- The Washington Times - Friday, March 8, 2002

After 19 years and 15 million vehicles Henry Ford reluctantly shut down the Model T assembly line in May 1927.

That October, the first Model A Fords were rolling off the new River Rouge assembly line.

One of the early 1928 Model A Fords was what Henry Ford like to call a "Fordor" and was sent to a Canadian dealer. It had a base price of $528. That car eventually ended up years later in Washington.

Harry White, a retired schoolteacher, had once owned a Model A Ford in the late 1950s. He recalls having that car in Glenn Dale, Md., with the top crudely sawed off to transform it into a convertible. "I always liked Model A's," he concedes.

But that was then and this is now.

In September of 1992 Mr. White decided he needed another Model A Ford. While a lot of other car collectors want coupes or roadsters, Mr. White sought a four-door sedan. "I wanted to make it easy to carry my five kids and five grandchildren," he explains. His search led him to the District.

There he found the Canadian four-door "blind back" 1928 Model A Ford, which had been painted blue with a roller. It didn't have an engine or a transmission, Mr. White recalls. "My wife, Barbara, thought I had lost my mind," he says.

Mr. White quickly jumped at the opportunity, bought the hulk and had it trailered to his Temple Hills home. There, upon inspection, Mr. White discovered what he didn't have.

He took the car apart and began a restoration that was more or less complete two years later.

Mr. White found the headlight buckets and the radiator shell were "junk."

The good news is that virtually every Model A Ford part is reproduced and is readily available, even

the conventional clutch, three-speed gearbox, the fluted glass headlight lens and the headlight buckets themselves.

Mr. White returned to his old profession, this time as a substitute teacher, in order to raise the needed capital to restore his Model A Ford.

One day of teaching, Mr. White explains, would pay for the sandblasting and painting of one of the 21-inch, 30-spoke wheels.

Adjacent to the floor-mounted three-speed transmission lever is the emergency brake lever with a pistol-grip handle.

Nearby is the red four-spoke steering wheel which, Mr. White recalls, appeared only on the 1928 Fords. Thereafter, he says, the steering wheels were black.

A series of levers near the hub of the steering wheel are on either side of the horn button. To the left is the spark advance lever while the throttle is to the right. Below is the lever controlling the headlights.

Since the Model A had no fuel pump the gasoline was fed to the four-cylinder engine compliments of gravity. Because the 10-gallon gasoline tank was mounted in the cowl just forward of the windshield and the dashboard, there was no room for a cowl vent. A number of companies built bodies for Ford and at least one of them early on tried to convince Ford to put a side vent on the driver's side at ankle level.

Although Mr. White's Ford has such a vent, Henry Ford didn't like the idea so only a rare few Model A Fords have that detail.

In lieu of a cowl vent, the Model A windshield does tilt open at the bottom. The single wiper is electric, Mr. White explains. In later years Model A Fords were equipped with vacuum-powered wipers.

Mr. White has mounted 4.50x21-inch tires on the 30-spoke wheels, which he has painted a color called straw. Each wheel has a metal valve stem.

The car body is a two-tone combination of rose beige and dark brown while the fenders are black.

Mr. White says his car needs a straw-colored pinstripe to be correct and that's next on his agenda.

With the rebuilt engine easily breathing through the 19 louvers on each side of the engine hood Mr. White enjoys exercising his 74-year-old Ford.

"I've had it up to 60 [mph] once," he says. Since the overhauled engine was installed Mr. White has driven his Ford almost 10,000 miles.

"It runs well," he says.

He does complain about the blind spot to the rear created by the metal where glass quarter windows could have been. It probably wasn't a problem in 1928 traffic and it does offer a modicum of privacy.

Mr. White has constructed a trunk to fit on the luggage rack at the rear of the car to hold necessities when he will travel to Dearborn, Mich., in July 2003, for the Ford centennial celebration.

About 1.1-million Model A Fords were built in 1928, almost twice the number of Chevrolets and more than 14 times the number of Plymouths.

Mr. White is proud to be responsible for keeping a blind-back four-door Model A running and still on the road.


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