Monday, January 28, 2008

1929 Ford Model A - The Deceptive Gentleman

You See a Beautifully Restored Stock Model A Coming Your Way-- but What's That Noise?

It sounds angry. Really angry. And man, it's hauling ass on those wooden-spoke wheels on a winding road through the beautiful Finnish countryside. By the time you catch up to it at a diner down the road, it's chugging, sputtering, and sounding like a standard 200.5ci L-head four-cylinder engine. What's going on here?

You've just encountered the most clandestine prewar sleeper we've ever come across. What appears to be a nuts-and-bolts restoration of a Model A sedan is actually a very precisely tuned and stealthily constructed hot rod.

Kari Maekelae and his team of metal craftsmen at Maekelae Auto Tuning(MAT,, which specializes in building and restoring vintage sports cars and race cars, is the mastermind behind this surreptitious build. The owner of the A, a widely renowned rally driver who wishes to remain anonymous, found it and a '24 Model T while racing in the World Rally Championship in Argentina in 1993.

The cars were mostly complete,and the word is that he didn't pay much more than the price of shipping to get them back to his native Finland. The T received a full resto back to stock standards, and the A was slated for the same until the intrepid rally racer happened to mention to Kari that he'd like a bit more power underhood, but without going the typical hot rod or street rod route--he wanted to maintain a vintage look to the car.

After a few moments of bench racing with Kari about what could be done, he mentioned that his favorite engine from his decades of racing was the high-strung Group 4Ford Escort BDA built by Cosworth. That sparked an idea, and Kari immediately started envisioning what the car should be. After airing a few ideas, he persuaded the owner to give him full license to build the A as he saw fit.

The key to any good performing car is the platform, so the first order of business was to strip the A down to its basic elements and develop a plan for the chassis. Of course boxing the rails was on the list, but to make the frame exceptionally rigid, Kari designed crossbracing and brackets that would not only stiffen everything up but also blend right into the chassis and give a factory-built impression.
The stock front suspension was strengthened and given a Panhard rod, but the rear had to be completely rethought. No banjo rearend could survive the wrath of a race-bred Cosworth, so a Toyota 4x4 van rearend (which was actually used in Toyota rally cars) was selected for its width and durability, and a parallel four-link with a Panhard rod was designed to locate it. Coilovers would have been the easy choice but not the right one for this car. Kari's team fabricated mounts to use a stock-style buggy spring modified for a progressive rate and swapped in friction shocks from an Aston Martin DP4. Who would have thought? The list of illusory mods is lengthy, but to really appreciate the level of detail and time spent on every aspect to keep the identity of the A correct requires hours crawling all over it.

Now the answer to the question on everyone's mind: What does a near-stock-height Model A with a race-prepped original chassis and a drivetrain that'll propel it 0-60 in a tick over five seconds feel like on the open road? Stupid fun--and we don't use that term lightly. A good sleeper puts a wicked grin on your face, and there's no bigger sleeper than this. The absolute contradiction of sitting in the gentlemanly interior grasping the four-spoke steering wheel and stock-length shifter and hearing the high-strung wail from the Cosworth is delicious

If given the chance to enjoy the A for a weekend or so, we'd go for the ultimate covert action and dress in our Sunday best as if the only intention was a leisurely drive to an antique car show--with the MAT-designed ignition misfire circuit activated so it chugged laboriously along like a stock Model A. Of course we'd only pull the Simpson race harness over our shoulders at the stoplight once the guy in the BMW in the next lane had thoroughly dismissed us as nothing more than an antiquated and sluggish museum piece. Then, with a flip of the misfire switch and a tip of the hat, it'd be time to lower his smugness a few points. You with us? Bonus points for doing it with vintage driving gloves and a newsboy hat.

The naturally aspirated Cossie revs to 8,400 rpm to make 250 hp and sees 200 lb-ft of torque at 7,200 rpm.

From here.



Post a Comment

<< Home