BY LAURENT D'ENTREMONT
My 1931 Model A Ford Woody Wagon is now 80 years old and I have been the owner for the past 25 years. I still take it out often and drive it to car shows in Yarmouth and Barrington.
We use it around the Acadian Museum and also at the Acadian Village, which is located near my home. I sometimes give rides to friends who visit every summer; many are visitors from the Annapolis Valley. It is a very good historical automobile but not a show vehicle, one that can be enjoyed.
I love it when young mothers sit their children on the front fenders to take pictures as parents did in the old days. An antique car that you can only touch with white gloves belongs in a museum, and I don't see much fun in that.
For a bit of history, the Model A Ford is the automobile that replaced the famous Model T Ford and I agree with automotive historian Leslie R. Henry (1913-2002), who was the curator of transportation at the Henry Ford Museum, when he wrote: "Austere in style, masterful in design, economic to maintain, dependable in operation, the Model A sprang into immediate acceptance by a nation already glutted by motor cars. It outsold, out performed and ultimately out lasted all competitors, and in its four brief years of production, 1928-1931, it earned a reputation as enviable as that of the Rolls-Royce."
My antique station wagon has been around for many years. As the owner and restorer for the past 25 years it would be my great pleasure to report that I know its history from the day it left the assembly line. Unfortunately, this is far from the case. As a matter of fact I don't even know if it was built on the Canadian or American side of the border. I suspect the car came from the USA, the serial number attest to that, but I don't know, the engine block has been replaced at least once and this is where we find the serial number.
In 1986, I bought the antique car from Eric and Celia Burns of Arcadia, Yarmouth County. The Burns had bought the woody wagon from Malcolm Huskilson Sr. (1911-2000) of Lockport, Shelburne County. I spoke with Huskilson many times when he was mayor of his town. He believed some Americans with summer homes in Chester had likely brought the "estate car" new to Nova Scotia.
When Mac Huskilson bought the old Ford from a restorer in Lunenburg County, the bell had long tolled for the antiquated machine. With the back seats removed, someone had been using it as a pickup truck and it had seen better days. Later Huskilson sold it to the Burns. Eric Burns, a machine works instructor at the NSCC Burridge Campus at the time, did a complete restoration to the vehicle.
After many miles on the road, the car was again in need of restoration, when I became at least the fifth owner. Since then I have restored the entire braking system and rebuilt the complete steering assembly. I have also replaced, repaired or restored most everything from tail pipe to the radiator cap.
At car shows people will usually ask the same questions; "Where do you get those narrow tires?" or "how fast will it go?" Some will ask, "Will those mechanical brakes stop the car?"
Tires and other parts are easy to find, lots of firms in the USA are reproducing parts to keep these old cars in safe operating condition. I don't know how fast it will go, it settles at about 35 miles per hour, but it can go much faster. Mechanical brakes (today we have hydraulic brakes) will stop the car, but not as quickly as brakes on a modern car. Getting all four wheels to stop at the same time will test your mechanical skills though. There is one more thing, water pumps usually leaked 80 years ago, they still do.
Today, some people say any car, not covered by its warranty, isn't worth the bolts holding it together. Perhaps so, but I know lots of antique car owners who enjoy the misery and joy of keeping their Model A's on the road for over 80 years.