Seatbelts For Your Model A

Whether we drive the highways or back roads of our areas, we all take the risk of being involved in a vehicle accident.  We know that we cannot control the actions of other drivers that might be speeding, texting or distracted in other ways.  If you are one to not use seat belts in your Model A, have you asked yourself, “Why?”  If you are involved in an accident, did you stop to think that the Model A dash rail is not padded, the steering wheel is not recessed, there are no airbags on board and that the windshield is only 24” from your face?

Statistics prove that you have a much greater chance of survival if you stay INSIDE the car during an accident, and seat belts will keep you and your loved ones where they belong.  A State Trooper once said, “In my 20+ years of working hundreds of major traffic accidents, I have never unbuckled a seat belt from a dead man.”

While Bert and her husband, Arnie were on a tour up in Corning, NY they were witness to a fellow member drive off the edge of the road, just missing a mileage marker sign drive down through a ditch and return to the roadway.  As the car came to a rest on the road, the passenger door was hanging wide open and the passenger was safely held into place with her seat belt.  The car exterior was without a scratch but the interior was covered in mud and anything that had inhabited that ditch!  What was behind this scary Model A ride…the driver fell asleep at the wheel.  What did the members of this convoy learn…the safety and necessity of seat belts.

The Haueter’s were next going on a tour to the Alaska area and had to travel through Canada.  They would be required to put seat belts into their Model A at this point as it was a tour mandate.  They headed to the junk yard to find two clean, functioning and matching seat belts to complete this task.  Today, new seat belts are available at car supply stores as well as vendors of Model A parts.

To begin the process of securing the seat belts in their Model A Sedan, they removed the front seat for careful inspection of the wood within which revealed no deterioration or cracks.  A word of caution here: Do not secure the mechanism in this fashion if the wood is in poor condition.  Most will warn not to attach the belts into the wood, PERIOD!

When installing the belts in your vehicle, it is important to secure your seat belts into some steel-whether it be to the frame cross members, steel seat frames or side rails.  Each body style will require the owner’s evaluation to find the best location for anchoring sites.  If you own a sedan or other forms of multiple seating, you will be faced with double the task.  Some will use some perforated shelving called Dexeion, because the numerous holes allow many adjustments to install the seat belts to the lower body frame.  Various other strap irons may also be used but will require drilling for positioning to the various areas of framework.

The hardware necessary for this project are:

  • (4) 4 ½” x 3/8” SAE fine threaded bolts
  • (4) 3/8” SAE nuts
  • (4) 2/8” lock washers
  • (4) 2” or larger diameter flat washers
  • 29 ½” length x 2” width x ¼” thick strap iron

NOTE:  Some people prefer to use Grade 8 bolts for added strength.

Next you will need the following tools:

  • 3/8” drill bits
  • Drill motor that will accept a 3/8” bit
  • Angle drill
  • ½” sockets and wrenches

NOTE:  If you wish to use 7/16” or ½” bolts and related washers and nuts, you will have to enlarge the holes in the perforated angle iron.  If you change bolts sizes, it will also change the sizes of wrenches and sockets.

Arnie reinforced the 2” thick wood in good condition with the 29 ½” length of strap iron.  The shorter pieces of the seat belts were attached to the side rails.  The two remaining long center pieces of the belts were then placed and drilled accordingly.  Once the bolts are dropped in from the top side, it does not take long to complete the job underneath.

In Bert’s research, she found that Coupes by the use of the Dexeion iron in the rear compartment or trunk may easily be adapted to securing seat belts.  Using a ninety degree angle drill will allow placement of the bolts to the frame below.  In the case of the Tudor, this is perhaps one of the simplest installations due to the easy accessibility to the frame.  We cannot emphasize the choice of the best site of strength for adapting your seat belts in your Model A.

Installation in a Rumble Seat or Trunk Area

 Tudor Installation

This tech tip is a compilation from an article written by Bert Haueter for The Restorer and was referred to in the May/June 1993 “A” Quail Call.

Webmaster note: We travel with seatbelts in all of our Model A’s.  Several years ago we came upon an accident scene and saw a street rod in a corn field and several law enforcement officers walking around the scene.  When they looked up and saw us driving down the road with the top down on our Model A they all began to pale.  As we approached, they looked in our car and saw we were wearing our seatbelts and looked relieved.  It seems we had driven up to a fatal accident scene in which the driver of the vintage restoration was ejected from his car.

Motometer vs. Temperature Gauges

Although I have not been involve with Model A’s as long as many have, I have heard horror stories and seen some myself of what high temperatures in an engine can do.  I have had both a temperature gauge and a reproduction motometer on my Town Sedan ever since I have owned it.  Only once have I ever seen the red mercury show up in the motometer.  That was when I had a problem with the radiator and the temperature gauge was spiking over 190 degrees.  We quickly stopped the car to save the engine and let it cool down.

Even though I have heard the argument that many people ran the Model A’s for many of years without temperature monitoring devices, I find it difficult driving a car without a temperature gauge.  One of the key indicators to me if an engine is OK is knowing the temperature range that the engine is running.  When you install the temperature probe of the temperature gauge in the upper water neck or in the upper hose with the adapter pipe, the probe is always in the hottest water of the engine.  This is a plus for the temperature gauge unless the system is dry; it should always be in the water stream.

A motometer can fail you at times if the water level becomes lower than the probe extends down.  I have also seen where the mercury will divide and a false reading will occur.  To depend on this form of information may create a whole lot of problems that may not really exist.  As in my case, the motometer never shows any temperature until it is too late.  By the time my motometer shows that the water is hot, I may have already created warpage of the engine head or worse, I have scored the cylinder walls.

With the cost of a temperature gauge, approximately $50.00, versus not having one and having to rebuild an engine, it is my experience that a temperature gauge is a small investment to protect the larger investment in an engine.

This tech tip was originally printed in the October 2001 “A” Quail Call.