassic, also made replica Model A’s. A club member in Florida had one of those and it passed as a Model A roadster to many.
I set my goal at an affordable price for a road ready respectable looking Model A sedan within a 250 mile circle. There were dozens within 100 miles or less. Not the Phaeton or Victoria I’d dreamed of. But using common sense, tudor and fordor models of the 1930-31 variety within an hour’s drive from home seemed better suited for two old people in central Illinois.
Tudor, Fordor, and stuff like that is Ford talk. I mostly spell korectlee, except when I don’t. Keep reading. The story evolves slowly. After all, this dream began before most of you were born.
My oldest son, already a gray haired old man, and his six year old daughter stop over every Tuesday for taco Tuesday and every Friday for pizza Friday. Something we’ve done for several years. Something they keep on doing even after my wife had passed on Sept 6th from complications of a broken hip. Someone raised our kids right.
Yes, all four of my adult kids kept me interested in Dollie’s dream Model A to take my mind off her loss. It hasn’t made me stop thinking about her, the many car events, and projects we worked on all our lives together. But it has kept me from going insane.🙄
Things were getting serious. I ordered a 20’X20’ metal carport and extra 20' metal panels. My kids built it in front of the small 20’X20’ wood framed garage. A 20’X100’ black top drive way was laid down over the weed covered gravel. My plan was to move one of my older classics to the carport and put whatever Model A I bought inside the garage.
I got the Model A before the carport was finished so it was parked on the cement and covered breezeway between the house and garage temporarily. I’ve always needed a large pole barn but made do with large garages everyplace but now. Probably a good thing. The more room I had the more cars and parts I’d buy!
It was taco Tuesday evening, Nov 17. Son Gene asked me if I ever found mine and mom’s red 1931 Model A convertible on line. Of course my same old answer was NO!
For some reason I clicked Facething Model A’s for sale that evening, Nov 17th. Right there at the top of the list was OUR red 1931 Model A phaeton for sale. The price was way too high and it was way outta my circle, at 400 miles north east. Yet it was a once in a lifetime chance to make our dream come true.
We were the first to call/text. We looked at the ad, my son texted the man, he called me, we talked, I said yes. I had no idea how I was gonna get the money, a trailer, or a way to go get the Model A and haul it nearly 400 miles back before the weather turned nasty.
The forecast was for high winds and storms all weekend. Still, I said YES and we’d be there Saturday afternoon! Remember this was Tuesday evening. What was I thinking?
My son called my son-in-law and he offered his few day old red shiny ¾ ton 2021 Chevy truck and flat bed trailer. No way was I gonna borrow a new truck and pull a heavy duty commercial flatbed 400 miles each way on interstate highways to get an old car! Who did raise these kids?
We took my son’s recently bought 24’ Chevy powered class C motorhome and the trailer! He and granddaughter Izzy forced me to travel in high winds, gusts up to 50MPH+ , to buy grandma’s old red car.
Because of the weather report and knowing it wasn’t gonna get any better until spring, I went to the bank on Wednesday, Nov 18th. Son and granddaughter slept in our driveway Wednesday night in the RV. Thursday at 6AM we pointed east then north to near Lansing, Michigan from the Peoria, Illinois area.
We had no food or water. Gene had winterized his motorhome weeks earlier. I grabbed bottled water, chips, and a bag of cookies. We had to keep a six year old alive and happy!
Amazingly that heavy flatbed sorta held the mini motorhome solid on the highways. We went halfway by going east on narrow little-traveled county roads then north.
To make up for lost time we returned on the toll road, among a million big rigs driving 99 MPH in those 50 MPH winds in Chicago traffic. Many were honkin their horns, wavin, and grinnin. Kinda like a truckin song, we were movin on! We did pay our $39 toll! Let those truckers roll!
What should have been six hours each way took from 6AM till 10:30 PM. We made quick fuel and food stops, spent under an hour wheelin and dealin for a car I’d dreamed of for most of my life. I did talk him down $500 but I’d given $1000 more just from the little we saw and drove it.
There were no pictures of the undercarriage or engine. I’d known it had a Falcon 260, a Tremec 4-speed, and modified Model A rear with torque tube, and Model A suspension.
As a plus, it has 46-48 Ford hydraulic brakes and regular tube shocks. The only other changes up front is a Ford F-1 steering box, column, and ’52-1953 F-1 steering wheel.
The little V-8 engine is all black with an old small round black oil bath air cleaner with modern element. It kinda looks stock to the unknowing. At least it’s a Ford in a Ford.
Just guessing and not yet checking part numbers, I’m thinking it’s a 1964-65 Falcon 260. After all, Mustangs went from a 260 to a 289 in early 1965. We put it up on jack stands and covered it up before actually checking things closely. I didn’t buy it for the engine. The clutch pedal and my left knee don't get along!
I’m pretty sure that the Tremec is a 5 speed. The car was built in Florida some time around 20-25 years ago for another old man. He died and it ended up with relatives in northern Michigan. I bought it from a muscle car nut in central Michigan. A nice guy who didn’t know much about the car either. One of those quick buy and sell car guys.
Found our dream car the evening of Nov 17th. It was up on jack stands, covered, under my breezeway, late on Nov 19th. Dumped Sta-Bil in the gas tank, hooked up the firewall mounted trickle charger, flipped off the electric fuel pump. We’d put on the new, never used, side curtains and put the matching cover on the rear trunk. It’s too cold and I’m not about to crawl under it right now to check build dates.
If I never drive it at least I made our dream come true. Sadly my wife, Dollie, is not here to enjoy her dream.
Granddaughter and I named the Model A MissDollie, in memory of Dollie.
Granddaughter Izzy skipped a day of Kindergarten to help grandpa buy a car for grandma. She got extra points at school on Friday by taking some photos and telling about grandma’s Model A. Now all the kids and the teacher want a ride in grandma’s old red car!
The cycle goes on!
I suppose the moral of this story is never give up on your dreams.
I made it back here. A virus killed my computer and I had to start over. Even that was a blessing. Now I'm back on YouTube, reading and making comments. Sitting alone and talking to myself became boring.
The real Miss Dollie had a heart of gold and reminded me often about buying a red Model A convertible. Life and other car projects got in the way. When I did finally find OUR '31, it was too late and I'd given up. If it weren't for my little family and a few 'old car friends' telling me to follow my dream and my heart, I'd never gotten that car.
I still haven't driven it. I know very little about it. I mostly look at the photos I took before putting her to sleep for the winter and keep buying useless accessories that a real Model A lover and Henry Ford would laugh at.
I rarely name my cars. But this one seems special and those who loved Dollie love 'MissDollie'.
Thanks for the reply CitationMan.
This isn't just one great story - it's several! I really dug the tale of the '39, and how it's still got that SBC despite the plans for a flattie. I'm a fan of Fat Fender Fords, and '40s in particular, so I re-read that part several times.
And the main story line is of course about how you got Miss Dollie, and it's a special saga. She's a beautiful car and it's easy to tell the pride and delight that you have in owning her at last.
But perhaps the most compelling parts of your post are the stories of your family. First, condolences on the loss of your wife - it's plain to tell that you and she had a very special relationship and the ways it connects to your car stories is wonderful. Shared dreams and interests are one important cornerstone of a great marriage - not a requirement, but certainly a bonus. Second, throw in the son, son-in-law, and granddaughter mentions, and how closely they weave into the car stories, and it's clear that you and your wife created, fostered, and enjoyed a very special family. Kudos to you for that!
Enjoy your tacos and your pizzas, ModelT - and pat Miss Dollie on the radiator cap from all of us out here who appreciate your car story...
Sorry I'm late. My family has been a large part of my hobbies, and I sure seemed to have a lot of hobbies. It's been three months and I still know little about my new toy, 'MissDollie'. After living in Florida, I'm allergic to COLD.
Still having our taco Tuesdays and pizza Fridays. The other kids stop by and call. Amazingly I'm surviving okay, with the help of 'Meals on Wheels' and that invention called Microwave. Now that I'm alone, I watch YouTube old car videos on the large Smart TV and enjoy the cruise-in's we used to attend. Barn Finds makes me smile.
I never did get that 1940 Ford I used to fantasize about. But a '39 coupe and a '41 tudor have made us very happy for years. That little daughter is now over 50, which keeps me reminded I've had the Chevy powered '39 Ford for over 50 years with everything still the same. The brakes need work, it's covered with cobwebs, and needs a little lovin'. My 1948 Chevy panel truck never did get finished. Those are jobs I left to my oldest son and son-in-law to finish, now in their garages.
Right now, we are all looking through my boxes of junk for the pair of restored 1931 Illinois license plates that I saved from the 60's. I put them away for safe keeping when we re-retired from Florida. In Illinois, I can put the shiny new tags in the car and display those ugly green '31 skinny plates.
From what I've found out, the little red Model A is worth twice what I paid for it. Or whatever the next sucker is wiling to give! The cost of parts now amazes me! Of course, to me, 'MissDollie' is now priceless.
Thank you Nitro. Somehow I lost this Hagerty group. But like most things, I figured out how to get back. 'MissDollie' is still covered up out back, patiently waiting for the rest of the snow to melt and the road salt to disappear. But I've been buying shiny things to make her even sexier.
In my mind, I've already put a million miles on that little red car.
Yes, and I have matching brown seat belts. Not great in a topless car. But I like the idea that she uses them in other cars.
I'm not sure if I'll be around to teach little Izzy to drive in ten more years but she told me that's my job.
Thanks for reading my story. At first I hesitated calling my car the same as many called my wife when we lived in the south. But my little granddaughter thought that was the perfect name.
ModelT - an awesome and touching story. So sorry about your loss, but so happy for you for having such a loving family - a tribute to both you and your wife.
So, now that it is late May, I'm waiting to hear that you have taken MissDollie, with Izzy as co-pilot, on her maiden voyage.
All the best.