In 1935, In Nicholas Madorno purchased a used 1931 Model A Ford pickup to transport hay for the animals he kept on his land near Oxford, Conn. This very trusty Ford was eventually put to use in the owner’s plumbing business.
On occasion he would drive his daughter, Julianne, to school in it. As the reliable Ford truck turned 25 years old, Julianne received her driver’s license and began driving herself to school in the old pickup.
The 2,215-pound truck was put up on blocks when Madorno died in 1963. The truck sat in the garage for 15 years, becoming a source of amusement for grandchildren, nieces, nephews and other young children in the neighborhood. When the owner’s widow died in 1978 ownership of the truck was passed on to Julianne’s son, Peter Miller, who lived in Orlando, Fla.
Despite the fact the long-dormant 205-cubic-inch, four-cylinder engine wasn’t operable, the truck was shipped to the Sunshine State. Upon arrival, Miller inspected the Ford and reports, “It wasn’t rusty.” He attributes that good fortune to the fact it had for years been stored under cover.
As far back as anybody in the family recalls the 1931 Ford has always worn a coat of yellow paint. The paint was fading so Miller remedied that by applying a fresh yellow coat from spray cans.
In 1987 Miller’s job took him back to New England and his Ford followed on the back of a truck to Chicopee, Mass.
After almost a decade of ownership Miller decided to get his Ford restored. In his garage he began to disassemble the Model A. In 1994 all the parts and pieces were delivered to a shop in Hadley, Mass., for an on-body restoration. After more than 80 years since the last Model A was manufactured virtually every spare part remains available — for a price.
The output of the overhauled 40-horsepower engine is delivered to the rear wheels via a three-speed sliding manual non-synchronized transmission. “You have to double clutch both up and down,” Miller says.
The 11-gallon gasoline tank is mounted on the firewall side of the dashboard and is filled through an aperture on the cowl between the windshield and the engine hood. Fuel drains down without the benefit of any filter to the Zenith updraft carburetor. The spark advance lever is mounted near the horn button at the center of the steering wheel. Miller reports gas mileage of 25 to 30 miles per gallon.
In 1995 Miller moved to East Windsor, N.J., and his newly restored 1931 Model A Ford was trucked to its new home. During the restoration process Miller was not a stickler for 100 percent authenticity. “I wanted to preserve the family heritage,” he says.
Originally, he explains, the radiator shell and the headlight buckets were covered with black enamel. Somewhere along the line these items were replaced with chrome plated items.
“It’s fun to drive,” Miller says. With 19-inch wheels on a 105.3-inch wheelbase the Ford is exceedingly nimble.
In her high school days Julianne left her mark on the inside of the cab by writing the names of her friends and such 1950s phrases as “Kool Kitten.” Miller says of his mother’s scribbling, “I preserved them when I had it restored in 1994.”
In a nod to safety, Miller had a second taillight installed. He must be careful when reversing because the truck has no rear bumper. Protective step plates have been mounted on the running boards.
At one time there was a heater but it is no longer on the truck but Miller doesn’t mind. “It’s too hot in the summer,” he says. The windshield can be raised a couple of inches to admit fresh air in the cabin.
Since restoration Miller has driven his Ford an average of about 100 miles annually. “I’ve never seen the speedometer past 55 mph,” he says. — Vern Parker, Motor Matters
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Copyright, Motor Matters, 2012