Convoy Factor

When travelling in a Model A convoy here is the least understood rule of the road.  When you have 6 cars lined up at a stop sign, the first car takes off and then 5 seconds later the second car takes off.  Remember car #6?  He is still sitting at the sign!  Five seconds later car 3 takes off and 5 seconds after that #4 takes off.  Remember car #6…he’s still stopped at the sign!  Now it’s been 5 second and car 5 takes off.  Once car #5 departs the sign and car #6 stops and then proceeds, the time between the lead car and the back door is not 5 seconds.  It’s almost 30 seconds!  The time difference is cumulative.  It’s kind of like cracking the whip.  If the lead car goes 30 MPH, the distance between car #1 and car #6 is now about ¼ mile.  If car #6 goes 60 MPH, it would take 30 seconds to make up the difference.  Meanwhile, car #1 has gone another ¼ mile or a total of ½ mile.  Car #1 can’t understand why car #6 is so far behind and car #6 can’t understand why car #1 doesn’t slow down.

Now add to the problem…if you should increase your convoy size to 10 or 12 model A’s in one caravan or if you add some traffic, throw in a red light, maybe a light rain, have a few newcomers to convoying and now you have the Convoy Factor times 3.  This is when tempers can flare!  Be considerate to your other convoy members and pay attention to the movement of your group.

This tech tip was provided by Neil Heiss and was printed in the September 1993 “A” Quail Call.

Preparing for Tour

Spare Parts, Materials & Tools

Points (2 sets)                                                                         Socket Set – 3/8” Drive

Condensers (2)                                                                       Grease Gun

Rotor (1)                                                                                   Torque Wrench

Fan Belt (1)                                                                               1/2 to 3/8 Drive Adapter

Water Pump (1 rebuilt)                                                       Drag Link Socket

Water Pump Packing (2 rings)                                         Valve Spring Compressor

Ignition Coil (Tested good)                                               Gasket Scraper (Putty Knife)

Spark Plugs (1)                                                                        Pocket Knife

Light Bulbs (1 of each size)                                                Scissors

Plastic Wire Tie Wraps (12)                                               Ground Cloth

Water Hoses (1 set)                                                               Plastic Wash Bucket

600 W Oil (1 quart)                                                               Sponge

Oil (1 quart)                                                                             Tire Irons (2)

Water (1 gallon)                                                                     Flash Light

Head Gasket (1)                                                                      Wrenches – ¼” to ¾” sizes

Gasket Paper (1 square foot)                                            Adjustable Wrench

Valve Springs (1)                                                                   Allen Wrenches

Electrical Tape (1 roll)                                                        Hammer

Bailing Wire (3 feet)                                                             Vise Grips

Electrical Wire-12 gage (12 feet)                                    Magnet

Cotter Pins (Assortment)                                                  Hand Cleaner

Turn Signal Flasher                                                              Paper Towels

Fuses (If your car has them)                                            Jack & Handle

Inner Tube                                                                               Drum Puller

Tube Patch Kit (with fresh cement)                               Feeler Gauge

Generator (Tested good)                                                    Brake Adjusting Wrench

Cutout (New)                                                                           Gloves (Leather & Rubber)

 36” Long Jumper Wire (Alligator clips each end)  Drift Pin

Ammeter (New)                                                                     Files (Round & Flat)

First Aid Kit (Band-Aids, aspirin, burn ointment)  Small Mirror



You will want to have all of the tools with you that would be necessary to install the spare parts you take along.  

Make sure you pack your tools, points, condensers & water where they are quickly accessible.

For very long trips, pack a national club roster in case you help from another Model A’er in route.

6-volt electrical parts cannot be bought in modern stores, so be sure to have spares with you.


What To Do When The Engine Quits

Stay calm and think. Most cases are fixable at roadside.

Pull as far off of the road as safely possible.  Try to avoid becoming a traffic problem.

You will want to begin by assessing the source of your mechanical problem.

Is the problem fuel related?  Check the gas gauge. Is there gasoline?

Check for fuel flow at the carburetor by disconnecting the fuel line. Use the gas shutoff for On & OFF control. If no or inadequate flow, work towards the tank. Clean-out the sediment bowl. If you have added a filter to the bowl, remove it and recheck the flow. If there’s debris in the tank or clogging the line, blow hard through the line.

Do you have spark to the motor?  Begin by checking for spark at 1st the plugs, 2nd the points and 3rd the coil. A weak or non-existent spark is likely the result of a faulty condenser, bad coil hi-voltage wire connection or defective coil. Backfiring and noticeable loss of pulling power just before the engines quit are symptoms of a decaying condenser.

Check primary (low voltage) electrical supply to the ignition coil. The source of “electrical” problems could be the wire under the movable distributor plate, poor battery connections, defective ammeter or defective pop-out switch are likely bad actors.

Check for compression by hand cranking the engine – feel it.


Maintenance Recommendations

At Least One Month Before The Trip:

1.) Go over the running system of the vehicle and then fix any issues that are found.

2.) Remove the wheels & drums.  Clean and visually inspect all brakes and wheel bearings for wear and damage.  If the service brake linings are worn replace them.  Make sure all of the brake rollers rotate freely.  Tighten the backing plate attachment nuts & bolts.  Check to see that all cotter pins are in place. Repack the wheel bearings with good quality grease and adjust them.  Make the necessary adjustments to the service and emergency brakes.  Road test your braking ability to ensure you will not experience a problem while on tour.


Within One Week Of The Trip:

1.) Engine Compartment: check distributor plate wire, check condition of ignition points (if pitted replace the points & condenser), adjust point gap, lightly lubricate the distributor cam (use a slight amount of high temperature grease), install a new condenser if existing one is more than a year old, oil distributor cup; clean distributor & coil Bakelite parts, clean & gap spark plugs, adjust ignition timing, adjust fan belt tension, check water pump packing and adjust packing nut if necessary;

            a.) Grease every grease fitting on the vehicle including clutch throughout bearing and U-joint.

            b.) Check your current motor oil level and change as necessary.

            c.) Check transmission oil, steering oil, rear axle oil and top them off as necessary;

            d.) Check the gasoline sediment bowl and carburetor lower body. Drain if sediment is present.      

   Clean all gasoline filters, if used.

            e.) Clean the battery terminals and lugs.

            f.)  If you are using a generator, sparingly oil the bearings.

            g.) Check all lights and the horn.  Make sure they are working properly.

            h.) Check all wheel lug nuts are tight (45-50 ft-lb. torque) & all tires are properly inflated.

            i.)  Make sure you have proof of insurance and registration  papers in the car;

   j.) Check the spare parts and tools you will be taking along. Pack them where they are easily accessible! Include a  water pump, fan belt, ignition points, a FEW condensers, ignition coil (tested), water pump packing, one of each type of wheel bearing, electrical fuses (if applicable), light bulbs, plenty of cotter pins, inner tube, tube patch kit, generator cutout (tested), stop light switch, bailing wire, 14 gage stranded copper wire and wire repair materials. The tools you take should be sufficient for maintenance and to install your spare parts. Bring at least one gallon of water, one quart of oil, a quart of gear lubricant, some rags, and hand cleaner, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, a chamois to wipe the car down and maps of the route.

Model A Driving Rules


     Steering should have minimum to no play.

     Brakes should bottom out before reaching floorboards.

     Wheels should lock up under hard braking.

     Gasoline leaks – NONE.

     Wheels should be tight & tires should pass visual inspection for tread & excessive cracking.

     Lights should all function as well as the horn should be operable.

     Fire extinguisher should be easily accessible and in good working order.

     Safety glass should be in all glass windows.

     You should be carrying proof of insurance at all times.

• It should be noted that these guidelines are common sense safety items and if your Model A is in road ready condition, it should have little trouble for the upcoming driving season.


     The person(s) leading the group are responsible for everything as there is only one leader.

     Be sure everyone is aware of departure times and location(s).

     Have an established route mapped (1 for each vehicle).

     Select rest stops for long tours.

     Determine your ETA of all stops and final destination.

     YOU set the pace for the travel.



     Proper spacing: 2 times mph in YARDS (45 mph = 90 yards, almost a football field).

     Always keep an eye on the vehicle in your rear view mirror!

     Pull over if possible to let others pass, if a large parade causes traffic problems.

     When pulling over, make sure ALL cars are pulled off of the roadway and that they allow the lead car visibility to see to the rear of group and oncoming traffic.

     If possible, rear vehicle should advise traffic of the slower moving vehicles ahead.

     Working CB radios are encouraged to alert others of any problems or situations.

     Keep radio traffic limited when there is traffic or problem reporting to be made.

Safely Hand Cranking A Model “A”

Always grip the crank with the thumb wrapped below with the fingers. NEVER push the crank down the right side of the rotation!

Starting a Model A with the hand crankwas once as common as driving one.  It seems hand cranking has become nearly a lost art over the decades.  Following a few basic rules, hand cranking is perfectly safe and quite simple.  The hand crank should be one of the most useful tools in your toolbox!

The following list outlines the procedures for starting your Model A with the hand crank.  The specifics apply to a properly tuned engine.  Some variations may be required and are discussed later.

  1. Set the emergency brake and be sure the shifter is in neutral.
  2. Retard the spark by raising the left (spark) lever to the top of its quadrant.
  3. Lower the throttle lever approximately three notches, or until the gas pedal lowers very slightly.
  4. Adjust the mixture on the dash to the setting appropriate for the conditions.
  5. With the ignition OFF, hold the choke out (fully closed).  This will require either a helper, a pull cord from the lever on the carburetor to the front of the vehicle, or one of those modern undersized and sticky choke rod grommets.
  6. Carefully position the crank in place engaging the ratchet with the crank left of center in the lower of the two possible positions.  Grasp the crank as shown in the photo above, paying close attention to the thumb position below the handle. Pull the crank to the top briskly but carefully.  Repeat with a second pull.  At this point there should be gas running slightly from the carburetor to the floor.
  7. Release the choke and turn ON the ignition.
  8. One more pull of the crank and the engine should start.  NEVER push the crank down the right side of the rotation with the key on!
  9. Advance the spark lever about half way down the quadrant and adjust the throttle speed.

Other considerations: Although there is no serious risk of injury when handling the crank as shown, it’s startling when a kickback occurs.  Most kickbacks occur when the choke is closed.  The probability varies depending on the position of the crank ratchet relative to top dead center.  Leaving the switch off during the choking step almost eliminates the chance of kickbacks.

With a low battery the engine will fire more quickly by hand than with the starter because the starter isn’t starving the ignition system.

Variations: The car should start similar by hand as it does with the starter.  For example, using the starter I always start my cold A’s with the choke pulled for exactly two compression strokes or one turn of the crankshaft.  At that point, I release the choke and the engine fires.  I NEVER hold the choke until it fires as suggested in the Model “A” Instruction Book.

If your car REQUIRES the choke to be held more than two compression strokes with the starter, you may need to adjust step #6 similarly.

Experiment with a good battery so if you have difficulty starting, you can use the starter to determine if the problem is too much or too little gas.  Be conservative with the choke.  It is much easier to repeat the process than to hand start a flooded engine. A flooded engine is guaranteed to provide more exercise than you desire!

If your hand crank binds when inserted through the starting crank bushing and into the crank ratchet, don’t crank start your car.  Too much bind will prevent the crank from releasing from the ratchet.

Driveway Degreaser

A very effective and economical driveway degreaser is ordinary laundry spot degreaser, such as SPRAY ‘N WASH or SHOUT.  Spray it on the wet oil spot.  After waiting about 30 seconds wash it off with water.  For touch stains, brush the detergent into the spot and then hose it off.

Do You Have The Need For Speed?

Do you want to keep up with the moderns?  If you are looking for a little more speed, you have several options. 

Why not try the high-speed rear end?   The stock Model A rear end ratio is 3.78:1.  In other words, the drive shaft turns 3.78 times for each tire rotation.  The high-speed rear end increases the ratio to 3.54:1.  At 45 MPH, the stock Model A engine is turning 1926 RPM’s.  Maintaining the same RPM’s, with the high-speed rear end, you can push your car to 48 MPH.  You gain 3 MPH.  Excited?

OK, so you are looking to go just a little bit faster, think overdrive.  There are several options on the market like Ryan, Mitchell, and Borg Warner.  Borg Warner units are popular with Penn-Ohioans.  Borg Warner units have the tallest overdrive reduction at 30%.  You can set it up with a manual or electric shift.  They also have some setbacks.  With a Borg-Warner overdrive as engineered and built by Bob Greene or built, installed and serviced by Lloyd Young, they do not free-wheel unless and until the overdrive is manually (or electrically) disengaged by the operator.  The holdback effect is not as great as in third gear, just as third is less than second gear.  You need to be sure to disengage out of overdrive before shifting into reverse.  Ask the man that owns one.  Another popular choice is the Mitchell with a 26% reduction.  It is fully synchronized, does not free-wheel downhill, and can be shifted into reverse without damaging the unit.  You do have to be handy with a wrench because you have to install it.

What is the advantage of the overdrive?  There are two advantages.  First, you could continue to drive at your normal speed while in overdrive.  If you were driving 45 MPH, instead of turning 1926 RPM’s, the engine is loafing along at 1414 RPM’s.  That is the same as a stock Model A running 33 MPH.  In this case, the overdrive could be saving you from an expensive engine rebuild.  Still have the need for speed?  If running in overdrive at 1926 RPM’s (45 MPH for the stock A), your actual speed is 61.3 MPH.  55 MPH comes in at 1699 RPM’s (40.3 MPH for a stock Model A).  The overdrive allows you to choose between reducing the stress on the engine or to speed up with traffic.  The only other questions are how fast can you stop?  And, how fast do you want to go on four skinny tires?

There are two other choices, the overdrive transmission or the modern engine conversion.  The overdrive transmission will give you similar results as a Mitchell or Ryan overdrive, however it may be easier to install.  But there are some units on the market that require you to cut the frame to make them fit.  Swapping for a modern engine may create even more problems.

By the way, do you know how fast a stock Model A should go?  Peak horsepower is achieved at 48 MPH.  The Model A was originally designed to travel at 60 MPH.  The top end is 70 MPH at 3000 RPM’s.  Sorry, no guarantees.  Drive it at your own risk.

This tech tip was provided by Bob Hudec and was printed in the Jan/Feb 2003 “A” Quail Call.