Friday night almost started with a “breaking and entering”. Early in the week, a local craftsman promised me that he would cut a piece of scrap ¾-inch plywood for me to 46”x46” and leave it in his lot. I was traveling for work and didn’t get back home until late Friday night. His workshop was closed. At about 11:30PM (it was only 11 degrees out), I was ready to jump the 10+ foot fence and “find the piece”. A survey of the gated lot with a small flashlight through the fence didn’t show proof that the piece of wood was there, so the fence wasn’t jumped. I asked a few neighbors if they happened to have some plywood. I am certain that they were confused by the late night request for plywood. As such, “Plan B” was enacted. Don’t tell my landlord, but the wooden hatch to the crawlspace in the basement fit nicely in the back of Gary Holmgren’s Honda Odyssey and served as a decent enough platform to keep the model A engine “safely off the carpet” while helping distribute the engine’s weight. Gary Holmgren, by the way, is a friend for 25 years that volunteered his mini-van and time to help.

Loading a Model A engine into a mini-van is actually not as straight forward as one would think. I don’t know if we should have taken the initial advice I received which was “Keep it simple. Put an old tire down in trunk, put the engine on the tire, drive where you are going”. Our plan was to use the perfectly cut plywood as a base, hoist the engine into the car and place it on the previously constructed stand, and tie everything down.  The hoist did make it into the car (barely) and will a little angling the stand was under the engine and the engine was in place.  When we first test drove around the block the engine tilted forward and dented the plywood….. we should have anchored the stand on the base (as Gary suggested and I agreed) but the screw driver needed to be charged and “what the hell, let’s try anyway”. Let’s just say that this was a process that ended just before 1AM. Having the engine strapped to the stand and the stand anchored is the right way to go.  Having the wood base also gives you a surface that makes it easier to slide the engine in/out of the car. If you are not using the tire method and able to toss around engines like they were bowling balls, the mount/base method is the way to go.  A cut sheet for the mount was posted in a prior post.



Valentine’s Day started at 7:00 AM. Wake. Coffee. Finish packing. Anchored the stand into the wood base. We depart the townhouse in Nyack at 8:15/8:30 when we saw the PERFECTLY cut piece of wood in the enclosed shop lot…. which was still locked up. If I saw it last night, I would have climbed the fence.  We waved to it and kept moving.  The roads were EMPTY.  We took the major roads to avoid sharp turns and hills.

At 12:00 noon we arrived at J and M Machine Shop. John and Mike Gulbankian were waiting for us and ready to go.  Their friend Jeff was also there. Unloading the Model A engine from Gary’s mini-van was easy. John pushed a table to the back of the car, we slid the engine stand out of the car onto the table. John rolled the table to the center of the room and then John and his brother go to action.

More to come.,,,,,,

housing outThe bell house is now removed from the Phaeton.  The bell house (or “bell housing”)covers where the engine meets the transmission.  (I’ll eventually post a few images of it in the blog, but want to take them in the daylight).  For lack of a better description, it is a dark and hidden place filled with grease and grit and shaped a little like a large bell.  It is a place that (at least in my car) has likely not seen light of day in at least 50 years.  Let’s talk about its removal.

I removed the engine the other month and was told by the rebuilder to remove the bell housing and bring it up along with the engine so that the rebuilder could clean it up, repaint it, fix any cracks (there shouldn’t be any), and change pedal shafts and bushings if needed.  One would imagine that its removal would be a 20-30 minute exercise.  It has taken me months… mostly because I have no clue about what I am doing.

  • First, I removed the four bolts inside the bell housing and tried to pull off the housing. These took some effort to loosen.  With them loose, the housing moved a little, but not so much. I put the bolts back to snug and figured that I must be missing something.
  • Second, I removed the clevis pins for the brakes and clutch. These pins connect the pedals to the actual brakes and elsewhere in the car. I also disconnected the emergency brake pins.
  • Third, I posted on that I was having trouble and was told to secure the transmission, remove the spring to the cutout baring and disconnect the wishbone — I had no idea what any of this meant. Let me define some of this so non-car folks can follow.  What Is a Throwout Bearing? thumbnailThe throw out bearing is pushed forward when you step on the clutch pedal.  It is basically a ring that sits on a shaft with a gear on it.  It is what disengages the engine from the transmission when you are taking the car out of gear (manually shifting it).  When you take your foot off of the clutch pedal, the throw-out bearing is pulled back by the spring.  The wishbone is what connects the front wheels/steering to the bottom of the transmission. It think this part of the suspension is designed to be flexible and move so that the front wheels can turn without the engine moving away from the transmission.  It looks a lot like a wishbone from a chicken and this is where it received its name.
  • Forth, I looked up the throw out bearing spring disconnected first try (easy enough). When I tried to pull the throw out bearing off the transmission input shaft, it wouldn’t budge.  I move the clutch pedal and saw that the bearing did travel like it should …. It just didn’t “slip off” like I was told it would.  I PULLED LIKE YOU WOULDN’T BELIEVE.    I pushed.  I repeated several times with little to show.  I then decided to walk away.  I tried again.  No real motion.  I then decided to douse the whole thing with penetrating oil that would eat away at the old grease and grime.  20 minutes later I came back and the throw out bearing slid off with a little persuasion.  That ring around the gear that you see below is the throwout bearing.  The shaft with the gearing at the end is the transmission input shaft.throwout bearing
  • Fifth, I got some coffee, fielded a few calls, and walked the dog (who is feeling much better after having the vet address her two broken toenails (she broke them right off)).


  • Sixth, I decided to prop up the transmission with some of the tie downs I purchased as well as a 2×4. This is a neat trick.  Instead of having to place a jack under the car, I have a piece of wood (33” cut) sitting across the frame in front of the driver’s seat.  I then used the tie downs to hang the transmission.  I also placed a jack under the transmission to give it a little lift.  My concern here is to not allow the transmission to fall.  I also used some wood to prop up the wishbones (to avoid placing pressure on their perches on the front axle).  This wasn’t done with the hanging trick, but I will likely rig up a top support for this as well. The idea of the top supports is to enable me to move the car while these parts are “loose”.  transmission holder
  • Seventh, I climbed under the car and started fighting with the stubborn castle nuts that kept the wishbone in place. The car was moving while I did this so I checked the wedges I have under the wheels and the ropes around the transmission.  I didn’t need a few hundred pounds falling on me or a car rolling over me.  All was good.  I decided to hit these nuts with the penetrating oil.  It made a huge difference.   They came off.
  • I lifted and pulled the housing and with a little wiggle…. TADA!!!!!!!

tranny remains

So there you go.  The bell housing is out.  In retrospect, I probably should have removed the whole transmission in one piece and then the bell housing.  I say this because I am being strongly encouraged to do work on the transmission while the engine is out of the car.

Here is a video I shot during the process

………………………as well as a photo of some of the parts I found inside the bell housing.found parts

Got it Up and Out!

Posted: December 31, 2014 in Uncategorized

Engine on Stand

THE ENGINE IS OUT!  Yes, it is OUT.  The car and engine are now separated.  This is in a large part due to Len Spinelli who again sacrificed a day to help me out. Len was just appointed President of the NJRA’s (our local club).  It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

Let’s talk about the process…. not the presidential appointment process but the engine removal process.  As you know from the last post, I thought I lined everything up excepting the removing of the engine mount bolts (front and back) and the connection between the flywheel and the engine.  I didn’t do some other things (who would have known to do them) and our planned 2 hour project took about 4 hours.  Just to put this in perspective, a pro can do the whole thing including prep in a couple of hours. DO NOT USE THIS POST AS THE “HOW TO GUIDE”…. as I try to note regularly, I don’t have a great clue about how to do these things and am learning as I go.

Let’s talk about where things went awry.

  • The rear engine mounts are in a location/shape that didn’t allow the ratchet set to be utilized to remove the bolts. The safety wires there were awkward to reach. We were turning some of these about ¼ turn and then needing to re-position the wrench.
  • The jack that I used to raise the transmission did not have enough height to raise it enough once we started to remove the engine. We were afraid to lower the transmission once we got the engine removal started.  We spent 2+ hours futzing with jacks, stands, and wood blocks and finally got it resolved.   I blame lack of coffee. Note to others: make certain your jack can give you the lift you need OR start with the jack on a block or two so you have the needed lift.
  • One of the two bolts by the wishbone universal joint on the bottom of the housing wasn’t allowing the right ratchet OR wrench to go onto it. We needed to use a thinner wrench so it didn’t have to clear the not-so perfect head.

  • That engine didn’t want to leave the car. It was “stuck”.  We had to continually rock/shake the engine from the transmission.
  • The garage door (when open) is just a little too low to lift the engine all the way up IF you are using the chain we used at the length we used. Note to self: use a shorter chain

Oh, we went to video things….. the camera ran out of memory.  We did get a few things documented… but most of this was after the fact.

What was the most interesting part of the process?  Finding loose pieces in the bottom of the flywheel housing.

This doesn’t mean I am done.  The rebuilder has suggested that I remove the bellhousing (where the pedals are connected) to bring that up for a rebuild AND it has been strongly recommended by many that I take this time to take apart and rebuild the transmission (even though it isn’t giving me trouble).  I’m in the process of figuring out what will work and what won’t.  I don’t want the engine rebuild to become a bolt-by-bolt-entire-car-rebuild.

It’s official.  I can no longer claim to not be a “car guy”.  I own an engine hoist!  You can’t be “not a car guy” and own an engine hoist.  For a few years I have known that the engine in my Phaeton was past due for a rebuild.  I’ve been putting it off.  My last attempt at an “old car road trip” let me know that it was time.  I bought a Hoist.

Let’s talk hoists.  I purchased a Harbor Freight 1 ton foldable hoist (assembly required) from Harbor Freight via phone after doing some quick research and speaking with a few folks who have used this exact hoist to remove engines from their Model As.  I was told this hoist could do the job and had the clearance needed.  With shipping and tax (after asking if there were any coupons or deals for the hoist and being told “yes”) it cost $115 delivered to my door.  It took about an hour or two to assemble.  I still need to tighten things up before use.

Engine Hoist Assembled

Why did I buy the hoist instead of just renting one for the days I need it? It was cheaper to buy then to rent and if I rented it I would have no way to transport it between the rental place and my garage.  I figured that even if the rent vs. own analysis resulted in a break even or a slight loss, I now have a hoist I can lend out to club members if they ever need it.  I also don’t have to worry about returning it in a timely manner or doing work at anyone’s pace but my own. << it is now Dec 31st when I am posting this and I still have the engine on a stand attached to the hoist, so I guess buying proved to be a great call. >>.

There are other things I need to remove the engine safely.  First I need some chain and the eyelets.  These I am borrowing from a club member that lives about 10 miles away.  I’ll return them in a timely manner.  Then I need a place to put the engine once it is out of the car.  Some people just put it on the garage floor or on some old cardboard.  I found plans for a wood stand via and have the good fortune of having a friend who owns a carpentry shop down the block.  It cost me a few cups of coffee as payment, but I probably have the best built wooden engine stand in the country and it too will be made available to the local model A club.  Here are some photos as well as a cut-list for the stand.

<Engine Stand

OK, I need to scan this, but I can't find the original.... when I find it I will scan it.

OK, I need to scan this, but I can’t find the original…. when I find it I will scan it.

I’ve also decided to prep the car for the engine removal.  If you have followed my blog you know that I am regularly removing all sorts of things from the car.  This experience was tremendously helpful.  It took me a couple of hours and BAM!!!!


I should note that I did have to purchase shelving (ordered from Walmart online and delivered for $75 with assembly required) so I could put the parts somewhere.  It was challenging to keep myself from taking things apart PRIOR to having a place to put them.  So that I don’t completely mess things up on reassembly, I did bag up parts and have tried to label everything.

I’m also now faced with a few challenges.  The cost to rebuild an engine is considerable.  You’ll hear “estimates” of $3,000 to $7,000 from various vendors but no one knows for certain until they take everything apart and can see what needs to be done and what needs to be stitched/replaced/redone/etc.  The quotes also aren’t always consistent in what is included.  My engine has some typical cracks and such and I suspect will fall in the middle of this range.  To some degree you just have to trust that your rebuilder is honest.

People have been asking me who I will use for the rebuild.  I wish I could use several vendors.  Here is a list of questions (provided by a rebuilder) that one might want to ask a rebuilder before deciding on who to select.  I see this as a way of figuring out if the rebuilder is qualified.

  1. Do you do the work in house and if not who does?
  2. how do you clean the engine and parts?
  3.  do you magnaflux block and parts,pressure test?
  4. what babbitt do you use?
  5. what machine work gets done on the block and why?
  6. do you replace the valve seats and how many?
  7. what parts of the block do you remachine?
  8. do you balance the engine?
  9. what parts are provided in your engine rebuild?
  10. do you resurface the flywheel? there is a exact mesurement of steps.
  11. do you regrind the cam and what grinds do you offer?
  12. do you rebuild the oil pump?
  13. do you replace all the hardware in the engine studs,bolts ,nuts?
  14. do you repaint the engine is it factory color?
  15. do you install adjustable lifters?
  16. what makes you different than the others?
  17. do you have references you could provide?
  18. how long does it take you to finish the engine?
  19. If the block,flywheel housing ,head is cracked how do you repair?
  20. what is the warranty?

How did I decide on whom to use and who am I using?  Al Clarke at Go Devil Garage is highly referenced and was very helpful when I was in Albany. He knows what he is doing and Is highly qualified.  John Gulbankian from J&M Machine in central Mass is also highly referenced.  I have been speaking with him regularly for over 2.5 years whenever I had engine questions.  He too knows what he is doing and is highly qualified.  I’ve been to both of their shops and know people who have used each of them with VERY GOOD RESULTS.   Both have my respect, gratitude, and thanks for all their help.  If I had two engines, each would get one to work on.  I have one engine.  While I am bringing the engine to John (as was my plan prior to having met Al), I want it on the record that Al Clarke seemed like a true stand-up guy and someone I would trust with the rebuild.  Al, if you spin through this way (or on my next road trip), I’d love to buy you a beer.

My next post should include the engine being hoisted.  Stay tuned.

 “56789-Tow”… NO! I meant “Ten”….. Dang

ROAD TRIP!  The initial plan was to take a few days off between work assignments (I’m overworked).  I was to drive to see my brother in Burlington VT and check out the foliage.  I love VT and making the beautiful drive north in the peak of fall foliage with the Model A is something I’ve been planning since I purchased the car in 2011.  With the car “tweaked”, oil changed, parts lubed, and backup gear packed, I dropped my sad puppy off at my folk’s place (see photo) and set off on my drive.

Sad Puppy Photo

Sad Puppy Photo

As I left Nyack, I noted that the odometer was reading “56700”.  This means that the trip would yield “56789” in route to Albany where I was planning to go apple picking with a friend (“MD”) of 28 years.  Oh, and I was 1.5 hours behind schedule.   The phaeton had a bit of a shimmy at 46 to 48 mph and typical squeaks/creeks; however, at 50 MPH the Phaeton drove “silky smooth” along the newly repaved parts of I-87.  After about 2 hours of non-stop driving I found myself ready to pick up a coffee at the Malden rest stop near Saugerties.  As I pulled into the rest stop I was welcomed by several fans of the car who told me that they passed me driving and loved the car.  One asked how I liked the car and would I sell it to him, jokingly I told him I needed to check for oil under the car before I could answer and ducked under the car….DANG—-THERE IS OIL DRIPPING!  This is not the first time I’ve had oil leaks and won’t be the last.  As they say, if your Model A isn’t leaking oil, you need to add oil.

A look under the hood yielded the following video.

Ok, the leak seems to be by the headgasket in a spot where there isn’t really reason for there to be a leak and in an area where one would NOT expect to see oil.  This means oil was traveling along the gasket.  With this in mind, I tried to tighten the headnuts while at the rest stop.  This is EASY to do (and should be done with a torque wrench which I didn’t have on the ride).  To do this, you need to disconnect the distributor and the “timing retard/advance” lever and just tighten the head bolts carefully in a specific sequence.  So, I did just this, put the distributor back in place, and got back on the road.

…. on the road ½ a mile and got to snap a beautiful odometer reading of “56789”.  Not bad for a car that barely functioned when I got it.


Another 1.5 miles later I was on the side of the road with gas pouring out of the carburetor and no power to climb hills.  So much for an easy roadtrip.  After taking few deep breaths I noticed that I didn’t reconnect the timing retard/advance lever and therefor the car was sparking at the wrong time resulting in poor combustion (my flooding everything with gas) and all the power problems. I was still leaking a little oil.  This is when I decided to change my plans for the trip.

I made a quick call to Marv, the president of the Adirondack As who suggested I reach out to Al Clarke of Go Devil Garage (518-477-6725) who is one of the “go to” guys for Model A engines.  Al was traveling but told me that he would be in his shop on Monday after 3:30/4:00.  He let me know I could tow the car there if needed and would do whatever he could to help.  I told him I would drive there Monday with coffee and donuts.  I figured changing a headgasket with Al would be a fun change to the trip and that I would drive home after via western Mass.  I love the Berkshires (it is similar to VT) and getting to work with Al would be a blast.

Ok, back on the road.  I met up with my friend MD in Delmar a couple of hours late.  Instead of going apple picking, MD fed me homemade chicken soup, helped me retorque the engine with the proper tools (Question: What in the world was MD doing with a torque wrench?  Answer: she is just impressive that way), and then MD and I took the car for laps around town with her mother-in-law, cousins, and kids taking turns joining in and waiving at pedestrians.  As the sun was setting I went to a local hotel to hunker down for the night and plan for the today.  Sidenote— don’t bother ordering Chinese Food for dinner in Albany, it isn’t worth it.   I woke late, went to Walmart to pick up some oil and stationed myself at a starbucks about 8 miles from Go Devil Garage (which is where I wrote this and the next part of the post). With time on my hands, it is time to postulate what’s happening.


Because there is no direct path that should cause oil to leak from the head gasket, I have more than one problem and the combination of problems is causing the leak.


What do we know?

  • The car burns a lot of oil… a LOT of oil.
  • The headgasket that came with the car leaked like a sieve and needed to be replaced.
  • When Red Leitner and I changed the original gasket a few years ago we saw lots of oil in two of the four combustion chambers and a little oil in the others. We did not magniflux parts of the car or test the head/block for cracks.  We assumed that oil was primarily entering the chamber because of old/worn rings as well as a very visible damaged/burnt valve.  Red and I also saw rust on one of the bolts and had issues removing the distributor (where there was rust).  The new gasket did have a little seepage after it was installed.
  • Since I purchased the car, if I removed the oil fill cap on the car I see exhaust puff and if I removed a spark plug I see carbon and oil.
  • I overheated the car a few times in 2013 before replacing the radiator. Overheating can adversely impact a head gasket’s ability to make a seal (and even warp a head).
  • The car drives very smoothly at 50MP.
  • There are no loud clanks or bangs when I drive.



The engine is not in bad shape.  Oil is getting in the combustion chamber via the old rings/bad valve (and valve seat) and is then being forced out of the engine along weak spots in the failing head gasket.  Changing the gasket will “fix” the problem until I have the chance to have the engine rebuilt (this winter?).


Keeping in mind that I am no expert in Model As, I’ll let Al Clarke provide guidance and see what is happening.  As an engine rebuilder, Al is the guy to help.


I’m now writing from my place in Nyack.


At 4:00 Al met me at his garage (photo below) about 30 miles outside of Albany in East Schodack, NY.  His shop is packed with KR Wilson tools and it is evident by the projects he is working on that he is a guy “in the know” and with considerable experience.  He is also highly referenced.

56789 IMG_4141IMG_4142

Al listened to the engine and told me it sounded good but it looked like I needed the head gasket replaced. He also gave me the heads up that that it sounded like one of the babbets was starting to go and might need to be shimmed or re-done in the not too distant future.  Al is one of the few guys left that that can actually “pour a babbet” correctly.  With this we rolled the car into his shop and we started to remove the head from the engine with the hopes that we could change the gasket and get me on the road.




Removing the head revealed that the gasket was in fact failing in multiple locations. I can’t blame the gasket.  There was a ton of carbon buildup and lots of oil in the chambers.  You could see Al had some concerns.

Al took out a straight edge and showed me that the head was no longer flat.  This was probably why the original gasket failed and I likely didn’t improve the situation when I overheated the car.  He and I also magnafluxed the common areas where engine blocks get cracks — like by broken valves.  Yup… there was a little crack there (that thankfully didn’t appear deep).  Al also noted that the cylinders and pistons looked to be original and engine didn’t show obvious signs of ever being rebuilt.

IMG_4152 IMG_4154

Al then presented me with several options:

  • We continue change the head gasket and hope all is well enough to get me home.
  • We take time to level the head and then return tomorrow to change the gasket and put the fixed head back on and hope it gets me home.
  • We take a refinished head from his shop and put the gasket on tonight and hope it gets me home.
  • We leave the engine in his shop, find a place to store the car, and Al can take the winter to “do it right”.

I am all about “doing it right” when repairing this car… and let me again state that Al is highly referenced.  Just replacing the gasket would be asking for problems (and require that I stop several times in route home to re-torque the headnuts which would be no big deal if I had a torque wrench and a an offset attachment for the distributor).  The repair could last 1,000 miles or just 10 miles and wouldn’t fix the other problems.  Leveling the current head would require more time and would be “done again” when I have the engine rebuilt.  I couldn’t see purchasing a new head only when I was planning to have the engine rebuilt this winter.  Additionally, driving with the engine cracks COULD cause the cracks to open up more.  Then again, if the engine was performing as well as it was, the cracks were probably not bad and probably weren’t getting worse.  It is not uncommon for these cars to have cracks and be driven for years upon years.   Regardless, the engine still needs to be rebuilt.  Al was tremendously patient with my decision making process and started placing calls to some of his friends to get an idea of what storage would be available and what it would cost if I left the car — most of the Model A guys in the area were packing or already left for a big car show in Hersey PA, so Al had a challenging time getting in touch with people.   Al seems to be a “do it right” and “do right by you” kind of guy.  I could tell he really wasn’t comfortable with any patchwork repair leaving his shop.  I like this characteristic.

I hemmed/hawed over the options and hit a decision making wall.  While it could have been optimal for Al to have spearheaded the removal of the engine, its restoration, and its re-installation; I just couldn’t see myself leaving the car upstate without proper storage plans and without my being able to be “hands on” with the repair.  While the engine is out of the car, there is a lot of “other work” I can/should do to parts of the car that are not normally accessible with the engine in the car.  I also needed to flush the crud that was now permeating my partially empty coolant systems (the new radiator) and do other things before the car could be properly stored and to prevent clogging of the new radiator.   If the car was left upstate, this may have sat undone.

The option not listed above then came to mind:

  • AAA offers flatbed towing and my membership gives me the first 100 miles free.

The cost for tow overage miles to get back to Nyack (29 miles of overage) was about the same I would pay for a night in an Albany area hotel AND had if I took the AAA option I had the added benefit of getting myself and the car to my garage in Nyack.  As there was no way our timing (it was getting late) would enable us to get the engine removed tonight, I decided to go home with the car and engine.  Tomorrow will be the last day of this well-earned “vacation” and I will likely spend it figuring out the next steps.


Stay tuned….. more to follow as I figure out how to remove and ship an engine.



Aside  —  Posted: October 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

“The mansion will be fitted with late-20s ephemera, to McDermott & McGough’s infamously exacting standards. At the entrance, a 1929 Ford Phaeton—the latest model, as it were—will greet guests, and a paper moon hand-painted by McGough will replace the humdrum step-and-repeat red carpet.” – by Rachel Tashjian, Vanity Fair (5/15/14)

“Looking down Central Park on East 91st Street last evening, something did not belong: a parked car in front of the James Burden Mansion–one that was decidedly not from our time. It was a 1929 Ford Phaeton, with tall, skinny tires and a black steel body. A glance around saw gaggles of women in fringed and dropped-waist dresses, fur stoles, and dripping in diamonds teetering towards the mansion’s entrance.” – Interview Magazine (5/20/14)


At the evening's destination

At the evening’s destination

It has been too long since my last post, but after showing “the coolest video ever”, I needed something big enough to at least come close to the awesomeness of the prior post. Driving my car through Manhattan and having it mentioned in Vanity Fair, Style, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and be part of The Manhattan artist and socialite scene does just this.

Here is the background. I was asked if my car could be used a Museum of Arts and Design event where young patrons (mostly in their 20s to 40s) were honoring Peter McGough and David McDermot (two extremely respected visual artists with a passion for the past) and raising funds for the museum’s hand on art education programs. Of course I said yes.

So, I hired the neighbor’s son Bryan to wash/wax the Phaeton. I decided that such a trip into The City merited a ½ day of work and then some time touring…. above is a video of the car in Times Square, below is Columbus Circle.  In retrospect, perhaps I probably should have added the Flatiron Triangle to get another shape in the mix.

After tooling around Manhattan for an hour and stopping by my Manhattan apartment to “say hello” and pick up my mail, I arrived at the Mansion and waited for the event to commence..

Most people attended the event dressed in late 1920s attire. Dandy Wellington and his notable Jazz quintet, provided entertainment. The transformation of the James Burden Mansion into a 1920’s ball venue was “spot on”. It wouldn’t surprise me if the event itself influences fashion trends next season. On a side note, I will admit I was a little taken by one of the organizers, Bettina Prentice, who was “WOW-Stunning” in her 20s outfit. I also want to thank Laura Kimsey (also looking stunning and with curves as elegant as those of the Phaeton) for inviting me to the band’s after-party and apologize to her for not offering to take her (and some of her friends) for a ride around the block at the end of the event. Perhaps another time. Another special thanks needs to be extended to J Uwandi, (great job J) who diligently stood guard over the car and my friend Emily B who broke from her busy working evening to catch up over a well overdue dinner. Apparently, the event is/was a big deal in the NY art and social crowds. I had no idea. As it was such an important event, the car appeared (or receive mention) in a collection of papers/mags/sites.

Hanging With Em B

Here is a series of links to articles about the event as well as a collection of photos…. Sorry for making you link to the images, but I wanted to “respect the links” of these publications and their photographers (if any of them would like to volunteer some images, let me know).

Vanity Fair


Interview Magazine


Harper’s Bazaar

Photos by Billy Farrell:

Photos by Patrick McMullan:

So the articles and photos agree that my Phaeton has got great curves and does very well when taken out and shown off, but let’s call it was it is…. my Phaeton is not just a socialite, artistic Diva. She is a bit of a tomboy. The grit of the city was not a problem. We took on potholes, cabbies, parking, rain on the return trip and everything the streets of Manhattan had to offer. We probably drove a good 75 miles in total making it one of my shortest roadtrips, but it was probably also the one with the most exposure. I am curious if any of the hundreds of photos taken of the car by strangers will make their way to my attention. If you see one, let me know.

Ok, Model A ford people that follow this blog, let’s talk  Model A mechanics. The headgasket is seeping and I am still getting some oil in my coolant (but no coolant seems to be getting in the oil). I’ll be retourquing the head again soon – I’ve got the sequence sheet and perhaps this is a good topic for a post. The car also continues to burn oil (it did the day I bought it) and required the better part of a quart of oil be added for my return trip. I’m taking all of this as a sign that the engine is ready to be redone/refreshed/rebuilt. On the NYC trip itself, the engine stayed cool, the lights stayed on, and the car drove beautifully. I still want to tighten the steering which, as the Ithaca guys suggested last summer, can be done by adding shims at the bottom of the steering column. Perhaps that will be my next “big repair”. The brakes can also use some tightening/tuning, but continue to be “just fine”. As it was night when I left the city, I also adjusted the Powerhouse 3-brush to yield enough output to keep those headlights bright for the nighttime drive home. My headlights have a big draw, so the generator is set to give some real power right now. I’ll be needing to lower the setting before I mistakenly drive with the lights off and fry the entire system… which reminds me that I also should install the new wiring harness this year.

Cool Runnings

Posted: August 28, 2013 in Uncategorized

For those of you following my journey, you know I spend a lot of time pouring water into my old and original radiator. My car, like most of us, gets dehydrated after a good run. On the Ithaca trip, I figured out that the water wasn’t running through my clogged radiator quick enough so every time I brought the car above 45 miles an hour, the top of the radiator would become overfilled and would lose coolant through an overflow tube. Basically, the faster I drove the more water went into the radiator and had no where to go but out the overflow —- because too many tubes were clogged. The result was chronic dehydration and overheating. My attempts to “unclog” the original radiator without cracking it open didn’t work. Most radiator shops don’t want to think about “rodding out” the old radiator and I won’t attempt this on my own — there is an art to taking apart and putting together a radiator. Before showing you anything else, I have to show you this video.

Coolest Video Ever!!!!1

Ok, now I should show you a couple of clips of me removing the old radiator.

remove the radiator shell

remove the radiator

Ok, the radiator is out of the car. Who do you call when you need a radiator? … Gery Bergblower of Bergs Radiator.

While not historically correct, Bergs Radiators are considered to be the finest radiator available for a 1929 Model A and Gery has designed a new “Heavy Duty Touring” radiator that has been receiving many kudos. It is also the most expensive purchase I have made for the car to date. I spoke with Gery a few times in the past about my existing radiator and he was helpful in making some practical suggestions. Gery has the reputation of being a “good guy” and a craftsman that does excellent work. After asking him many questions and sending him a nice big check, he shipped me a heavy duty touring radiator designed to be much more efficient than my old radiator ever was (even when it worked properly 80+ years ago). The new radiator arrived and installed without any real incident — although the tabs to connect the shell to the radiator didn’t quite line up without some forcing. This was expected and Gery included a note within the shipping materials suggesting how to work around this. I also had to shave down the gasket within the car’s thermo-quail so I could turn the quail enough to both face forward and hold TIGHT (the quail’s butt was facing forward). As the shell has some flex to it and as the Quail isn’t an “original”, I really didn’t have issue with either of these things.

New Radiator Being Installed

New Radiator Being Installed

Unfortunately, there was a problem, albeit a cosmetic one. The paint on the tube that is connected to the top tank was pitted. While my car is far from a show car and this part is only visible if I open the hood of the car, I let Gery know that it was very disappointing to have this pitting on a new and expensive product. As far as I am concerned, the paint should have been quality controlled and all pitting addressed in his shop. To his credit, Gery welcomed me to send the radiator back (they have a 100% guarantee), noted that this pitting was typical, and suggested how I could choose to fill the pits myself with epoxy and use black satin rustoleum to cover it up. I am going to “fix it” myself because I don’t want to have to wait for a replacement to arrive but remain VERY disappointed that what would have been a quick fix for him now become a ½ day project for me (sand, epoxy, let dry, sand, prime, let dry, paint, let dry).



Let’s get back to the good stuff…..WOW!!!!! The car runs much cooler. I took her out for 30 minutes and pushed her on some hills and “at speed” (50 MPH) for a little. I lost no coolant and the thermo-quail showed no heat. This is the first time since I purchased the car that I could drive and not see the quail react or hear the coolant draining from the overflow tube. This was why I purchased the radiator from Bergs!!!! Overall, I am a fan of the Berg radiator. While I am being critical of the cosmetic issue, the radiator seems solid and works great. I probably should have installed one over a year ago and avoided all the cooling problems I’ve been having. I still want to rod-out my old radiator and have the “original”, but now can do so whenever I get around to it and still have the car on the road. I can also use it as a back up to help out other owners if they are in a bind.

With the new Bergs Radiator in place, I am ready for some cool runnings.

Posted: June 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

IMG_2986Last Saturday (June 30), work had me travelling. An early departure time from Boston was required if I was to make it to the Kennebunk area of Maine for my business and back in time to work on a report I was writing for a client. While heading to the Kennebunk area, I had the pleasure of stumbling upon the Wells Antique Auto Museum – just driving by it with no time to think about stopping in. My business in the area finished early, so I decided to turn back and check the museum out prior leaving town. The Museum looked closed and the parking lot was empty when I arrived. I decided to peek through the windows and see what was inside – I couldn’t see much. Sure enough, someone was inside and came to the door. “We will be opening up in 15 minutes, this is the first day we are open [this year]”. I figured that this was the right time to go grab some coffee.

I returned a few minutes later to find the place had gained about a half dozen visitors. I decided to head in and check the place out and ask if they happen to have a spare three-brush powerhouse generator they would part with (you never know). They didn’t. I spent about 20 minutes around the car collection fighting my caffeinated brain’s consistent reminders of the 10+ hours of work I needed to do before Monday. Even with this distraction, I really liked the 1920 Templar Touring Car.

My time to look at the cars was limited (that whole working weekend thing) but as I get talkative once I am caffeinated (COFFEEE GOOOD!!!), I got talking to the two gentlemen running the museum (one named Len Parker and the other whose name currently eludes me. Regardless, I was told that the museum will be open this year only for the weekends of June 22/23, July 20/21 and August 17/18. They also told me that the museum’s collection was shrinking. By this time, there were a couple of dozen people in the museum. All had smiling faces. Some were drooling dangerously close to a beautiful 1924 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. Then a few folks walk in wearing Seal Cove Auto Museum shirts.

Let’s go back two years to the week after I purchased my Phaeton. At that time I found myself in Bar Harbor with time to explore. Seal Cove Auto Museum was one of the highlights from that trip – not to take away from cycling up Cadillac Mountain a few times and all the natural beauty of Acadia National Park. Seal Cove has “Tinkering Tuesdays” where crews of car guys focus their expertise on specific vehicles and fix/tune/maintain the cars. It was great. I had no car experience and a bunch of experts allowed me to help play with an old 1914 Ford that they were getting running. Back then, Seal Cove was looking for an executive director (or something like that) and I was not yet gainfully self-employed. I was tempted to apply but my “plans for the future” at that time wouldn’t accommodate a move to Maine.IMG_2984

Ok, back to last Saturday. The folks that walked in included David White and Barbara Fox who sit on the Board of Directors of Seal Cover Auto Museum. I had to say hello to them as well (COFFEE STILL GOOOD!!!) and talk cars/museums. After we spoke, the crowd had again more than doubled. Wells Antique Auto Museum was filling up… and exponentially.

By the time I made it into the parking lot to leave the crowed doubled YET AGAIN. The parking lot itself became a car museum. There were nearly 12 classics out in the lot including two cars being given the “once over” by even more guest. My coffee buzz was still going, but my 1.5 hour drive to Boston and backload of work needed to be addressed. It would have been nice if my Phaeton could have joined for this trip… perhaps next time.
If you haven’t checked out either of these museums, you should.


Visiting Cornell for reunion and seeing friends and their families was a perfect recharge for my systems. It didn’t matter that it rained all Thursday, Friday, and most of Saturday. It was a great time regardless.  I really do love Cornell and the people there.

Here is Mark M in the driver’s seat with his kids in the back and joined by the R-F Family kids.  We had a great ride around campus, over two bridges, over speed bumps, and in the beautiful Ithaca weather.  Next time perhaps Jessica M and Loren R-F will join.

mandel and family

— friends with the car photos will at some point appear here—
I love Cornell so much, just leaving campus to get groceries left me feeling a little flat, but not completely. I was able to get myself pumped back up. This particular tire tends to deflate on occasion.


One of the highlights from the roadtrip was spending time with the guys from Sullivan Trail Model A’s.

Jim, Bruce, Bill, Monty, Bob and I gathered over coffee, donuts, and cars early on Saturday morning.
These “Gurus of A” were even kind enough to give my car a quick once over and share some thoughts/expertise. My “to do list” grew.


Here are Jim and Bruce trying to help me seal a leaking bolt in my valve cover chamber. I’ll be redoing the cover (yet again) sometime in the not too distance future – but not today.


We also tighten my slightly loose carburetor.

Regardless of having a few oil leaks and such, I decided to conquer Buffalo Street.  Here is a video.

Exit 77 on Route 17 is one of my car’s favorite places.  You remember where I stopped to fill with water when I was heading north?  I was their again.  Here is a video of me TRYING to fix a problem with the generator.

The repair didn’t work.  The insulation on the output bolt on the generator on my 5-Brush Powerhouse must have broken apart (it was OLD and fragile) and the output bolt was loose.  I didn’t want to drive with the generator like this as I was afraid it would eventually fry itself.  So, I took 20 minutes and swapped it out with my original 3-Brush Powerhouse.  It worked just fine… even though its output was still higher than I like.    I didn’t yet remove my “extension” of the wiring harness.


Throughout the trip the car still was running a little hot and still was losing fluids (coolant and oil).  I stopped every 40-60 miles to check and add fluids if needed.

So, we made it there and back!  This was the goal.  Now have another long list of “to dos” that need to be done before the next long trip.  The Phaeton continues to grow younger every trip.

To celebrate, we both decided to have a drink….. similar selections, but different.


What a trip! My Phaeton and I left the garage at 7:40AM. What is the first thing you do on a road trip?  Fuel up… here I am at my favorite place to get my go-juice.


Actually, by 8:00AM the car’s tank was full and I was at Starbucks in Northvale NJ meeting with Rich Skriloff. Rich, as you may know from former postings, is a friend/business associate who has driven the car before.  He and I spent a bit over an hour talking shop.  Rich and I went to grad school together back in the late 90s.

At 9:15 I was back on the road. I decided to take the I287 to I87 to Route 17 and avoid the big hill in Harriman. The car was a rockstar!

The temperature remained low, the steering was tight, and the engine purred along. Here is a video of me on the thruway and another of me heading over the big Shawangunk Ridge.

I made it to Ellenville. Here is a photo of me in front of the Hunt Building…. I almost owned this building years ago. I bet the city council wished they actually sold it to me now.


In Ellenville I stopped in to spend time with Manuk and Joanie.  I’ll try to upload the video of Manuk driving…. he was in love with the car.   I suspect he is going to try to get me to tow him on his hang glider with the car and a long rope.  It isn’t going to happen.

Why drive an old car all the way to Ithaca…. Just look at the scenery!


Add water in East Brach…


Add water in Depot… and thank you to Mr. Donner(?) who saw me at the side of the road and INSISTED on driving behind me to the gas station to make certain I made it.  I hope he and his daughter (or granddaughter) had a good day.  Oh, and the carburetor that leaked a little… it leaks a lot now.  I’m going to have to deal with that soon.


Why do I need to add water?  It seems that SOMETIMES everything is ok and the car is doing find and then BAM it starts to heat up.  I suspect I have some gunk in the radiator that is occasionally clogging a tube. My water pump’s impeller could also be overfilling the top of the radiator and causing the overflow to drain too much. Who knows.  I also think I may be leaking/burning a little oil. It was LOW when I checked it a few times in route. I’ve added a bit of oil “just in case” each time with the knowledge that if I add too much the car will just leak it out as it finds its own level. Tomorrow I will have to look into this.  With a recently run engine, the dipper doesn’t give a reliable reading. 

BINGHAMTON! I81 is the place to be. Let me tell you, the major roads were great!

The only time I had a close call was when some IDIOT tried to pass me on a local road  (NOT THE HIGHWAY>>>> THE LOCAL ROAD). The speed limit was 40, I was doing 43, they wanted to be doing 50.  The guy tried passing in a no passing zone and then when the oncoming traffic prevented this, he started to push over and forced me to the shoulder. IDIOT! The highways were great. The drivers with all very respectful and friendly. The truckers love the Phaeton and I imagine I am on at least 100 different facebook pages based on the photos taken by random individuals.


Cornell!!!!! I love this place. It only took 10 hours to get here…. ok, I stopped several times. It only took 7 hours to get here. I did take the long route. I have to check but suspect that with all my side trips I actually drove 260 miles. What do you get after you drive 260 miles? A beer!

With rain expected for the next few days I’ve decided to put the top up, the side curtains on, and a tarp over the car. I’ve the good fortune of crashing over tonight at the AEPi fraternity house.


The AEPi house was my home for 3 years in college and a place I loved dearly. 20 years later the brothers handed me a key and the door codes and said, “come in and enjoy”.

The car is going to hang out here for a few days as well. Saturday I am meeting up with the local model a crew at Jim Morris’s place (another true Model A guru) and on Sunday I am hoping to meet with the Binghamton crew.

I can't drive 55, but 55,555 has happened.

I can’t drive 55, but 55,555 has happened.

The Phaeton’s systems need quite a bit of work before 55 MPH is a regularly achievable speed…. but who cares.  In most situations, cruising around at the 45 to 50 MPH range is just fine.   It is probably a meaningless achievement since the odometer didn’t work when I purchased the car; however, today the odometer reached 55,555.  I thought that occasion merited a post.  The achievement was made while leaving Autozone where I was picking up some armorall, rainex, and wax so the car shines on its up-and-coming road trip to Ithaca NY.

Safety Check 2013

Posted: May 16, 2013 in Uncategorized



John Explaining How Painting Lightning on The Car Will Make It Go Faster….. ok, that isn’t what he was really doing. This is John Karal leading a safety inspection on a NJRA Member’s Model A.

John Karal of Upper Saddle River was again kind enough to lead the North Jersey Regional Model A Club in conducting its annual Model A safety checks.  This annual tradition for the club includes having several Model A experts with checklists on clipboards systematically look over members’ cars and test things ranging from headlights to steering.  The checklist has nothing to do with “historic accuracy” or “how shiny is your paint”.  The list hits safety and performance items only.  John then gives you the “heads up” on things such as “your king pins haven’t gotten any worse since last year, but you may want to think about changing them next winter” or point blanks you with things like “you may want to tighten the wheel to the car before you go anywhere”.  My car received the former comment and not the latter.  Within 5 minutes of the latter comment being made, the wheel in question was off, the drum was pulled, and a collection of qualified experts diagnosed and proposed short and long term solutions.  It was incredible to watch.  There were no less than 6 people swarming about and people were taking turns going to their cars to grab “stuff”.   “I have shims”, “I have a hub puller”, “Do you need a rear axle shaft key?  I have three.”  It was wild.  Here we are in a church parking lot at 7 PM on a Thursday and parts for an 84 year old car magically were appearing.  The car owner was stepped though how to do the repair (which is a greasy one to do).  Within 20 minutes the car was back together and ready to be safely operated.  The teamworks and energy was amazing to watch.  I wish I took photos of it to share.

This is the third time John has looked over my car.  It is “safe” but I again have a list from John of “watch this and do that” items.  I’ll admit that I didn’t pass the entire list.  My windshield wiper failed.  This isn’t a surprise since it isn’t attached to the car.  Last year I had it in my back seat.  My rearview mirror also failed.  It is loose and spins readily.  I have to tighten a screw that holds it in place.  John also has me keeping an eye on my 7-tooth steering box which is showing its age.  This isn’t an immediate item and neither are the king pins I noted before.  The car is safe for the pending trip to Ithaca.

IMG_2769After the safety inspection the club congregated for hotdogs, its monthly meeting, and to sing happy birthday to two members (one in his mid-80s). The club has a few nice tours lined up for this year and has been asked to again participate in a collection of local parades.  If you haven’t joined one of your local clubs yet, you should.  Here is a link to the NJRA’s website.

On the way home I did note that my headlights still “flicker” a little more than I like.  I’ll have to keep an eye on this but suspect that I need to clean up the inside of the light switch/horn button.  This shouldn’t be too difficult to do.

One of the guys from my local club that has helped me out on repairs stopped by this evening. His headlights have been giving him problems. He knew that I had issues with mine and “futz” with them over and over again. This post is dedicated to Len.

How does Seth fix the shorting out headlight problem with his Model A? By changing the connections from the historic 3-plunger/3-pin system to modern bullet connections.

1) open up the headlight (remove the screw from the back, remove the lens in its holder in the front, disconnect the conduit)
2) cut the old connections (I removed the plungers first. This is a pain to do as they have an almost hidden pressure connection thing going on.)
3) strip the tips of the wires add male and female modern connections
4) put it all back together
5) post about it on your blog


Oils Well That Ends Well

Posted: May 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

Much Less Sealant

We are back on the road. A trusted engine rebuilder took a look at a bunch of my photos and suggested that I redo the sealant around the valve cover and not worry about the sealant around the oil pan (which isn’t nearly as excessive). So, with this advice in hand I decided to blend the information I received from all the experts and redo the valve chamber seal. This time I decided to use a light coat of the red super-tacky brush on sealant on the cover side only. The engine side has no sealant. It seems to have worked. It looks so much better than when I did it the first time. Here is a photos.

With the cover “on”, I decided that I should focus on pre-lubing the system. As you may remember, I brushed oil on the inside components of the engine before I closed things up. I also used a plastic straw and dripped oil into some of the passageways. The engine rebuilder gave me some great advice to really make certain that the pre-lube worked correctly. He suggested that in addition to this painting of oil, I remove the distributor and pour 1 quart of oil down the shaftway and then full the balance of the needed oil into the normal oil-tube. This would ensure that all needed areas (the dipper-tray on top and the valve chamber) had oil.

I was anxious about removing the distributor. I helped Red do this when we changed head gaskets in CT last year when I was in route to Boston. It wasn’t easy. I’ve also read about many broken distributors and engine heads that resulted from removal of the distributor and had concern that you might need to reset the engine timing (as if I know how to do that). I spent about an hour researching the “how tos” and finally figured that I didn’t need to redo timing if I was careful. Here are some photos of my removing the distributor. It was “stuck”, but a few hits of PB Blaster helped. I am concerned about all that rust, but will not be dealing with it this month.

From the images so far, do you see what I forgot? Ok, so know how I meticulously took care of the valve cover and removed the distributor. I carefully crafted a funnel to pour in oil to pre-lub. I basically over-thought and over analyzed every step and tried to be as precise and perfect as possible. Here is a video of my genius. Good thingIMG_2734 I have a sense of humor and trays on the floor of the garage.IMG_2735

Return tube installed, I tried filling the car with oil again. This time it seems to have stayed in the engine. After a nice snugging of the bolts and re-installation of the distributor I took the car off the stands and was back on the road. 3.5 weeks before the trip to Ithaca and I have a lot more work I would like to do. Before the big ride, I may do a smaller NYC trip. I will need to re-snug the oil pan and valve cover bolts but want to heat up and cool off the engine a few times.

OK, so apparently the generous amount of silicon utilized in the gasket installation is a big “NO NO”.  I’ve received recommendations from several model a engine experts that I should remove and reinstall the valve cover and probably the oil pan.  They recommend that redo installing both with MUCH LESS (if not no) sealant.  I may wind up ordering new gaskets tomorrow (you don’t reuse them and regardless, they are cheap).   The good news is that it looks like I did all other things correctly.   I guess I may have another chance to check the bearings clearance.  The question now is about timing.  I don’t know how much time I have to do all of this.