1929 Ford Model A Hot Rod

Written by Brenton Wight, Health Researcher
Copyright © 1999-2021 Brenton Wight. All Rights Reserved.
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Updated 17th January 2021 

This is just a “health project” that I have been building in my “spare time”.
After all, I cannot sit at this computer all day, and everyone should have a hobby or special interest apart from normal daily activities to help the body and brain to function well.
This has taken many years due to the small amount of time available, and was recently nearing a stage where it was capable of running on the road. However, while it was on jacks, I checked the transmission, but found I had forward gears, but no reverse. In reverse and neutral, the wheels were still running forward, which is not very practical.

My first mistake was to pull out the transmission and take it apart.
In thinking about the problem part way through the overhaul, I should have taken it off the blocks, driven it around the yard for a while, run a few 10-second stall tests get the oil hot, then see if the problem cleared itself, after all it has been sitting idle for over 6 years, and probably another similar time with the previous owner, and possibly sitting in a wrecking yard before then for a long time. The next step should have been to take some pressure tests. There is a test plug on the left side of the trimatic, and readings from all of the ranges should be compared with specifications to help diagnose where the problem may be. However, too late as it was already in bits by the time I thought about it.

It has been over 50 years since I studied Automatic Transmissions I and II at TAFE, but it is all coming back to me now, although I had no opportunity to study this transmission as this was just before production of the trimatic, only earlier versions such as the Borg Warner 35, Powerglide and the hydramatic (“slushmatic”) from the EH-EJ Holden era. I can remember many things from long ago better than what happened yesterday…
Here are some of the bits partly dismantled:

While waiting for the parts, I overhauled the valve body. Surprisingly good condition with no stuck valves, just a little gunk here and there, now cleaned, assembled and lubricated. Other parts also in good condition for the age, about 46 years old, and has been in storage for many, many years.

Australia Post finally delivered an overhaul kit. I purchased the kit on eBay that included the band, the three clutch plate sets, the sprag,  some (but not all) bushes, seals, O-rings, gaskets, modulator, kick-down solenoid etc.
Warning: These kits come with no instructions. Clutch plates are easy as they are all different sizes. O-rings, however, have no identification about what they are for, so in future one should place each one in a plastic bag and write on the bag the correct location. Gaskets are easy enough because most can only go one way.

Rebuilt the reverse clutch where I thought there may be a problem, but found no issues.
Rebuilt the third clutch, replaced the sprag clutch, even though the old sprag clutch appeared OK.
Replaced the bushings, including the one at the back where the tailshaft is supported where the old bush showed signs of wear.
There is a good you-tube set of videos on how to put together a strong trimatic auto. Although designed for the commodore series, known as the TH180 3L30 transmissions, the basic parts for the HQ series appear to be much the same. The transmission I have appears to be the Australian Holden-built TH180 Trimatic series 3, although I have yet to find a definition of the differences. The manual appears to have some minor errors, or the manufacturing has some minor changes, adding to some confusion.

Because the identification badge was so badly damaged, I could not read the model, only the serial number that was stamped – the model number was painted only.
Part 1 of 4:

Part 2 of 4:

Part 3 of 4:

Part 4 of 4:

26th December 2020.
After Christmas Day, I am happy to get back to work on the transmission.
Now completed third clutch, second clutch, band, reverse clutch.
Maybe tomorrow I can start assembling bits into the case.
27th December 2020.
Special tools are mentioned everywhere in the manual. None were purchased for this job. Several bushes had to be replaced, and because they have very thin walls, and often have a split along the length, one cannot simply drive out the old bush with the new one. I found a few blocks of aluminium that required machining into punches that were used to punch out old bushes and punch ot press in new bushes.Internal and external circlip pliers were already on hand, but both had round ends. Rectangular ends would have made the job much easier. Inserting the O-ring at the bottom of the detant valve was difficult, but a piece of wooden dowel the right size did the job.
30th December 2020.
Finally bolted up the transmission. As it was very difficult balancing it on a jack when removing it, I welded up a flat plate arrangement for the floor trolley jack, which worked like a charm.
Tomorrow I should finish the tailshaft, rear trans mount, oil cooler lines, fit the starter motor and fingers crossed, hoping for a running transmission.
31st December 2020.
It runs! We now have reverse, although the gearshift says it should be in Second gear.
Should not be a problem, just shortening the selector arm next to the transmission.
Another job for another day and another year (2021).
New Year’s Eve and I have had enough for one day and one hell of a year.
1st January 2021.
Great start to a great year.
Modified selector arm installed and now selects all of the gears, but not tested yet.
Because our neighbors were very quiet, I assume they were still asleep or had hangovers, so I did not want to start the engine (exhaust system not finished yet) or finish a lot of jobs that required grinding or other noisy operations.
I connected the vacuum modulator hose today, added some more transmission oil, connected some wiring to the rear lights, modified a bracket for seat belts.
5th January 2021.
Installed exhaust pipes over rear axle and out the back. Still needs some adjustment to clear the rear tyres a little more.
Engine runs OK when warm, but very rough when cold, although my manual chocke modification for the front 2 barrels seems to work OK.
Finally got the car off the blocks and on the ground. After some lengthy manouvering to get out of the shed, a short run around the yard was successful, although not enough speed to see how well it changes gears, but we now have forward, neutral and reverse working.
Detent switch now set up at the carburetor. Original Holden switch was on the accelerator pedal, but too difficult to fit one there. Now need to connect one side to ignition and the other to the detent solenoid on the transmission.
A stop built to prevent the secondary throttle plates opening. The front twin barrels should be more than enough.
6th January 2021.
Eventually got the twist out of the tailgate and welded the bottom hinge bracket so the tailgate now hinges and shuts correctly.
7th January 2021.
My birthday, not a lot done, general tidy-up.
9th January 2021.
Installed the ute lid handle, lock and tailgate connector.
Set the distributor timing. Spec says 6 degrees but engine ran better at about 10 degrees advance (idle, vacuum disconnected from distributor and plugged)
Engine overheated after idling for about 15 minutes. There was a small coolant leak, even so the small 10″ electric fan is not up to the job. Hoping to get a 16″ or 17″ fan installed soon, along with the replacement of the thermostat and housing, heater hoses etc.
Reverse lights wiring tested and complete.
Re-wired the system so that the fuel pump switch is isolated by the ignition switch as well as the extra switch for the 12 volt fuel pump and 12 volt cutoff solenoid.
Started the air cleaner modification to allow crankcase gases to vent through the carburetor to be burnt in the engine.
Verified that the alternator is now working after converting to a 3-wire system instead of a 1-wire system, but the 3-wire system does not light the Red LED when it should (ignition on, engine off).
11th January 2021.
Reworked the right side exhaust pipes to give more clearance to rear tyre.
Measured radiator for replacement. Ordered a mustang radiator that will fit in the shell, but will require an inline filler neck in the top radiator hose, on order.
Order the largest mechanical fan possible, probably 16″ or 17″ after mounting the new radiator as low as possible to allow fan clearance to the bottom radiator hose.
Decided against an electric fan as the mechanical fan will move more air above idle, but should not be idling too long. May have to increase revs a bit if held up at traffic lights too long. The mini-alternator has only 50 amp capacity, and up to half that required to run a powerful 17″ electric fan, along with electronic distributor, fuel pump, lights, etc.
14th January 2021.
Removed radiator and grille shell.
17th January 2021.
Replacement carburetor arrived, replica Quadrajet which is a post-pollution model, needing several hose connections blocked. 


A few more jobs yet:

 – Install new radiator and filler neck, on order
– Install new thermostat, housing, heater hoses
– Order a large mechanical fan
– Fabricate a fan shroud for better cooling
– Stop lights wiring to finish at switch on master cylinder linkage.
– Brake fail light to be installed.
– Second return spring to add to the carburetor to comply with the rules

– Fit the marine ply lining to the inside of the doors
– Install the hood catches
– Install the rear view mirror and bracket – inside
– Install the external rear view mirrors
– Install, stain and varnish the timber strips around doors
– Install switch and wiring for demister
– Respray entire car again.


No side windows built yet. I will look at this at a later stage after the car is inspected and registered.

The original doors and the body have been extended lengthwise by 150 mm because originally the body was so small I had a lot of difficulty just getting into the car.
The previous owner who had partly built the car had chopped the roof, but this also made the driving position very cramped, so the entire roof structure was rebuilt higher.

As a youngster, I helped my father as he spent many weekends panel beating accident-damaged cars for extra income. That experience helped me build some compound curves in extended doors, etc.
Pity he died before his time from Alzheimer’s. Knowing what I know now I could have saved him, but at least I have managed to halt the degradation in my poor brain now before it gets too bad. All the more reason to get this project finished!

Chassis boxed with 5mm plate – gets heavier every day, but is not meant to be a race car…

GPS speedo, yet to be tested. Cannot find the satellites in the shed, as expected.
Other gauges work OK, except the fuel level is in reverse – shows full when empty, empty when full.
Cabin lined with marine ply, doors yet to be lined.
Marine carpet used on floor.

Basic specifications:
Original 1929 Model A Ford chassis, boxed with 5mm plate, new cross-members, tailshaft loop.
Front Suspension:
HT Holden independent front suspension, new ventilated disks and PBR calipers, new PBR master cylinder with booster mounted under-floor, custom adjustable proportioning valve.
Steering column:
HQ Holden  custom steering universal joints, rebuilt VB Commodore rack and pinion steering.
Rear Suspension:
UC (I think) modified Torana rear suspension and rear axle, new custom coil-over shocks, new brake drums, shoes and cylinders.
Engine: Holden Statesman HQ series 308 V8, Rochester 4-barrel carburettor.
Transmission: Holden made Trimatic auto.

To be continued…

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