Q. [Regarding that Chevy bowtie on the battery cable (July 18 and Aug. 29)], I’m finishing up a ’29 Chevy restoration and found the bowtie all over the place, including this upper radiator hose neck. They sure wanted people to know who made this car. Amazing for the time.
— Joe Antique Auto, via e-mail
A. It may also have been to mark genuine Chevrolet parts. Ford had a similar practice with the familiar script as well as the Ford oval. Years ago I was researching the 1930s Ford-based Jensen cars built in England. An owner who had restored one told of finding a mysterious smooth area on his brake backing plates, where something had been ground off. He owned a genuine Ford of the era, so he compared backing plates. On the Ford car he found the Ford script in that location; it had been purposely removed on the Jensen. During that period, Jensen acknowledged only that its cars used “various units which are manufactured outside the Jensen factory…”
Q. I am starting to futz with a 1931 Ford Model A. I have a vision for it to look like a low-buck hot rod of the mid-1950s. I want a radiator cap/hood ornament that does something by wind action as I drive. As a kid, I remember seeing one with an airplane and the propeller spun when you would drive. I can’t seem to find it from any Model A supplier. The only one I have found on eBay was modern and home-made. I prefer an older one or one that is a copy of the original type. I put a thermostat gauge in the cab so I don’t need a thermostat on the radiator cap. Any ideas or leads?
— Hyman Roth, Kansas
A. My bible on radiator and hood ornaments is the late William C. Williams’ “Motoring Mascots of the World,” first published in 1977 and updated in 1990. It shows two airplanes of the type you describe, one a bi-plane and the other a monoplane, both with free-spinning propellers. Both are described as “painted tin.” The source notation says simply “American.” The only advice I can give is “keep looking.”
I do have some thoughts on Model A radiator ornaments, however. Two years ago I purchased a restored 1930 standard roadster. The previous owner had added a few accessories, like a clock-mirror and a MotoMeter, that I thought were excessive for a Model A. Back in the day, when Model As were in common everyday use, only “show-offs” dressed them up. I felt that the MotoMeter detracted from the appearance of the car, and when driving I never saw the temperature rise above the low end of the scale. I’ve been messing with Model As on and off for more than 60 years. In my experience, if a Model A’s radiator core is sound and unobstructed, a temperature gauge is superfluous.
I bought a reproduction twist-lock cap for 1930-31 models from one of the many Model A parts suppliers. Made in Asia, it appeared to be a very solid and quality product. Once I had removed the MotoMeter cap, however, I found the new cap would not properly “snick” into place. It looked OK, but I was afraid it would vibrate loose on the road.
I consulted one of the Model A forums on the internet. It seems a lot of owners have encountered this problem, and members suggested varying causes and remedies. Some blamed a poor reproduction radiator, with a short neck. Others felt the radiator mounting was at fault. Still others had patiently cut a sliver off the bottom of the cap to make it fit. It finally occurred to me that the well-made cap might actually be the problem. As it happens, I have a nearly identical unrestored 1930 standard roadster that’s a family heirloom. It needs a lot of work, and my impatience led to buying the restored car. I tried the original cap on my restored car and it fits perfectly. The difference is in the locking mechanism. The repro cap has a heavy metal tab that is supposed to engage the twist lock part of the radiator neck. The original cap has spring steel instead.