Walter Ek was a recent high school graduate in 1939. The 18-year-old had a job that paid 23 cents an hour and he soon had saved enough to buy a used car. Perusing the ads in the Portland, Ore. Weekly Advertiser, he spotted a 10-year-old 1929 Model A Ford Town Sedan for sale that sounded pretty good.
He rode a streetcar to the southeast part of Portland for an inspection of the Ford. He remembers walking from the closest stop to the address when he saw the car from two blocks away. “That’s my car,” he thought.
By the time he walked to the car he had forgotten about doing any inspection. “I paid the man his full $75 asking price,” Ek says, and drove home in my new 10-year-old car.
He drove that car about 40,000 miles during the next two and a half years, rebuilding almost every mechanical part on it. “I think I had unscrewed every bolt of that car,” he says. He never took it to a mechanic, preferring to do all of the work himself, and learning by trial and error.
With his Ford in fine running condition, Ek, along with a couple friends, took a trip to Michigan. While there young Alice Levanen caught his eye and soon he was squiring her about in his Ford.
He returned to the Pacific Northwest to work in the Bremerton, Wash., shipyard as part of the war effort. In 1942 he sold his 1929 Town Sedan for the same amount that he had paid. “I later regretted not keeping the car, but it was long gone,” he says.
Not gone was his Michigan girlfriend. They were married July 5, 1943 and for the next 45 years, whenever he spotted a restored Model A on the road, she would listen to him lament about selling his Ford.
In 1988, Ek saw an ad on a bulletin board in Spokane, Wash., offering for sale a 1929 Model A Ford Town Sedan. When he went to see the car and was amazed. “It turned out to be a spitting image of my first car,” he says.
He discovered that the asking price for a 1929 Model A Ford had risen considerably since he last bought one 49 years previously. Because the seller agreed to deliver it the 350 miles to his home in Battle Ground, Wash., Ek went ahead with the purchase.
The old Ford was drivable and most of the metal was in good shape, Ek says, but the majority of mechanical parts needed to be rebuilt. The 200-cubic-inch, four-cylinder engine has that distinctive Model A sound as it delivers 40 horsepower.
All of the knowledge and skills he had learned while working on his first Model A came in handy while working on his second Model A. “It makes the wheels in your head run backward,” Ek says. “It had the original mohair upholstery when I got it,” he adds. Ek has since had the entire interior reupholstered.
Ek was given advice from the owner of a body shop on how to proceed with preparing the car for painting. It now sports a coat of blue, with the fenders, of course, being black.
When new, the Town Sedan had a base price of $695. The 2,476-pound, four-door Ford rides on a 103.5-inch wheelbase supported by 21-inch wire wheels. The single spare tire nestles in the side-mounted position in the left front fender. At the rear of the car is an optional luggage rack that, when not in use, folds up next to the rear of the car. Ek has located and restored a steamer trunk that fits on the rack.
A single wiper blade, for the driver, is suspended from the top of the one-piece, flat windshield. The windshield is hinged at the top so the bottom can be pushed out for ventilation.
“That’s one of the best air conditioners you can get,” Ek says. He explains that with the bottom of the windshield pushed out a couple of inches, the cool outside air comes rushing in and is deflected downward toward the ankles of the front seat occupants.
When Ek and his wife of almost 65 years go motoring about the neighborhood in their Model A, it brings back memories of their youthful times driving in Michigan. — Vern Parker, Motor Matters