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Home at last but it was a struggle

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Posted 12 November 2014 - 09:58 AM

Geoff's and Greg's most excellent adventure ended last night at 8:55 PM local time, Nov 11, after what was probably the most frustrating day of the trip.

The day started well, as the 6v alternator I ordered from Bert's Model A Center in Denver arrived promptly at 9 AM on the big brown UPS truck. Installation couldn't be simpler and all needed fasteners were included. Even instructions. Took about a hour to install and worked right out of the box.


Then I planned to replace the points. This car has the original points set-up, which uses a flexible wire connection to the top points plate, rather than several upgrades now available for this system that eliminate this fragile wire. When I started to remove the moving point pivot, it sure looked like I was twisting that wire underneath the points plate, though I couldn't see it very well. Went looking for my super-duper Les Andrews' Model A Ford Mechanics Handbook Vol 1 only eventually to figure out that I had left it at the previous night's stop, about 85 miles away...
Figuring that if I screwed up the flexible wire connection under the upper points plate we'd not get home that day, I left well enough alone and just adjusted the points as best as I could.
We packed up and left Tullahoma at about 11:15 AM local, taking the old US-41A highway to avoid having to climb Monteagle Mountain on the way to Chattanooga. The car ran quite well for the first half of the day
At the first gas stop, I noticed the starter button (on the floor near the steering column) felt funny and wouldn't actuate the starter. I was on an incline and roll-started the car easily. And from then on tried to continue that practice, not wanting to take the time on the road to delve into the issue. We did have to break out the tow strap to pull the A once when it didn't fire on a slight incline.
Our route took us through the small town of Cowan, TN, which sits at the base of Cumberland Mountain with its famous antebellum railroad tunnel. There's a small railroad museum where US-41A crosses the tracks which houses some artifacts from my paternal grandfather's forty-one year career with the NC&StL, but unfortunately it was closed.
Thanks to Doug Azary, we were able to meet up at the museum location with a Cowan resident who is nothing less than a legend in the old car hobby in middle Tennessee, a true gentleman named Leonard Brown. When I was in my teens in Nashville, Leonard was Mr. Model A Ford in the old car community, the acknowledged expert. He started working on As when he was twelve years old and at a very spry 83, he's still restoring Model A Fords. I'd probably not seen Leonard in over 40 years and am still not sure he recalls me as a kid (I look a little different today...) but we had a great visit recalling the many common friends in the old car hobby who have left us. Leonard wanted to show us his collection, but we asked for a rain check due the time of day and the distance we still had to go. It was cheerfully granted.
After bypassing Monteagle (and climbing a short but severe 7% grade outside of Cowan toward Suwanee, which the Model A handled in top gear without a problem), we jumped back on I-24 a bit west of Chattanooga and there turned south on I-75 to head for Hotlanta. We finally saw some decent fall color along the way.
Rather than heading through Atlanta and then back north to Norcross, I elected to leave the interstate for Hwy 92, a state route four-lane which goes almost directly to Norcross via Woodstock and Roswell. The car had been running well, but we got caught in a back-up due to an accident and while I was in the jam idling, it started running very poorly, popping and backfiring. I barely was able to pull out of the back-up into a mattress store parking lot and tried adjusting the points again (which are worn and pitted and almost impossible to adjust with a flat feeler gauge). We limped into Roswell, after adjusting the points a time or two more on the way. The car was running worse and worse and I was getting pretty frustrated, as we were only about a dozen miles from home. I absolutely did not want to come as far as we had come to be towed in from that close!!!
We ended up in an open Nissan dealership in Roswell (on a hill) and tried to adjust the points several more times. Thinking that maybe the coil was going bad, I installed the new 6v coil I had brought as a spare. Had to use the tow strap again when it failed to start on a downhill.
Nothing we were doing seemed to be helping the running problem. After the last roll-start, it was running as badly as ever and in frustration I pushed the spark advance lever up to the full retard position. Incredibly, the car began running nearly perfectly, with just a tiny trace of misfiring. All I can assume, after consulting with Joe Wylie later in the evening, is that the engine somehow jumped time and that there was enough adjustment range in the spark retard to get it back pretty close to the proper setting.
In any event, the car ran well in covering the last few miles to the house, not perfectly, but at about 95% and that was good enough to take us in.
Our two cats were sure happy to see us, though they had expressed their displeasure at our extended absence with some smelly "punctuation marks" in several places. The washing machine will be getting a real workout today, that's for sure. And a shopping trip has to happen, as there's no perishable food of any kind in the fridge. I'm expecting to be less stiff after a couple of days, too. LOL!
Here's the Model A in her new driveway, having her backside warmed by the rising sun this morning. Figured we'd remove Jairus' lettering before taking the picture.
After all, we made it to Georgia and most assuredly did not go "bust."
I'll post a few more times to this thread, even though the trip is now complete.
I have a few items to photograph so I can share them and I suppose it is customary to reflect back on such an endeavor to mine it for new lessons and expanded wisdom. Need to process the experience a bit before taking on that task.

  • triggerman, Tim Neja, Michael Rigsby and 2 others like this

Gregory Wells

Never forget that first place goes to the racer with the MOST laps, not the racer with the FASTEST lap

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