The FREE Complete Bay Area Auto Enthusiast Guide

By KENNETH HALL – Motoring Tampa Bay correspondent
The barn find is the Holy Grail among antique car aficionados. The discovery by Bob Felker of a numbers-matching 1929 Ford Model A, with 21,000 original miles and stashed in a Florida barn for 50 years, would certainly fit that description.
“I bought it from the original owner and her son,” Felker says. “The woman and her husband bought the car new for $435, and for an additional $15, added the bumpers. They drove it from Connecticut to Venice, Florida, parked it in a barn in 1957 and pretty much forgot about it.”
The five-window coupe may have survived, but it was not without its problems.
“When I bought it in 2007, it was in bad shape and did not run,” Felker recalls. “I worked on it for a few hours and got it to crank up, then drove it home. Once I had it home, I cranked it up and cracked the block because the water pump was not working. That was the start of the adventure.”
His adventure in restoring his 1929 Ford Model A with some help from friends took seven years, but he was in no hurry. He just wanted something to occupy his time. He got that, as the car required extensive restoration.
“I took it completely apart,” Felker says. “Believe it or not, all that is needed to take that car completely apart is a 7/16. a ½, a 9/16 and a 5/8-inch wrench and a flat-head screwdriver. It is truly amazing that the little tool kit that came with the car would suffice to do everything.”
Felker says that almost the entire car is original, including the body, wheels, engine and transmission, but some parts had to be replaced, such as the rusted-out headlights and rotted wood.
“There is a lot of wood in the car,” Felker explains. “The floorboards are wood. There is wood in the roof and the body sits on wooden shims. I used walnut to replace all of it.”
After fixing the cracked block, Felker had the engine re-babbited. Then to coax a bit more power from the 90 year-old L-head four-cylinder motor, he installed a Weber two-barrel carburetor and electronic ignition. Keeping the car as original as possible, he sandblasted and cleaned up the mechanical brakes and reinstalled them.
“The interior had been totally replaced with mohair upholstery, which is what the car originally had, and I replaced the bonnet and buffed out the chrome and nickel,” Felker says. “The previous owner told me that the car originally had a trunk, but her husband installed a rumble seat. After I bought it, people would step on the fender to get into the rumble seat, and I did not like that. I took the rumble seat out and installed the trunk.”
Felker tries to drive his 1929 Model A Ford at least every weekend and that wherever he goes, the car draws plenty of attention. However, he does his best to avoid driving on the interstate for safety reasons.
“With the Weber carburetor and electronic ignition system, the car will go 50 to 65 miles per hour, but with the mechanical brakes, it takes a while to stop,” Felker explains. “The steering is very sloppy, even though I have redone the gears and it is very tight. There is probably 1/8 of a turn of the steering wheel that is just play. I have been told by other people who have 1928 or 1929 Model As that I am lucky that it is not half a turn of the wheel. No matter where I drive that car, whether it is to shows or just to breakfast or lunch on the weekends, people are always coming up to look at it and ask questions about it.”

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