From Noon to Midnight

This is a recollection of the Summer of 2012 when we took our restored 1931 Panel Delivery for judging at the MARC sponsored meet in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

 

 

INDEX

These articles, stories and accounts of my life, as I recall them, and are copywrited. Unauthorized use will be pursued at my determination, to the degree that I am inclined. Any hard feeling caused by memories that don't match yours are unfortunate and you'll just have to get over it! Feel free to contact me if you have a request for their use.

 


It was lunch time and the Carolina sun was intense as usual for June as my friend Dave and I were headed to an antique tool show near Raleigh, North Carolina. We traveled this same road each time we attend the annual show and each time we went thru the small town of Ramsuer we would look at the old cars that a gentleman had on display in the yard beside his home.


As we approached the metal roof covered display canopy that he offered his cars in we both saw the early ‘40s cars that he commonly had to offer for sale. Dave commented that he was hungry and we started to drive off towards a small country diner that we had frequented previously in our travels. As we were driving off, I noticed in the back of the yard, behind the display canopy, was a vehicle that had the familiar look of the Model A with its flat radiator shell and splayed bug eye headlights.


It had a significant tilt to it and a sag to the left rear giving it the appearance of a big old Basset hound dog sitting at the edge of the woods waiting to be called to dinner. I couldn’t resist, but not recognizing what it was, I was unsure as to how to proceed. I had just met Roger Kaufmann a few months earlier and was aware of his penchant for trucks and the large amount of knowledge that he possessed, so I took a chance and called him. He remembered who I was and after only a few moments his excitement about my find encouraged me to contact the owner. The note on the windshield said that there were only 17 made and while I was convinced at that time that could not be a true statement, I later learned that there were only 17 made in 1930 because the purchase order to the Murray Body company had only been signed by Mr. Ford on December 15th.


I made the connection with the owner, made arrangements to come back the next day with a trailer and some money, and headed on out to the antique tool show, filled with excitement over my impending new project. I had just completed a wide bed pick up project for fine point judging and I had a great time doing that, so I was looking forward to getting busy again.


As soon as I got the truck home I began my research, learning that it was a 225A Panel Delivery and a rather rare vehicle. As with the Wide Bed Pickup, I began the restoration by making a notebook with a drawing or sketch of each sub-assembly piece like the starter, steering column, tool box, etc. and assorted specialty components. The notebook was divided into 23 chapters according to the Restoration Guidelines, and using the notebook as a guide I researched the Restoration Guidelines, Parts Price List and other books and manuals to learn the part numbers, date application and finishes of each item associated with that component. By doing this one sub assembly at a time it forced me to account for each component including the hardware. Then, on each page I recorded the source of the information near each of the components and noted the correct finish.


The biggest difference from restoring the pickup was the fact that I paid a lot more attention to the Body Parts List as information for the Panel Delivery was much more difficult to come by and I knew of no one else that had one. In researching the Body Parts List I noted that there were more than 630 drawing that were specific to the Panel Delivery, and I set out to make sure that I had accounted for and understood what all those components were and where they were located. I spent over 120 hours at the Benson Research Archives and accumulated over 438 drawings and sketches that were available and/or applicable for the truck. The body work was the most challenging. Locating other body panels was absolutely fruitless, so the decision was made to make the panels required. Using some of the original archive drawings, we began making the appropriate dies for making the character lines in the Pullmax machine and built a large power hammer to shape additional panels. We ended up making, from scratch, the quarter panels, both rear doors, the ‘trunk’ door and the side panel extensions. Fortunately we were able to use a great deal of the original wood, with the rear door frames being the most difficult to replace.


After gathering the data regarding the finishes from the notebook, I made an Excell spreadsheet to gather each of the finished items on a list according to the finish, having separate sheets for chrome, nickel, black, unfinished, cad, brass, raven, body color, etc. By doing this sorting and gathering in advance, it allowed me to get all of the plated items finished at the same time and at the same place, so the appearance was the same from front to back of the truck.


When the plating and finishing was completed, I used the notebook, one page at a time, to pre-assemble the item shown on each page, restoring the component and gathering the plated items and the hardware that was already finished. I put each group into a cardboard box, labeled the outside and stored it in a large shelf in a corner of the shop. By doing this in this manner, I was able to account for most everything in advance of final assembly.


Searching, looking for and gathering the original parts were a fun part of each restoration for both me and my wife Peggy. We enjoy the challenge and the excuse to travel to swap meets and meet knowledgeable Model A folks. We made a ‘want’ list and would offer it to anyone willing to take a look at it, and would often get replies weeks later from some one who found what I was looking for and contacted us.


I chose to use a method similar to the original method of assembling the body components separate from the chassis components, building a roll around dolly to build the body on. The frame was mounted on the dolly in the spring mount locations, and a motor and transmission (un-sprung weight) were installed to account for the centenary sag. I was able to roll it around in the shop and then roll it into the trailer to take to the body shop and then to get the upholstery done. While the painting and upholstery was being done, I assembled the rolling chassis, and would take intervals of running the motor on a run-in stand to get the rotating components fit and loosened up to promote easier starting and slower idle. After more than 80 hours, it was then disassembled, painted and put together with new, appropriate gaskets and installed in the chassis.


By having the boxes of pre-assembled items on the shelf, the chassis assembled and the body work and upholstery done on the dolly, it took only 28 days to mate these components and get it ready for showing. We raised the body up off the dolly on cross rails and rolled it out and rolled the chassis back underneath it and lowered the body in place.


Because of the tail light being mounted on the roof, and the Panel Delivery was a taller than normal truck, I was able to convince my wife that we would need a new trailer, one that was taller and longer, but now it was finally time to tell her that it was not going to be able to be taken out of the existing shop door unless we cut a notch in the top of the door. It was finally decided to make the tail light removable from the trucks roof, and to just cut out a portion of the top door jamb. I had to eat out for three days!


As we were getting closer to leaving, a number of my friends asked me what I was going to name this truck, being told that most folks give their Model A a name. It took several days until I figured out what to call it. When I was racing the Cup cars, we traveled in an 18 wheeler and as I reached the end of the driveway, prior to pulling out onto the highway, I would set the airbrake, gather the map and insert an 8-track tape of the Allman Brothers Band, and get ready for lead guitarist Dickey Betts to rip into ‘The Midnight Rider’, singing that: ‘ he had one more silver dollar, but your not going to catch the Midnight Rider’, and that was my inspiration for the name. By calling the truck ‘Midnight’, that meant when I was driving it, I would become the Midnight Rider, and just before leaving I hid a 1928 silver dollar in the truck. It was not found during judging!


Arriving at Oshkosh, we found the weather quite satisfactory and the MARC host club did an outstanding job in preparation and execution. The Judging was well organized and smoothly executed by an experienced pair of knowledgeable Model A gentlemen. I am proud to be associated with the Model A RESTORERS Club. From the Board of Directors and the Judging Standards Committee on down they are committed to making available every source of information pertinent to an AUTHENTIC restoration. That includes the Restoration Guidelines, access to the Ford Archives, Touring Class guidelines and a very nice youth program. They have recently replaced one extremely knowledgeable Technical Director with another extremely knowledgeable gentleman that will continue to provide top notch technical replies to our questions. You can start where you want and go as far as you want and still be welcome by the MARC organization. The view from a tall ladder is spectacular, and MARC works hard at keeping the ladder tall, but accessible. Thank You!
None of these kinds of achievements can be accomplished alone, and I had a very large number of friends and associates to thank for this project. I am unable to remember each one, but rest assured that I appreciate all that you folks did for me. However, I have to give special thanks to a few of those folks. First, I’d like to thank my wife Peggy, who put up with the huge amount of distractions, and helped in the restoration project the entire time. John Kluttz was a constant source of knowledge and parts and has become a great friend as well. Dave Rumley has come down from Charlotte, NC for 8 years to help on this project. Michael Gillstrap and Eric Moore came down on alternating Saturday mornings for a long time as well. Most helpful was Ethan Peil, a young man working his way thru college that was instrumental in the sheet metal areas of this restoration.


I am hopeful that some one reading this will take the chance and begin a restoration of any kind of a Model A. All the technical resources are there for the asking. Ask any member of the Judging Standards Committee for help and they will assist you in finding a mentor suitable for your project. No matter what car you choose to restore, or the degree that you wish to complete it, be aware that the Ford Motor Company has saved most of the drawings and associated information in its archives providing you with the ability to preserve an authentic piece of history from a company that was instrumental in the Industrial Revolution that made this the greatest country in the world.