Model A debate: Preserve my father’s coupe or make the car my own?

I rescued my father’s 1930 Model A from a life on jackstands. To keep it from regressing to its previous state, I plan to drive it regularly, which means it needs some work. All this leaves me in a conundrum: Do I make this car my own or keep it true to Dad’s vision?

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/11/21/model-a-debate-preserve-or-modify

I don’t think it’s such a tough decision. The mods you’re talking about–high-compression head, intake manifold for a single downdraft carb, and exhaust header–are period correct you say? I think doing this and keeping the original bits on the shelf for posterity (his grand kids!) would both reinforce your dad’s legacy and make the car your own. After all, you’re its current caretaker, and you have the right to enjoy it to the fullest as you keep it prepared for the next. Maybe, after you’re gone, that caretaker will restore it to perfection with the spare parts–or chop it up. Yikes!


By all means. If it is bolt on, go for it. Upgraded tires and brakes are a good idea to keep you and your family safe.


I echo the thoughts about bolt on modifications only… However, I do have some to suggest:

You like the open hood experience, I’ve seen some.clear lexan jobs if you still wanted it covered and protected from the elements with the exception, of course, the sun.

Bear in mind your neck of the woods (Michigan) is the home state of the Model A, which goes a ways towards explaining how many glittering examples of concourse restoration jobs you’ve seen up on the roads and at shows up there.

I would also venture you’ve seen your fair share of hot rods based off of the A. I say, let the hot rod crowd do this with replicas and not the real thing like what you have.

I also heartily recommend applying any and all of the anti theft modifications since this vehicle has a lot of family history in it,.and I can only imagine no matter what you do with it, when it is finished, it will not only be a beacon of automobile style amidst the humdrum boring pillbox SUVs that you see on the road nowadays.

Good luck! I’m sure I speak for all of us stating we look forward to pictures!


@tomt - I chuckled the first time I drove this car to work. Took it across the street for a beer with the co-workers and a group of hot rods shows up and was just fawning over the potential it had. I was the biggest letdown for them when I said it was more or less staying as is.

One of these things is not like the others…

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@Kyle, so cool! Under the “Rare Bird” sign and just as Dad loved it…

If it was all original I would say leave it. Since like mine it is made from a lot of parts do as you like. It can always be put back to original at a later date.

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I used to run into the same thing when I had my 31 A coupe. When ever I went to a show or cruise night the hot rodders felt no shame in telling me how much nicer my car would be if I did a crate motor/different suspension/chop/bastardize job. My car was not perfect, or totally original, but it was true to the day it left the factory and a nice driver. The very last guy that tried to tell me what I should do with it looked at me pretty funny when I told HIM how he should take his 66 Chevelle SS, replace the drivetrain with a straight six and powerglide trans, remove the console, put in a bench front seat and paint it a nice sedate gold color.

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Kyle, As the 3rd Generation owner of a 57 Bel Air I have wanted to keep it as original/stock as possible. When my son/daughter is the next owner I want them to make it their car to use as I have done. I will take no offense now or in the hereafter as long as they cherish and DRIVE the car.

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Safety first, but if it is a reversible change you shouldn’t sweat it too much.

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I think you have to decide what kind of driving you would enjoy. The very least you should do is convert to hydraulic brakes. Model A brakes are unsafe ln today’s traffic. I have restored 15 Model A Fords. Nearly all of them received hydraulic brakes. My current Model A is my favorite of all, because I can drive it anywhere at the speed limit. It has power 4 wheel disc brakes. Unisteer rack and pinion steering, Jaguar rear end and suspension, automatic overdrive transmission and V8 power with Weiand supercharger. It is reliable and fun to drive. I have driven it on 5 nearly 2000 miles round trips from New Mexico to LA, California. It is just as at home on the freeway as it is on city streets. I never had as much fun in stock Model A’s.

I also inherited my grandfather’s 1930 Model A. I faced the same decisions you did. I decided to preserve it and restore to original…


I have a 31 Deluxe Coupe and I’m doing the same thing that you are. I have no interest in putting it back perfect (for show points) nor chopping it to hotrod. It’s a fun driver for me and I don’t want to have to worry about getting it dirty or putting a scratch on it when I’m driving. As a matter of fact I’m putting an electronic ignition system in it this weekend.
…If I could only get all of the rattles out!!!


As someone who has a less-than-concours old car, I can safely say… modify it as you see fit. Will it drive a little nicer, be more reliable, and safer? Will it take away from what the car really is?

It’s yours. Go for it and enjoy. That’s what it’s all about.

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I say do with it as you please and forget about whatever it is anyone else thinks

My 29 is as hot rodded out as they come and I wouldn’t have it any other way

That being said, if I started out with a car as close to stock as yours, I’d probably would’ve gone in a different direction, leaving the body as is and giving it subtle engine/drivetrain mods to make it more livable.

It certainly looks like a nice old car. I would generally preserve it, but I have no problem with period correct modifications, such as head, intake and exhaust. I will say, in my humble? opinion, that the hood off look does not look as good as you think it does. Maybe it would be better after detailing the engine compartment, but it looks tacky in the current photos. I see several people telling you to convert to hydraulic (juice) brakes. I have no personal experience but I did notice when looking at the cars of the Model A touring society this past fall, that most of their cars had original mechanical brakes. Feel free to ignore my opinions! I’m glad you are not hot rodding it!

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I took the easy way out. I have 2 GTO’s, a hot rod 68 and a bone stock 69 . If one had to go the 68 would be toast. Jim

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Not sure how anyone could regret going original with a project like this. Having said that, I agree that bolt-on changes and saving original parts is a good option too.

Be sure to keep as much of your dad as you can in what you do. Hopefully, part of the enjoyment of having it, is being reminded of him when you’re in it.

It’s a good problem to have. Enjoy!

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Hot rods are becoming boring now. People get more excited about original stuff. Remember it’s only original once!

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Do as you please, especially if you’re keeping to “Bolt-Ons” so that everything could later be reversable.
— and please do not listen to unnecessary suggestions such as hydraulic brakes !
There is nothing inherently dangerous with mechanically operated brakes.
We drive/drove our 1915 Hudson, 1930 Packard, and perhaps a dozen other previously owned early cars cross-country with mechanically operated brakes. Brakes are brakes, no matter how they are applied. It is the tire patch which determines to a great extent, just how much stopping power you have. Know your car, and drive appropriately. I don’t anticipate that you’ll be on the rush-hour 75 mph freeway bash-em-up free-for-all. Enjoy the car with period-type accessories. You don’t “need” rack-and-pinion steering, Hydraulic Disc Brakes, Electronic Ignition, Fuel Injection, or even a crate engine. These may be ok for for the street rod folks, but retaining the PURE ENJOYMENT OF DRIVING THE WAY IT USED TO BE – is a whole rewarding experience.

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