Video: New life for restored 1930 Model A Ford

Kathy Uek

Gazing at his 1930 Ford Coupe for the first time, Matt Johnson noticed the Model A had no fenders, running boards, upholstery or glass in the window frames. Duct tape held the doors shut. A metal roof was screwed to its top and the wheels - two red and two green - were not only the wrong style, but the wrong size.

That was in November 2006.

"It was really in bad shape," said Johnson, a sophomore at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School. "The body was hardly attached. You could almost lift it off the frame."

Dick Stitt, a member of the Minuteman Model A Ford Club, who was born four years before the 1930 auto was built, and Johnson, the youngest member of the club, restored the rusting hulk to showroom condition. About 20 members of the club also helped.

"Some gave cash, some donated parts and some gave their time," said Stitt.

About 180 families within a 40-mile radius of Sudbury belong to the Model A Club that meets monthly at the Memorial Congregational Church in Sudbury.

When the Ford arrived it was filled with parts and miscellany - including three mufflers and old upholstery. Some of the parts went with the car and some didn't, said Stitt, who became a friend of the Johnsons 16 years ago when Matt's father, Jeff, became pastor of Peace Lutheran Church in Wayland.

The duo scurried to flea markets and swap meets in their search for replacement parts. They searched online and in catalogs and they found many parts at Tam's Model A Parts in West Boylston.

They tore down the car and took off the old steel body.

"As we started to restore pieces, I got excited. One fender looked great and two looked even better," said Johnson, who is 16. "That's the big thrill of putting the pieces back together - it starts looking like a car. I loved being out in Dick's garage running into problems and solving them, which added to the fun of it."

The job was fun but it had its problems - one of which the team ironed out. With a hammer and dolly set, they pounded out the dents of the front fenders. "We spent a month on each of the fenders," said Johnson.

Financial awards from the club for Tam's and LeBaron Bonney of Amesbury, which upholstered the front seat, helped defray the $4,000 to $5,000 restoration cost in addition to $4,000 for the cost of the car. Stitt puts the value of the restored car between $16,000 and $17,000.

Johnson's fascination with antique cars began when Stitt drove his Model A to church during the summer. By the age of 8, Johnson helped change an alternator on Stitt's 1930 Model A Roadster. Four years later Johnson was Stitt's informal assistant. At 14, he became a member of the club and before Johnson entered the ninth grade, the search for that Model A began.

On April 16, the duo completed the restoration. Possessing only a driver's permit, Johnson drove the vehicle home, to show off its black exterior with a brown woolen cloth interior and cream wheels. Stitt sat beside him. Johnson's driver's license came three days later.

"It was great driving it and putting it in the garage finally," said Johnson. "But it was also a little sad. Restoring was half the fun."

Stitt admits it's a little sad for him, too. "It's fun seeing the car here, but I miss having Matt and the car at my house."

Johnson plans to keep the antique auto, drive it some and tinker with it.

With temperatures in the 70s recently, he particularly enjoyed having it around.

"I rolled down the windows, and the windshield flips out, giving off air flow underneath the windshield. It's old-time air conditioning," he said.

Plans to restore more cars will probably wait until Johnson graduates and begins his professional career.

"Even if antique cars are not my vocation, they will definitely be a hobby," he said.

MetroWest Daily News