- The Washington Times - Friday, July 3, 2009

Art Carlson always seemed to have an audience as he tinkered with and restored old cars in his Wisconsin garage. His son witnessed how he brought many old cars, mostly Model A Fords, back to health.

In the spring of 2005, Mr. Carlson wasn’t surprised to receive a telephone call from his son, who had moved to Texas. His son told him he had found a 1929 Model A Ford Town Sedan with a Murray body that he knew his father would like to have.

It did not take long for the senior Mr. Carlson to hitch a 20-foot trailer to his truck and drive down to Amarillo,Texas. His idea was to drive the old Ford onto the trailer, but if it wouldn’t start, he could winch or push it onto the trailer.

That was his plan. “I was hoping it would be like that,” Mr. Carlson says.

Upon his arrival in Texas, he located the seller’s address and was disappointed to find the Model A in pieces. “It was all over the place,” he remembers. “My son had neglected to tell me it was apart.”

Giving the jumble of parts a quick once-over, Mr. Carlson determined that about 90 percent of the car was there. As an added bonus, it wasn’t terribly rusty, and the seller sweetened the deal with an extra 200.5-cubic-inch, four-cylinder engine. The thought of driving back to Wisconsin with an empty trailer was distasteful to Mr. Carlson, so he loaded all the pieces and parts onto his trailer and headed back home to Spring Green, Wis.

An inventory showed him what was missing, what needed to be replaced and what could be restored or rebuilt. He discovered that one of the engines had a cracked block, but the other one was rebuildable. While he was overhauling the 40-horsepower engine, he packed up the three-speed transmission and sent it back to Amarillo for his son to rebuild. “I felt he owed me something,” Mr. Carlson says.

When this Ford was manufactured 80 years ago, the metal body panels were installed and secured over a wooden skeleton. The original wood was in terrible condition, Mr. Carlson says. Remanufacturing and installing the birch-wood frame took the prize as the most difficult part of the restoration, he says.

Electrical wiring in the car was nonexistent, so Mr. Carlson located and installed a new wiring harness. Now the single taillight on the left rear fender and the two headlights shone brightly.

The glass in all eight windows has been replaced. The windshield is hinged at the top to enable the occupants of the car to push out the bottom of the windshield for enhanced airflow through the cabin. Only the driver has a wiper on his side of the windshield, although Mr. Carlson has no intention of driving his car in the rain anyway.

Upholstery kits for everything inside the car are available, so Mr. Carlson obtained one of the mohair packages and reupholstered his car himself.

He purchased a set of 4.50-X-21-inch white sidewall tires, including one for the spare mounted on the rear of the car. He learned that replacing the well-worn bumpers was more economical than restoring the originals.

The single most difficult item to locate was the nickel-plated cowling band separating the cowl, where the gasoline tank is located, from the engine hood.

When new, the Model A had a base price of $695. The Ford was equipped with a center rear armrest, rear window curtains and cowl lights. The trusty engine propels the four-door sedan on its 103.5-inch wheelbase.

“I’ve had it up to 50,” Mr. Carlson says. “The engine has its own unique sound.”

Late in 2007, Mr. Carlson went to the front of his Ford and twisted onto the radiator a Motometer radiator cap that registers the temperature of the coolant in the engine, and he declared the restoration complete.

“I feel like I’ve accomplished something,” he says.

Since then, he has driven his Model A Ford as far as 34 trouble-free miles away to the next town over. “I’m very satisfied with the way it turned out,” he says.

For your car to become the subject of the Out of the Past column, send a photo (frontal 3/4 view), plus brief details and phone number to Vern Parker, 2221 Abbotsford Drive, Vienna, VA 22181. Only photos of good quality will be considered. No customs or hot rods accepted

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