We’re either starting with more or less than we did last year, depending on your point of view. But one thing is certain about this year’s Hagerty Swap to Street Challenge: There’s no turning back now.
For better or worse, we’re towing the remnants of a 1930 Ford Model A to Hershey, Pa., for the AACA Fall Hershey Swap Meet, and beginning on Oct. 4, four Hagerty employees will attempt to build an entire car in four days using parts sourced at the meet. We can’t take any shortcuts, either, since the entire build will be streamed live, plus we’re going to drive the car 750 miles home to Traverse City, Mich. That’s the plan, anyway.
Everything worked out just fine last year when we started with the chassis and cab of a 1946 Ford pickup and, after some tense moments in our search for parts, fired that baby up and took it for a drive with five hours to spare. This time around we’re starting with a Model A chassis, a non-working 4-cylinder flathead engine with 3-speed manual transmission, and the car’s original mechanical brakes.
We’re guessing that the frame is from a roadster, since the chassis had a passenger-side spare (truck spares were mounted on the left, sedan spares in the rear). But that doesn’t mean it’s going to live as a roadster. That’s the beauty of it.
“Since all Model A frames are the same, the style of the car is up in the air,” said Matt Lewis, who along with Davin Reckow came up with the crazy Swap to Street idea in the first place. “It all depends on what’s at Hershey.”
That, indeed, is the challenge. We have no idea what parts will be available until we arrive at the meet, and in the end we may have to simply make do with what we find. Last year, for instance, Reckow successfully rigged clutch linkage from other car parts. His work of art is still on the truck, by the way.
With that in mind, one of our readers, John W. of Balston Spa, N.Y., correctly guessed that we chose the Model A over two other possibilities – a 1937 Plymouth and a 1956 Chevrolet wagon. John’s reasoning was good enough to win a Swap to Street t-shirt. “The ’46 Ford was a great challenge; hopefully you’re going to raise the bar this year,” he wrote. “That being said, I would go with the rolling chassis ’30 Ford. Reason for this choice is, you are going to have to search for numerous parts and conduct a lot of assembly work. But the A’s were only a four-year production run. How many parts are interchangeable from ’28-’31? Will ’28 parts fit a ’31 body if that’s all you can find? There will be challenges in finding parts that will fit and work together. Everyone loves a challenge and you are up to it this year. When it comes to safety (first and foremost), the mechanical brakes will stop the vehicle, providing you’re not trying to stop it doing 55. I owned a ’29 Ford Tudor and the brakes worked very well. It’s all about building something from nothing. The Plymouth is sweet but mainly intact, as is the Chevy. Can’t wait to watch the start of the show.”
We’re eager to get started, too. It’s already been weeks since Lewis and Reckow discovered the Model A chassis in Alanson, Mich., about an hour’s drive from Hagerty headquarters. At one time the Model A had been a hot rod project, but it became an orphan when the builder went with an aftermarket frame and V-8 engine instead. The car’s previous owner, Dennis, pointed out that the last three digits of the Model A’s serial number are 666 – “Hope you aren’t superstitious” – but we threw caution to the wind and did the deal anyway.
“While we were loading the car, Dennis said, ‘Hold on, I have one more thing for you,’” Lewis recalled. “He disappeared into his shop and came back with a shift knob and screwed it onto the lever. He told us that it belonged to his friend Bill, who had passed away, and ‘This way Bill can ride with you.’”
Thanks, Dennis. We’ll need all the help we can get.
As if this year’s Swap to Street Challenge isn’t challenging enough, only half of last year’s foursome will be working on the Model A. Reckow and Brad Phillips are back, while Brett Lirones and Randy Clouse are new to the team. Meet them here.
Stay tuned for weekly updates on the team’s preparations and more details on our new vehicle at www.hagerty.com/swaptostreet.
If you’re planning to attend the meet, please stop by and watch the build. For those of you watching from home, we’ll stream the entire process beginning Tuesday, Oct. 4, at noon. Subscribe to the stream here: www.YouTube.com/Hagerty/live.