Archive for July, 2012

Radiator Later

Posted: July 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

I put 1.5 hours into getting the radiator back into the car and ALMOST got the job complete.  You all remember the troublesome wiring for the headlights, right?  All that work I did to get the “Henry’s Plunger System” to work was undone when I had to disconnect the headlights and horn to remove the radiator. When I put it all back together, one of the headlights wasn’t working and its conduit connection was heating up.  This likely means that I have wires not making solid contact or some sort of a short.  Regardless, and as I was in a rush for a dinner (that I was late to), I decided to keep the battery disconnected and attempt to hook it all up on Wednesday.  Tomorrow I have a few meetings and a convention I am attending, so no work will likely take place on the car.

The radiator is mounted and with about 10-20 minutes of work the car will again be whole….. excepting the stone guard which I have elected to keep off the car to help maximize airflow.  I really need to test the car and wanted to do this all today (so I could hunt down a backup radiator if needed).  This didn’t happen.

If you ever put a radiator back in a Model A, please note that the wiring is the hardest part.  It is also awkward to tighten the spring mounted radiator screws and this might be best done by two people.  Having two people for the hood reinstall is also a great idea.


Radiator Endoscopy Party

Posted: July 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

At 8AM I was at Natick Radiator Service where I met Rick, the owner.  The business has been in his family for two generations and his son also works at the shop (although he wasn’t there today).  Rick was referred to me via two people in the Minute Man Model A Club and had given a cooling seminar at one of the club meetings.

I knew I was in the right place when we walked into the shop and there were 4 Model A radiators sitting there.  They were all for a later year Model A (and wouldn’t fit in my car) but it was still good to see that this guy “had a clue”.

First thing Dr. Rick did was stick a camera into the radiator to see what was happening.  This was really neat to watch.  You want to check it out.

Then we back flushed the system, filled the radiator with some acid, let it sit for 30 minutes, and flushed it again. A bunch of crud was blown out of the system and the flow test was better…. but still not great.  Rick thought another round of acid with a 1.5 hour wait would help.  We filled the radiator with more acid.  Rick made a quick call to Dickie, who is a local Model A guru whose shop is 1 mile away.  I visited Dickie and his shop… a bunch of Model A guys stopped by during my hour at this shop including Bob40 and Harold L. In total, I saw 3 model As that morning.  Dickie’s shop is FILLED with cars and parts.  There is the 1928 Buick, the old Rolls Royce, the campers, the XXXXXX.  He has it all…..including piles of parts that look like cars could be under them.  Dickie is in the process of rebuilding his Model A and was showing off the freshly painted fenders (they were like mirrors).   Some of his cars, like one of his plows, are camouflaged (check of the photo and see if you can find it). 

Now back to the Radiator Shop.  Rick emptied out the acid, flushed the system again, and let me know that he thought things were flowing MUCH better.  Now, Rick did say that there were still some tubes that looked clogged and that to see if this repair works we would need to “experiment” and put it back in the car.  So that is what I am going to do.  If the repair doesn’t work, I need to consider rodding, recoring or replacing the radiator.  Rick suggested that rodding it might not be a great idea because the old systems often can’t take the process.  This leaves recoring or replacing.  Oh, and Rick gave me a parting T-shirt that matches his.  Again, great people.

This afternoon I may try to put the radiator back in the car.  I’m still exhausted from lack of sleep, but think that doing this TODAY will give me the ability to test the “fix” in time to do something else.  Tuesday and Wednesday I have meetings and a conference to attend and won’t be able to work on the car.  Wish me luck.  I will try to document the re-install.

Posted: July 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

The Model A world is surprisingly large.  It has an international family of devote followers.  Most of the family is in it for love of the hobby.

I received an email from someone today asking about how I knew how to do certain repairs to the car if I had no real automotive experience.  My reflex was to say “”.  I searched back on my last year of work with the car and realized just how much has helped me figure out what I am doing.   I have a bunch of “how to” books and they are very valuable.  I don’t want to take from that; however, the congregation of experts willing to share their thoughts on the Fordbarn website has been absolutely  incredible.  I wanted to make certain I dedicated a post early in my adventures to this site.   Good job Fordbarners.  If you are interested in the Model A world (or other early Fords), I really recommend you visit the Fordbarn Site.



slept most of the day

Posted: July 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

Today I just couldn’t get started.  I was supposed to do a 65 mile bike ride but was exhausted and my body decided it was taking a day off after the last few days (and a great night out yesterday).  Basically, my spirit was willing but my body wasn’t able.  I napped most of the day.   At about 5PM I finally decided I should get to doing some work on the car.

First thing I did was reset the 3-brush generator for daytime driving.  Here is a link to the video.  I then loosened the fan belt which I hope eliminates that SQUEEEEEEEEEEK that scared me into calling AAA the other night. I haven’t heard the noise since I adjusted the belt.  I will be keeping an ear open for this.

Then I decided I should remove the radiator so I could bring it to one of the shops Monday AM.  There were several steps to make this happen. Before I get into them,  I MUST again thank Red Leiner of R&L Model A Shop.  Having worked with him the other day I learned how to remove the hood of the car and gained some great confidence in doing work on the car.  If Red ever gave automotive repair lessons, I would take them.  Here is a bunch of slides from my removing the radiator.  It only took about 1.5 hours (and I have no idea of what I am doing).

You can see me removing the splash apron, removing the hood, removing the wires through the shell to the lights/horn, Rodney Bialkin helping me with removing the shell, and removing the mounts (on springs) between the frame and radiator.  I don’t have a photo of it, but the radiator “walks” back a little and then can be easily lifted.  Don’t forget to disconnect the hoses!  Rodney and Joanne have an 93 Sabb that they have lent me. The radiator is in the trunk.  I was SHOCKED at how easy this was to take apart.  I did a flow test and it seemed OK (not great).  Now I am off to treat Joanne to dinner….. Rodney has been working on his house and needs to get some sleep.   I hope it is easy to put back together.

Saturday is a New Day

Posted: July 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

Yesterday the car let me know where it needs help.  Obviously the cooling system has issues, but also in some loose wires and other areas.  I just told a friend that “all epic adventures need some adversity.”  So, in my journey, the phaeton has an “Achilles cooling system.”  Yesterday, it was a problem.

This morning I was up at 6:30ish and with three hours of sleep (camping out in a tiny tent in the Bialkin back yard) I started to bang out a bunch of little repairs.   There will be no distance driving until I get the radiator rodded out and hopefully fix this cooling issue.   I idled the car for over an hour.  She sounded STRONG/HEALTHY and there was no overheating or leaks from the new headgasket.  I did get the right headlight wiring connected properly (for now — I may hard wire them eventually–this isn’t Henry’s way but eliminates issues), repacked the water pump packing nut, greased a bunch of fittings, flushed the coolant a few times, and was able to replicate the squeeeeeeeeeeeek without the car moving.  The sound didn’t stick around long enough for me to find its source, but I think it was the fan belt being a little to tight OR it could be a problem with the generator’s bearings.  I will loosen the fan belt and can easily repack the generator (or swap it with the spare I brought) if the sound comes back.  Thankfully, the noise is not coming from the axle

Rodney and Joanne’s new place is BEAUTIFUL.  I was towed there at 2:45 in the morning.  They arrived today at 1PM. The car/house combo looks great.  Both need work.  The home is probably 30 to 40 years older than the car.  Rodney and I took a 3 mile ride.  The car performed BEAUTIFULLY.  No surprises and no off noises.  Tomorrow I am going to teach him to drive it.

Just after waking I walked down the road to the local dunkin donuts to recharge my phone.  I there bumped into two classic car guys (and about 20 folks just drooling over my non-pimped ride. One of the car guys  told me of a radiator guy TWO miles away.  I spoke to the owner of that shop (Jon Carroll?) and on Monday morning I will likely stop in to see him.  I haven’t decided if I should bring them the whole car or just the radiator.  They would likely prefer the latter as it makes the job go quicker and the old car would just use up their space.  Keep your fingers crossed.  If they can fix what I have it would be AWESOME.  If not, my failsafe is to buy a used one or a new one. Both options will take a few days for delivery.

A little later Harold Samuels and his wife stopped in to say hello.  Harold and I have been in touch via email and phone for about 2 weeks.  I was originally hoping to surprise him and the local Model A club he is president of by showing up with the car this past Thursday for a club meeting.  Didn’t happen.   Harold has also been incredibly helpful in my venture.  Here is the club’s website.  They have lot of events and I think nearly 200 members.  Check them out if you haven’t.

Hartford to Boston

Posted: July 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

Here are some clips from my attempt to drive from Hartford to Boston.  The thought was that if I drove at night, the cooler air would help make up for the car having what is likely a clogged up radiator.  I knew if I could drive slowly (30-35 MPH) It would take some time but I would get to Boston.  In the interm, the Minute Man Model A Club started circulating an email to its 200 members telling them I was looking for a radiator.  It only took a few hours before I had recevied a bunch of calls/emails.  No radiator appeared, but I learned of two great places outside of Bosdton that could hopefully unclog my radiator if I brought it to them on Monday AM.  So, I could have stuck around Hartford for a long weekend or risked heading to Boston.  I figure that a Boston attempt was worth doing.

With it getting dark on the road, and with my making frequent stops and not driving over 35 MPH, I decided to stick to back roads and took Rt 44.  Here is a few of the videos.

A headlight kept shorting out so I made a quick fix:

My battery was draining – this is fixed be adjusting the three brush powerhouse generator:

SKREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEK — ok, no more driving for the night and I am not doing anymore troubleshooting until the morning, time to call AAA.  The flat bed driver, Chris, was a fun guy too. We talked about his pit bull and rottie, discussed my parents’ dog and sister’s dog, and he told me all about some of the car he was working on.  This guy is a pro.  If you ever need a Model A Ford towed from Route 44 in CT, you should find him.   I also learned that AAA pays for the tolls.  So, it is cheaper to have them drive your car than for you to do it.

With the late night and plan changes, I had the driver take me to Joanne and Rodney’s new house that they didn’t move into yet.  They currently “rent” it and will close on it this week.   They were on vacation.  My phone was dead, it was 2:45, so I set up a tent and got about 2.5 hours of sleep.

Even when all the car’s gremlins start acting up and everything is going wrong, this car is fun and I keep reminding myself that the trip is also about finding these issues and resolving them.

A Day with Red Leiner

Posted: July 14, 2012 in Uncategorized


Friday was actually a really good day… kind of.  If the goal of my trip was to meet people and work on the car then my day with Red at R&L Model A shop is about a good as it gets.  Charles Beckman, President of the area’s model a club, suggested I use Red as my emergency contact in case I had to go to “Plan B” which would require a repair on the road or at a shop.  I am thrilled they gave me his name (and a few others in the area).  Red welcomed me into his shop as if I was family.  Talk about hospitality.  This guy is great.  We spent the day troubleshooting the Phaeton, running errands, and just having a great time.  We got a lot accomplished and I can’t even express what a pleasure it was to work with him.

Here are some photos of what we discovered and got accomplished.  Red worked tirelessly to also help find a radiator in CT…  he now knows the location of about 10 of them…. but only for later models.  With the hopes of finding a radiator in Mass, I decided to head North in the early evening with the work we accomplished done and to slowly make my way to Boston.

I can’t thank Red enough for everything.  If you happen to need work done on your car, his number is 860-666-6158 and he is in West Berlin (near Hartford).