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1931 Ford Model A Cabriolet 68-C

By Jeremy Wilson

One summer over 50 years ago, a college-bound student named Dave McCready had a few free days and decided to spiff up his Model A Ford. He used a forklift to suspend the car while steam cleaning the undercarriage, then undercoated it at the local Ford dealer’s body shop. He painted the car himself, with Bronson yellow enamel and was surprised at the results.

“I painted it in 1955, and the bugs were out that night and God, I never thought the paint job was going to live,” said Dave. “I finished at about seven and looked it over and there were mosquitoes all over the car. I didn’t know what I was going to do, so I walked away from it because what could I do? Well, the mosquitoes died, and their little legs don’t make much mark, so I rubbed it out and that’s the paint job you’re looking at, except I did not put the seal brown or orange pinstripe on it until later.”

Dave must have had a knack for painting cars because, even today, that same yellow paint looks as good up close as it does in the photos. During Dave’s first winter vacation from college, he drove the Model A to the mountans to go skiing with a college youth group.

“I went up to Hoodoo Ski Bowl and Lodge with a contingency from Willamette University. They rented a bus, but I took Agatha [the Model A]. We got up there and the road was snowed in to the lodge. The bus stopped a mile back and the driver said he couldn’t go any farther. They began to unload the bus and I said, ‘Put your luggage in the car,’ and I drove it up to the lodge. Model A’s are very capable in snow--I was carrying chains, but didn’t have to use them.

“Jeanette, who is my now wife, but did not know me from Adam, had come up with the youth group from the University of Oregon. She told me later that she looked down at the parking lot and thought, ‘I wonder whose funny little yellow car that is?’ It wasn’t until my junior year that I met her, and it wasn’t until after that she knew that it was my Model A.”

By the way, this isn’t just any Model A Cabriolet. Its body type is a 68-C, known as the Cabriolet Slant Windshield, which Ford began selling on March 31, 1931. The slanted windshield gave the car a more modern appearance and the angle of the glass was said to help to reduce glare from oncoming headlights. This one has had little use over the last 50 years, but Dave used it frequently in college.

“According to the speedometer, I’ve driven Agatha more than 28,000 miles, mainly for transportation during the first five years I owned it. The car was in storage for a period of time, but after we established our current home I added the seal brown paint, the orange pinstripe, and put the 19-inch wheels back on; it had 17’s when I acquired it.

“The radiator stone guard is unusual. It is actually an original but when I finished the paint job, I took it off because it was rusty. Years later, I had it replated along with the side doors on the hood. People look at the stone guard and notice there is no cut out for the radiator’s Ford emblem. That’s original. The reproduction ones have a cut out like this one does for the crank.

“When I restored the stone guard I also added the quail radiator cap. I dolled it up! I put it back in stock form and made it the way it was originally produced. One of the Model A club newsletters is called the Quail Call, and that is where the terminology came from.”

Dave has installed an overdrive on his Model A so it’s now possible to drive at highway speeds.

“We have corrected the speedometer and it’s easy to drive it 50 mph. But the comfortable speed this car had, the “happy speed,” was 40 mph. All those years, that’s the speed I drove it.”

Click on any item below for more details at Amazon.com

Jim Schild
Restorer’s Model A Shop Manual
Motorbooks, Paperback, 1985-06-28
This may be the most accurate, well-illustrated restoration and maintenance guide available. It contains step-by-step procedures on everything from tinkering to frame-up restorations. It includes details on original and reproduction parts, special fixes and problem areas.

Jim Schild
Collector’s Originality Guide Ford Model A
Motorbooks, Paperback, 2009-12-04

In this paperback reissue of the highly popular hardcover book, author and photographer Jim Schild walks through all of the details of the Model A’s four-year production, providing collectors with everything they need to know to identify, classify, and restore these fabulous cars. Filled with gorgeous color photography, this book has been and continues to be a must-have for all Model A fans.

Jim Schild
Original Ford Model A
Motorbooks, Hardcover, 2003-05-23
This book provides detailed OEM specifications and more than 250 photos of Model A’s in restoration, giving enthusiasts a hands-on connection with the car. Jim Schild is author of nine books, five of them focusing on the Model A and restoration, and is publisher of The Auto Review.

Ray Miller, Glenn Embree
Henry’s Lady: An Illustrated History of the Model A Ford (The Ford Road Series, Vol. 2)
Evergreen Press (CA), Hardcover, 1972-06
This book is a comprehensive photographic study of the 1928 to 1931 Model A Ford. In over 1000 photographs, the book displays the characteristics of the cars on a model year basis.

Beverly Rae Kimes
The Cars That Henry Ford Built
Automobile Heritage Publishing & Communications LLC, Hardcover, 2004-10-31
Join award-winning historian and author Beverly Rae Kimes as she presents lively historical text that captures Henry Ford growing and aging as his cars grew and aged, each lock-stepped together through history. Over 100 full-color photographs further bring the man and his creations to life, and include every model Henry Ford produced from the Quadricycle he put together as a young man in 1896 to the famous V-8 Ford on the production lines four and a half decades later during his failing years.
History and Production Notes

By the late 1920s the automobile had become a commodity, reliable transportation for men and women alike. Electric starters had become standard equipment on most production cars during the teens and Emily Post had long since written her book By Motor to the Golden Gate(1916), a humorous account of a cross-country drive with her son and one of his friends. But even before 1910, women had been driving, especially electric cars; Henry Ford even purchased one for his wife in 1908!

In the 1931 advertisement pictured above, Ford depicts a woman in a Cabriolet in front of a theater. The text reads,

UPON the roadways of the world, the new Ford plays an important part in the widening activities of the modern woman. Its distinctive beauty of line and color is apparent at a glance. Through many months of constant use you will develop a sincere pride in its alert and faithful performance...The richness of the upholstery and the carefully tailored trimming--the excellent taste in appointments--the ease with which the windows go up and down in the substantial doors-- the deep, well-sprung cushions in the restful seats--the pleasing harmony of color ... all of these bespeak the care and craftsmanship that have gone into the building of the Ford car.

Notice there is not a word about horsepower, cylinders, or handling ability. In The 1930s by William H. Young and Nancy K. Young, the authors characterize the industry’s perception of women’s concerns:

Since Good Housekeeping was perceived as a woman’s magazine, it ran fewer automobile promotions. Body by Fisher, auto heaters and radios, and automotive cleaning supplies can be found on its pages, suggesting that women were seen as being interested in specific aspects of car ownership, such as comfort and appearance.

At that time, automotive marketing departments may not have realized they had a tiger by the tail. By 2003, American women were buying 50 percent of all new cars. Today that number has risen to 60 percent!

PRODUCTIONNOTES Production Notes...

Ford Model A Cabriolets were offered from 1929 until 1931, using the body type designations 68-A, 68-B and 68-C. The 68-A was produced in ‘29, the 68-B in ‘30 and ‘31, and the 68-C (slant windshield) was introduced on March 31, 1931. On its club page, the Model A Ford Cabriolet Club says,

It is considered a rare body style. The Briggs Body Company manufactured all of the Cabriolet bodies for Ford. The Cabriolet is a convertible with glass side windows, unlike the canvas side curtains found on many other roadster models.

According to the Standard Catalog of American Cars 1805-1942, Ford produced a total of 541616 Model As in 1931, 11,801 as Cabriolets.

Jim Schild, in Original Ford Model A (see recommendation above) provides the following statistics: In 1931, 4959 68-B and 6842 68-C (slant windshield) Cabriolets were produced.

The 68-C shipping weight was 2273 pounds and its 1931 price was $595.

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