Ford Model A stays in the family
Dairy farmer's heirloom has even been used as a hearse
Ihad Colin Pinkerton's 1939 Buick in my sights, but spotted the pair of 1920s trucks behind it and got hooked. Luckily it turns out there's a story to this immaculate red vehicle and not just because his wife's uncle bought it in 1930 and it's been in her family ever since.
"Her father learned to drive in it, but her family couldn't restore it, and I could, so I was allowed it."
Colin says this was a 1927 prototype, built in early 1928 just after production of the Model T ceased. It didn't start life as a Model AA truck but a Model A car -- the two being developed alongside each other from 1926.
Both got the same 3.3-litre in-line four-cylinder engine with peak power of 30kW at 2200rpm. Both got a six-volt generator, a mechanical water and oil pump, and an electric starter, with the truck featuring a four-row radiator and lower gearing for the four-speed manual, with a thumb-operated lockout to engage reverse.
When Colin acquired it this truck was fitted with an old tray. He bought new tyres and gave it a wash, but then the rot set in. "My biggest mistake was I bought a flash radiator cap," which meant the rest of it had to step up to that plate.
He aimed for as much originality as possible, and though the guards are fibreglass -- you wouldn't know unless you tapped them -- overall the Ford is as standard as possible. That means the engine is reconditioned to the original spec, the brakes are drum and cable -- a fact which leads to a few hairy classic-brake stories, including one from the day his Dodge ran right through a junction when the brakes were wet -- and the suspension is unchanged.
The starter is original, and the wheels, but not the lights. "It even has a windscreen wiper, though I shouldn't have put it on, as if you don't have it, you don't need it," and of course it now has to be present and correct at WOF time.
The electrics are six-volt, while the old Dodge is 12V. The story goes that the Dodge brothers got annoyed when Ford wouldn't effect some of the developments they suggested. Ford challenged them to build a better car, if they really thought their ideas would work. So they did ...
But back to this truck, and now it's finished it's just all as tidy as Colin could make it, right down to the highly polished copper milk churns -- plated, not solid, as it turns out, but no less effective for all that. "I finished about five years ago -- it took a year. I did some of the work, but my biggest job was writing the cheques. With classic cars, the cheapest job is always the one that's already done when you get it."
Colin's been a dairy farmer all his life, and 40 years ago says he could have done all the work, but believes you should concentrate on what you do well.
By now I've clambered aboard and we're puttering down under the cherry-tree archway, staying on the rambling Pirongia property as the rego has been on hold for the winter. "It's okay to drive," he says, "though it sometimes locks up in first and you have to rock it out -- it's three-speed plus reverse," the same as the Model A car it's based on.
He says, "We take it to shows, take it for drives as far as Taumarunui. When we had the motor reconditioned, I said we won't be going to the Invercargill rally in it, but I'd like to know I could."
That said, it still has no roof.
The Ford is still very much part of the family -- it even did hearse duty for an uncle. "The Otorohanga cemetery is on a hill, and I told the grandkids their job was to hang on to the coffin."
The churns, and I'd guess this truck, are part of Colin's impressive collection of farm machinery, acquired over the past 10 years and all restored to working order and parked in sheds around his property. There's everything from a horse-drawn road grader which originally worked in the area to steam-driven sawmill machinery and vintage tractors.
"My hobby is restoring old junk," he says, though how he managed to work while getting this little lot back into operating condition I'm not sure.
"It's not a hobby, it's a disease," he quips, before heading back to concreting a nearby drive.
Maybe so, but it must be the only one that's fun to catch.