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Priceless restoration returns Model A to glory days


Specialist British automotive paint manufacturer, HMG, has restored a part of motoring history to mark its 80th anniversary in 2010

Model A History

HMG managing director, John Falder, says the restoration project, a Ford Model A, holds a special place in the history of the company and the city of Manchester where the paintworks is based.

The car, built in September 1930, is one of the last Model As Ford made at its Trafford Park factory in Manchester before moving production to Dagenham, east London. Harold Marcel Guest and Falder’s grandfather, Herbert, founded HMG the same year.

“With our 80th anniversary coming up in less than two years, we thought we’d restore the car to its former glory and showcase our traditional-style automotive paints,” says John Falder.

“We first acquired the Model A (it has a two litre engine where US cars had 3.3 litres) 30 years ago. Even its seemingly personalised numberplate, JF 525, was originally fitted to the car, while its vintage and Manchester origins fitted in perfectly with our company history.”

Falder says that though the two-door Tudor Sedan was in a very poor state when he bought it in 1978, it came with a complete history. He ran it for about 20 years, covering 32,000km, before pensioning it off.

“(We) used it for family outings, often for commuting to work over the years, and it earned a special place in our hearts.”

HMG’s semi-retired maintenance manager, the late Tommy Wright, began refurbishing the Ford’s chassis at HMG’s factory, but died before completing the job. “So this professional restoration is also regarded as ‘Tommy’s legacy’,” says Falder.

Macclesfield, Cheshire, coachbuilder, Norman Isles, was entrusted with the full restoration which he says was one of the most challenging he’s ever done.

At first sight, the car appeared to be in sound condition, but when Isles burned away layer upon layer of paint, there was precious little steel remaining.

He and his sons would have to manually rebuild virtually every pressed steel panel, replicating every surface and swathe line.

They repaired and reglued the comb-jointed timber roof and windscreen frame and rebuilt the composite roof to original specification from wood, wire netting, hessian and vinyl.

HMG refurbished the steel spoke wheels and painted them their original bright yellow.

HMG corrosion-resistant primer/undercoat supports the traditional cellulose topcoat, painted maroon and black with a gold swathe line, to reflect the company’s corporate identity and distinctive paint cans.

Falder says that though the cost of restoration is likely to exceed the vehicle’s actual worth, it’s a fully-working embodiment of HMG’s company heritage and showcases how high-performance paint protects, preserves and beautifies classic vehicles. “So in that respect it’s priceless.”

A little Model A history

Ford launched the Model A in America in December 1927, and it became a huge success.

Ford built more than five million, and today it’s one of the world’s most popular collector cars. Half a million are thought to have been restored, customised and preserved in America.

It succeeded the Model T and had much more advanced engineering. It was the first Ford to use a conventional set of control pedals, and had three-speed sliding gear transmission, and featured hydraulic shock absorbers and welded steel-spoke wheels. Ford sold it in 50 body styles and 40 paint colours, but not initially black.

With sales booming, Henry Ford decided to establish his first factory outside North America and bought a disused tram works at Trafford Park, south of Manchester, England.

By 1913 the plant had Europe’s first moving assembly line, and 12 years later built Britain’s 300,000th Ford. It produced the Model A and other vehicles, until the Dagenham plant opened in October 1931.

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