Back in July of 2005 I bought what I thought was a scruffy but mechanically solid 1923 Runabout. The motor had been recently rebuilt by a supposedly reputable rebuilder and I was hopeful that with some cleanup work and a bit of elbow grease I would have a tour car. It was not to be.
The radiator sprung a leak on the way home from picking the car up from the seller and it was downhill from there. Everything was wrong. The frame was bent and the new radiator wouldn't fit, the front spring was missing several leaves and couldn't be tightened. The head gasket leaked and the motor was rusty inside, the block was cracked as was the crank and one rod was bent. The babbit was crumbling apart and had been poorly line bored. Inside the transmission the pins were worn as were some of the bushes.
The steering was a mess, the wheels were dangerously loose and on and on and on. You name it, it had to be replaced, rebuilt or adjusted. Finally the car was ready to go in the summer of 2013. I made a couple of events with the Orange County Model T Ford Club but the car started to get sick and finally just quit running.
I worked on the car for a few months and couldn't get figure out what was wrong, nothing seemed to help so I moved on to other long delayed projects and "My Problem Child" sat collecting dust.
A chance encounter with Larry Blair at the Ticket to the Twenties vintage music event last Fall brought the project back to the fore again. Larry suggested bringing the car up to his shop called The Tin Shed and he would see what he could do. I really had nothing to loose as I was out of ideas and patience.
Larry got it running. Where I was looking for one thing that would explain all maladies, Larry approached it system by system and found a couple of things wrong. He timed it correctly and found some gradoo in the carb I had not found. Those two things really helped get the car back on the road. While he had the car he installed the Ruckstell axle that I had bought more than a year earlier. The car still didn't run right, but it was a lot better.
On the way home it blew the head gasket between the 1 & 2 cylinders. I had AAA tow it back to Larry's place. He found the Z head was not quite flat and had it machined. He reinstalled it with a steel head gasket which I have been keeping very close check on ever since. Now the car ran much better than ever before.
The last major part of this was the hard starting. When I bought the car it had been converted to 12v. I switched it back to 6v and replaced ALL of the wiring EXCEPT the battery to ground strap. I looked that over at the time and thought it looked fine. As it turned out, it was a 12v cable well wrapped so that I thought it to be the larger 6v job. Once that was replaced with a proper 6v ground the car started easily and ran happily.
For the last couple of months I have been driving it around, adjusting things and learning to drive a Model T. The car got better and so did my skills, we were ready to try a Club tour.
Last Saturday the Club went from the traffic circle in Orange out through Carbon Canyon to Corona Airport for lunch. For most it was a short easy tour but for me it would be the longest drive so far.
Saturday morning arrived and as the motor warmed up I went around with the oil can and then loaded the fire extinguisher & tools into the car. The Flivver was excited about going, it quivered with anticipation and gently shook its fenders with pleasure. It acted just like my old dog Red did when it was time for his walk. And they say autos have no soul or personality . . .
The traffic circle in Orange has become very trendy in recent decades and it was a complete zoo this morning. Pedestrians, bicycles, skateboards & jillions of angry buzzing little cars were everywhere! We had difficulty forming up in tour formation and my T driving skills were tested right from the beginning.
Just the same, we did get away and met the north county group in Brea then over Carbon Canyon and on our way. For those not familiar with Carbon Canyon, it is one of the last remants of countryside still left in the Megalopolis that SoCal has become. There is green on both sides of the raod and a stretch of several miles with no stop lights. Sadly, every time I go through this route new homes are being built. Ten years from now it will look like every place else around here and there will be no more reason to go there.
My little Flivver seemed very happy. It chugged and purred and puttered and occasionally roared just as it should. It had no trouble keeping pace and didn't act temperamental in any way. The temps were around 90° and the motor never smelled or acted hot. I can't say the same for myself. That cockpit was hot, hot, hot and my shirt was soon damp.
Lunch at the Corona Airport Restaurant was very nice and we spent some time chatting and looking over the cars. Garrett Green drove my car looking for the pedal stiffness issue (see separate thread) which did not crop up while he was driving it. He pronounced the car to be very peppy.
On the drive home there was one section I call the "corkscrew" that has some very tight steep switchbacks that can be challenging in a T. My little Flivver climbed that section easily in low Ruckstell with plenty of throttle left in reserve. It was EASY!
We did have one car that had issues. The motor stalled part way up and the car needed some attention before it could be coaxed to join us at the top. The rest of the trip home was smooth sailing and our last stop was to the store that used to be called Thrifty Drug for ice cream. After a long hot day that was a real treat!
Now we, the Flivver & I, have a tour under our belt we are ready for more. There are still some mechanical issues to work on and my T driving still needs refinement but we have just passed a big milestone. Mebbee its even time to drop the moniker "My Problem Child." I no longer think of the car that way . . .
Vintage Paul, still smiling
Ain't they a hoot when they work? Congratulations! And kudos to Larry Blair, too!
Yes Kudos to Larry, he really made the Saturday tour possible by being willing to tackle a job I had given up on.
The problems with this car were only high lighted (low lighted?( in this story. They seemed absolutely endless. It was always something else, usually something expensive and time consuming that always cropped up. Some jobs had to be done several times as I learned what needed to be done and how it needed to be done. I would hate to add up the receipts for parts & services on this project.
But on Saturday, I didn't think of any of that. I drove a Flivver largely of my own construction and achieved a goal I have had since watching the old silent comedies on TV back in my childhood. Yeah, I have wanted a Model T that long . . .
Paul, I did one last year that I called "snake bit can of worms" My story would sound just like yours if I was to tell it. It also involved a complete rebuild of an engine, as the original had cracks everywhere. The previous owners had it radically out of time and also it had a small 3 row radiator. They just kept overheating it over and over till the head and block had cracks everywhere. Sounds like the worst is behind you, so now the fun can begin ... have fun and be safe ..
Paul, I am so glad to read that you are still with us! I read and followed most of your past postings and have wondered often.
Thank you Larry B!
The car is looking wonderful. I hope you have many years and enjoyable miles with it.
Drive carefully, and enjoy, W2
I met Larry about 14 years ago when I first got into T's. He has helped me numerous times, and gone out of his way to keep my cars running even after I moved to San Diego! Especially now, when we seem to be losing so many of our good old knowledgeable T mechanics, it's really great to have Larry and the Tin Shed. (Sorry Larry, didn't mean to call you old!)
Like Gilbert said, ain't it a hoot when they work right? Makes you remember why you got into T's. Happy driving.
I feel a sense of gratitude for the help I have received from many folks. Glenn & especially David at Chaffin were a constant sources of solutions to perplexing problems. Many members of the Orange County Model T Ford Club were very helpful over the years. Garrett Green in particular helped with many discussions and by assembling the transmission one evening when I was stuck for some tool or other.
I also owe a debt of gratitude to the many list mates here on this forum that have offered opinions & advise over the years. You have all been a primary source while I was wrestling with any number of knotty problems.
Now I hope to see you all on the road!
Right now I'm feeling so optimistic about this project that I'm thinking of renaming the Flivver in honor of my much missed cat FIREBALL. He was my constant companion while working on the car and was ever amused by the silliness I got up to. As you will see in the picture below, he got far more "seat time" than I ever got or will ever likely get.
Vintage Paul with FIREBALL
Paul, Great story. Glad to learn you were successful in getting all the issues resolved sufficiently to enjoy touring. Best wishes for continued success.
If CA allows antique vanity plates with 8 digits, why not try to make FIREBALL your license plate? It would remember your cat and give other drivers a chuckle.
Right on Paul, well done and a good read !
I travel 8 hours to have Larry Blair work on my T engines and chassis parts. When he get's done with one, whether it's a complete engine rebuild or just a going over tune-up, they run like a clock. Larry Blair is the man. Rollie Wightman in Phoenix
Happy for you Paul, I bought my touring from Orange county about 98 or 99.
Being a former hot rod owner and builder knowledge learned really helped with making a T run well I thought was turn key from a mechanical engineer.
Soon knew why the left front fender was bent. The engine was professionally but poorly balanced as well as many other issues that required jumping through different hoops going from later to older.
A hot rod owner bought a nice touring a mile from home. He was shocked how well it ran and started after some help with carb and coil issues all though he is a very good mechanic. That's the car taken to shows and parades now not his 454 power rod.
Thanks for hanging in there, great to have you along. I always get worried when a new owner faces challenges they weren't expecting. Many don't have the perseverance to see the project through and so they never know what they're missing. Good for you & congratulations.
Thanks guys, I did feel discouraged from time to time as more "crap" happened and the end often seemed to be further off then ever. The project may have been set aside, but it was never forgotten. I have plenty of other vintage car & motorcycle projects to work on so there is always something on the boil while others just simmer.
I was thinking of getting a cover for the spare tire and possibly the new name might be painted on to that. Of course some might think they are following Fireball Roberts - naugh, nobody is THAT dumb . . .
Mike - many thanks for the extra help you lavished on my project when I had so many issues that I couldn't seem to sort them out. Your reading of the E-Timer gave me the clue that finally sorted out the bad ground issue to which so much other mayhem was linked.
That sorted, the car now starts eagerly and runs happily just as a Model T should. Your wonderful E-Timer is a big part of that. THANK YOU!
Other non-stock items include the plastic wood kit for the coil box, 6v regulator, lighted ammeter with the steady hand and other items from Fun Projects, 351 "Cleveland" valves, Chaffin "Driver" cam and AL inlet manifold, Z head, AL pistons & modern seals & sealer. There are probably many more items that I have forgotten right now but the important thing to me is that they all look completely stock to a casual observer. This car would pass the 3 year time traveller test even with the hood up.