• Mar 18, 2011
Jonathan Klinger's 1930 Ford Model A Tudor Sedan – Click above for high-res image gallery

Spend enough time shuffling through buff books or clicking around enthusiast blogs and you'll eventually come up against the term "appliance" used with a derogatory bent. For fans of the automobile, few things are more terrifying than the degradation of the car's reputation. Whereas vehicles once required their operators to possess intimate knowledge of an encyclopedia's worth of quirks to get them to function properly, they've now slipped into the same realm of soulless servile technology occupied by washing machines, refrigerators and the Shake Weight.

But there are still a few relics of this long-forgotten Age of Involvement bumping around. Just ask Jonathan Klinger. The guy has taken on a brave quest to pilot a 1930 Ford Model A Tudor Sedan as his daily transportation for a full year. Through snow, wind, rain and heat, Klinger will turn no wheel other than the wire-spoke rollers of his A.

Continue reading 365 Days of A: One man's quest to drive a Ford Model A for entire year...


Photos copyright ©2011 Zach Bowman / AOL

Despite the apparent insanity of relying on an 81-year-old contraption to ferry him over hill and dale, Klinger seems to be a fairly well-adjusted member of society. He spends his days working for the guys who know classic car insurance like few do – Hagerty – and has a stable of similarly vintage cars and trucks in the garage at home in Traverse City, Michigan. We caught up with him toward the tail end of the 2011 Detroit Auto Show in January.

Klinger found the Model A tucked among the harried Cavaliers, Camrys and Caravans of Craigslist. Owned by an elderly couple, the car had received a few updates over the years, but never a full frame-off restoration. The 40-horsepower four-cylinder had seen a few rebuilds in its day, but like the brakes, transmission and rear differential, it remains as stock as the second it rolled off the line in the Motor City.

1930 Ford Model A Tudor sedan
1930 Ford Model A Tudor sedan1930 Ford Model A Tudor sedan

"We obviously didn't want a perfect, freshly restored car," Klinger said over the whine of the gearbox, "But we didn't want an all-original survivor, either."

We rattled down Detroit's famous Woodward Avenue as the first flakes of what would prove to be an impressive winter system began to drift down before meeting their end on the vertical windshield of the A. The road seemed to be one-part slush from a previous snow, three parts pothole and four parts salt. From our vantage point in the passenger seat, we could already begin to see telltale signs of rust taking hold on the twin-hinged hood. We asked if Klinger or Hagerty had heard any gripes from the collector community about putting an antique A through the worst that driving in a Michigan winter has to offer.

"I anticipated some negative backlash, and I haven't," Klinger said. "It's been overwhelming comments like 'It's great to see that thing out in the snow' and 'Those cars were meant to be driven.'"

1930 Ford Model A Tudor sedan
1930 Ford Model A Tudor sedan1930 Ford Model A Tudor sedan1930 Ford Model A Tudor sedan

And drive Klinger has. At this point, he's over a third of the way through his full year behind the tiller of the Ford, and in that time, he's made multiple trips from Traverse City, Michigan to visit family way down in Illinois. All told, that particular trek is a hair over 400 miles – one way. The first crack at making the drive took him two days just out of sheer caution, but he's now whittled the time down to a more manageable 12 hours.

"When they were new, they were advertised to achieve 65 mph," he said as traffic bolted past us from a light, "and I've yet to prove that."

1930 Ford Model A Tudor sedan

Needless to say, he keeps the A at a more comfortable speed and off of the interstates. While the Model A will hit 60 or 62 mph depending on various factors like wind speed and the steepness of the road grade, the Tudor is happier to motor along at around 50 mph. That means plenty of time on the state's meandering two-lane highways and county roads.

"In a modern car on the interstate, every city and every exit looks the same," Klinger said. "When you're out on the secondary state highways, you come up on nice small towns and nice houses. If I were going 50 mph on the interstate, I'd just be hating it."

1930 Ford Model A Tudor sedan grille and headlamp1930 Ford Model A Tudor sedan hood ornament

As we rode back toward Cobo Hall, it became clear how much smaller the world seems from behind the windshield of the Model A. Klinger's machine turns the kind of trip that wouldn't cause us to bat an eye today into an undertaking of mythic proportions and forces a level of attentiveness that's all but exempt from modern driving. In this car, you pay attention to the road surface, weather and the drivers around you, or you end up on the side of the road – or worse.

1930 Ford Model A Tudor sedan rear 3/4

Klinger still has the majority of the year ahead of him, and you can follow his exploits on his website. We'll be keeping an eye on both his and the car's day-to-day triumphs, and we fully expect you to give a wave if you happen to see a dark blue Tudor Sedan whisking along Michigan's northern countryside.



Photos copyright ©2011 Zach Bowman / AOL


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  • 61 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      You can build 1 today and put your own 3 cylinder GEO Metro LX model in the same ca only a plastic roadster.. I am pretty sure the 50 HP engine will get you in that car about 50 mpg all you have to do is make up a clutch disc and bell houseing I think you can even use the GEO Flywheel and entire clutch setup except for the clutch disk that has to be from the old ford itself...It can be made to work...
        • 3 Years Ago
        Why make up a clutch disk? Why fabricate anything for that matter... I researched this a few years ago exploring the possibility of making a superlight (i.e. LoCost like) runabout using the G10 engine.

        It's the same bellhousing and flywheel as a Suzuki G13, which means all you need to do is find a donor RWD Tracker or Samurai and harvest the transmission and driveshaft. Ok, so in this app you'd need to fabricate a driveshaft and a shifter, but in a car as light as a model A, adding ~20HP over stock and having an engine that can rev an extra 3000rpm over the stock one, AND upgrading to five forward speeds... ought to be fun.

        And if you want to be more unique, you could run three little exhaust pipes out three little mufflers. ROFL, could even do one out each rear corner and one out the center, wouldn't that be an aural trip at low idle! Putt-putt-putt...
        • 3 Years Ago
        If only I had a little extra cash on hand I would certainly try to do this even If I had a small 3 r 4 bay shop I could put this together in a summer and be driving a 5 speed Model A Roadster convertable. I could put the double date in he rumble seat and head out tothe Drive Inn Movies... I only thnk that this could be built for maybe 5000.00 or so... That would certainly save me about 35000.00 dollars of the price of a new car....
      • 3 Years Ago
      Sounds like his family lives in the general area I do in Illinois; if that is the case, the drive from Traverse City to Michigan City is quite beautiful and scenic off the Interstate and really highlights the Michigan no one ever sees or hears about.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Comparitively speaking, back in the day the Model A could have been interpreted the same way the writer describes modern cars of today....as an appliance, I mean come on who needs a fancy handle for your shifter and a pedal for your throttle? Just look at all the room inside that boat.....Give this a guy a vintage T with its hand operated throttle, floor pedal shifters, manually operated windshield wipers, etc, and send him on his way, with a live in-car camera feed of course!

      Sarcasm/jokes aside this is an awsome feat.
        • 3 Years Ago
        I was thinking the same thing. I thought that's what the writer was heading towards with that opening.
      charlie
      • 3 Years Ago
      If you are really into Model A Fords, you should really visit the Model A Museum in North Palm Beach, FL in the Publix shopping center, corner of US 1 and Northlake. A collector has financed the restoration of about 50 Model A Fords. There are no two alike and range from sedans to delivery trucks and even a bus. There is no charge to enter and only Model A Fords are displayed. It is worth the trip.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I've always wanted to do something like this but with some crazy supercar like an F40 or a Countach.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I also have a Model A - 1931 - which I share with my father. He drove it as his only car for 5 consecutive years and I as mine for 2. Also, I'm not 70. Nope. This was between 2001 and 2008. When I went to college I took his other car, and he drove the A. When I moved back to my home town 5 years later, I gave him the car back and he gave me the A. Honestly, it is not that bad and it's not a terrible burden. I used to use mine to take my kayak to the river, and I also have a jury-rigged bike rack that attaches to the back. Furthermore, the car remains in near show-room condition and is all original from front to back (with the exception of an alternator instead of a generator so we can run better light bulbs for night driving). Twist a few things here and there every other day and know well how to service brakes and the distributor and you're fine.
      Floyd Sayers
      • 3 Years Ago
      I drive one everyday,[a 29 todor] called a ratrod.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Love those A's. That's a sweet machine. While I'd have a hard time bringing myself to do it, that thing would be sooo much fun with a 1st gen Miata motor/tranny set in it.

      If that's too subtle, there's always that these folks did: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFSGSL3Nrmc

      http://www.mat.fi/n_index.php?nav=gallery_view&gallery=project1929fordmodel-a&g=13

      • 3 Years Ago
      Great story, however I look at that car and can't help thinking about what a great hot rod it would make.
      • 3 Years Ago
      I was looking at the engine and I noticed the distributor has been changed. My father had 3 Model A Fords and the distributor cap look like a football. There was a bare copper strip going from the distributor to the spark plugs. He looks like updated the distributor.
      • 3 Years Ago
      My dad drove one as his daily when he was in high school in Boston. He had to drain the radiator everyday when he got to school and then he brought a bucket to basketball practice and filled it up in the shower to fill the radiator to go home.
      • 3 Years Ago
      when ever my cuz & I rode w/Pop, It was his job to distract while I slowly screwed in the choke rod, which is also the high speed mixture & located at the passenger,s knee.
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