1927 Ford Model T owner recalls glory days of ownership

Greg Zyla
Q: Hi Greg, as I was reading your article on the history of cars, I noticed you mentioned a 1927 Model A Ford. I owned the 1927 Model T Coupe for nearly 20 years but don’t recall a ’27 Model A, so I got out my large “History of Ford” book and did some checking. The final Model T rolled off the assembly line on May 26, 1927. Like you said, Henry Ford shut down the plant to retool and it was Dec. 2, 1927, when the Model A was offered for sale after a $2-million advertising blitz. At this late date in 1927, it seems feasible that Henry’s new car wouldn’t be a ’27, but a new 1928.
So, knowing how much you like hearing car tales, I thought, like Paul Harvey (famed radio show host) used to say “here’s the rest of the story!”
As a youngster, and still to this day, my favorite car is a 1932 Ford 5-window coupe hot rod. Of course, being married and raising two children, there was no way I could afford a car like that at the time. But one day in 1987, I saw an ad in the newspaper for a 1927 Model T. for $3,852, and I bought it as the price was right. The ’27 T coupe looked similar to the ’32 and I bought it. Being it was too costly to convert to a hot rod and it was in decent condition but in need of some work, restoring it to its original condition was the only option.
I dismantled it completely, not knowing if I could get it back together. However, I was able to purchase a few owners’ manuals that showed how to reassemble it. I used two places to get new parts: Mac’s Auto in Lockport, NY and Snyder’s Antique Auto Parts in Springfield, Ohio. Both places specialized in Model T and Model A parts and I spent quite a bit at both places in the next eight years. (Zyla note: I have left the name of these businesses in the article as both are still active for those who are rebuilding these early Fords).
The engine block was sent to Canada by Mac’s for rehabilitation and fitted with a used crankshaft and a rebuilt magneto (ignition). I found an older gentleman in Marion, a small town 11 miles south that worked on many Model T’s and he rebuilt the engine and transmission.
Using five gallons of Aircraft Paint Strip, my wife and I stripped the complete car, including the doors and frame, down to the bare metal. Under the black paint we discovered green and white colors and red primer, so the car had been restored a couple of times before. The body was in excellent condition except for a little rust by the rear wheel-well.
Although wire wheels had become available on the ’27 T’s, this car had the wood spokes which my wife and I sanded down and painted black.
I found a young man who specialized in restoring Mustangs and hired him to paint the body. With the help of three friends, the four of us could lift the body off the frame and put it in the back on my buddy’s pickup to take to the paint shop. While the work was being done on the body, I primed and painted the frame, axles, springs and drive shaft and reassembled them. With rebuilt engine and transmission completed and painted, it was starting to look like a car again.
By the spring of 1988 I had the body back but not the louvered hood. By the spring of 1994, the guy gave me back the unpainted hood and said he didn’t have time to do it! This was 6 ½ years later, so I had a buddy with a body shop paint it for me. I would have had him paint the complete car but I thought he would take too long. (Little did I know).
With the body now complete and back on the frame, my Model T really starting to take shape. I purchased an interior upholstery kit from Mac’s for $465, almost the price of the car when it was new. I couldn’t find anyone to do this job so took it on myself and to my surprise it came out pretty good.
I found a set of two New York State license plants from 1927 in a flea market for $20.00 and had a retired Kodak sign painter restore them for me for $25.00 and they looked like new;. By July of 1995, the car was finally completed and it had only taken eight years!
When I started this project, I had the thoughts of my wife and me driving it a lot but due to the old style technical brakes, it didn’t stop the car very well and she refused to ride in it. The technical brakes had a fabric band in oil inside the transmission and didn’t seem like a very good braking system to me either. Thankfully, there was an emergency break lever that could be used to stop it quicker if necessary.
I drove the car for 11 years and in 2006, sold it to a man who lived in Florida who was the same age as the car. My biggest regret was selling this car as brakes or not, it was fun driving even though I had a hard time getting used to driving so slow (top speed only 35-mph). Thank you for allowing me to tell my story. Ed Snyder Williamson, NY.
A: Ed, you are correct that the 1928 Model A was indeed built in December of 1927 and thanks much for your great story on your 1927 Model T. We’ve all parted ways with cars that meant much to us at one time or another and that’s a part of the reason the collector car hobby is so healthy these days as we seek to re-purchase similar cars decades later.

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