- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 29, 2003

The summer between high school and college was a very busy time for Paul Gauthier in Houghton, Mich. “I bought my first car, a 1931 Model A in 1958 for $35,” he recalls. “It wasn’t running,” he adds.

He didn’t realize at the time that he would forevermore be linked with the venerable Model A Fords. That first Ford was returned to healthy running condition and eventually was sold for a profit.

For several years after graduation from Michigan Tech Mr. Gauthier served in the Air Force and managed to survive the next decade without a Model A Ford.

By 1970, after several overseas tours of duty, Mr. Gauthier was back in the United States assigned near Omaha, Neb. There he purchased his second Model A Ford, which met a tragic highway death. A third Model A came and went before the current one arrived on the scene in 1982.

During the summer 21 years ago he saw an ad offering a 1930 Model A Ford Tudor for sale in Savage, Md.

On a whim, Mr. Gauthier and his wife, Laurel, took a Sunday drive that included a stop to examine the vehicle.

He was amazed to find the advertised car was a sound 1930 Ford with no rust. The daughter of the car’s original owner was selling the car, which had a hair more than 69,000 miles showing on the odometer.

The 52-year-old interior was looking a bit worn, and the hoses under the engine hood were the ones installed at the factory.

Mr. Gauthier left a deposit and said he would return in a couple of weeks to take possession of the car. The right rear corner of the car had done battle with a post in the garage and emerged second best.

The Gauthiers returned to retrieve their prize on a Sunday afternoon. After wrapping the ancient radiator hoses with tape, Mr. Gauthier fired up the 200.5-cubic-inch, four-cylinder engine and, with Mrs. Gauthier following in a modern car, Mr. Gauthier drove the 52 miles home to Fairfax without incident.

As soon as he got the Ford home, the hoses and all the other rubber parts were replaced. With the mechanical aspects of the car assured, Mr. Gauthier proceeded to enjoy his car as a member of the George Washington Chapter of the Mount Vernon Region of the Model A Restorers Club.

He repainted the black car in the original hue in 1983 and the next year installed the upholstery kit featuring door pockets.

Mr. Gauthier’s research indicates that his car was built in December 1929 and was delivered to the first owner somewhere in Delaware.

Mr. Gauthier is familar with the four-spoke steering wheel with the lever near the horn button at the hub that operates the headlights. Immediately beneath the steering wheel are two other levers. The left one controls the spark advance while the right lever is the hand throttle or, as Mr. Gauthier is fond of saying, “My cruise control.”

The one-piece windshield is hinged to tilt out at the bottom for ventilation. Over the years he has rebuilt or replaced the starter, generator, carburetor, water pump and has had the original engine rebuilt.

At the end of April the Model A club was planning a weeklong excursion. Before the trip he detected a small leak in his radiator. Not wanting to inconvenience his fellow Model A owners with his malady, which would require frequent stops for water, he ordered a new heavy-duty radiator, which he installed before the club outing.

After 76 miles into the trip, one of the two blades of the original steel fan broke free and chewed a hole in the new radiator. The good news was that he called the same man he had called two weeks before for his new radiator and had him send a second radiator overnight.

The bad news is that he had to make the call.

Once the replacement radiator arrived in an overnight shipment, the repair was completed within 45 minutes. “So many people wanted to help I could hardly get to the car,” Mr. Gauthier says.

The standard Tudor Model A was by far the most popular model that Ford produced in 1930.

Everything about the car seemed perfectly suited to the task. The small mirror, in this case original, is precisely the size to view through the small rear window.

The centrally positioned instrument panel features a “cyclops eye” speedometer that can register speeds up to 75 mph. “I’ve had it up to 55,” Mr. Gauthier says.

With the odometer now registering almost 73,000 miles he is contemplating a trip in June to Dearborn, Mich., to celebrate the centennial of Ford Motor Co.

He has no doubt that his 1930 Ford could successfully make the trip. “It has a lot of go,” he confidently says of his Ford, equipped with mechanical brakes, “but just a little stop.”

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