Doane Yawger: An afternoon to treasure cruising in Model A sedan

November 9, 2012 

Doane Yawger, Sun-Star reporter


Scratch one off my bucket list.

Who wouldn't want to ride in a 1931 Ford Model A tudor sedan? I sure did, and I got a chance a couple of Fridays ago to cruise around Merced for a couple of hours.

My friend's Model A is a cream puff and certainly looks as good as it did when brand-new, if not even better. It had a restoration a few years ago and looks its Sunday best now.

It was an afternoon to treasure.

Riding in the old sedan was enjoyable. Since the car's comfortable cruising speed is about 45 mph, thrilling might be too strong a description for the journey. It could reach speeds of 60 mph or more, but that's outside my friend's comfort zone and probably mine as well.

Driving a 1930s Ford takes some skill and experience. Like a treasured pet, the vintage Ford owner needs to shift carefully and not overtax the engine or other somewhat fragile suspension parts. They can take some abuse but responsible car ownership doesn't include thrashing your pride and joy.

Shifting appears tricky, and I ground just a few gears during the several minutes I was behind the wheel. Steering is very responsive, perhaps even twitchy. First and second gears are very low; most of the cruising is done in third gear, which has a wide power range.

On smooth streets, the Model A cruises effortlessly; on bumpy roads, the ride is a little rougher.

Even with a muffler, engine noise is fairly pronounced, but that's not a complaint. It's part of the bond established between the old Ford and its human companions.

I was amazed how clean and complete the Model A was; the engine was clean enough to eat off, not that I've made a habit of dining on automotive power plants.

The dark green and black paint gleams and the passengers' reflection is easily visible in the very large chromed headlights. The whitewall tires are accented by bright orange spoke wheels.

Riding in the Model A is like being in your own parade. In traffic most other motorists noticed us and gave us a thumbs up.

With tender loving care, the Model A certainly could be a faithful and fun conveyance.

Riding or driving a vehicle that's more than 80 years old definitely qualifies as a historical exercise and barely comparable with modern transportation. But it's cubic fun. I'd jump back in that sedan on a moment's notice.

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or

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