Winnipeg Free Press

This Model A Ford is staying in the family

by Larry D'Argis . Apr 26 2019
Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free PressDave Cushnie beams next to his classic Ford, which will join more than 100 other local hot rods, customs and classic at the Manitoba Street Rod Association’s 20th annual Rodarama car show running today through Sunday at East End Arena.

Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

Dave Cushnie beams next to his classic Ford, which will join more than 100 other local hot rods, customs and classic at the Manitoba Street Rod Association’s 20th annual Rodarama car show running today through Sunday at East End Arena.

When the Model A Ford appeared at dealerships in North America in 1928, Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford’s beloved Model T had owned the road for nearly 20 years — and even though Old Henry felt it was the perfect car, it was getting long in the tooth.

While the 1928 Model A wasn’t an immediate sensation, it did have plenty of charm. Solid engineering, updated styling and a palatable price helped Ford sell 208,562 units in its first production year. On the surface, it didn’t look like anything monumental, but it was the new foundation of what Ford would be built upon. For 1929 and 1930, Ford continued to offer engineering upgrades and the Model A was solidly a sales leader in America.

Today, there are many restored original examples of the early Model A Ford, and they are also sought after as the basis for building hot rods. Most start out with little more than the body and frame and many were cobbled together with used parts from other vehicles. Today, the Model A Ford can be tailored to your liking, thanks to the aftermarket parts industry’s abundant supply. It also offers owners of older constructed Model A hot rods the means to step up to new components.

Dave Cushnie of Beaconia grew up with the 1930 Ford five-window coupe. “My father, Rick, and I would spend our days in the garage or cruising the back roads looking for old cars in the fields,” Cushnie says. Starting in 1989 with a 1930 Ford five-window coupe his father pulled from a landfill, the mission was to construct a traditional hot rod. The initial build saw the stock Model A frame boxed with added crossmembers. A ’57 Ford rear axle was installed and suspended with Corvair coil springs and radius rods. Up front, a four-bar, or hairpins, locate a reverse-eye dropped front-beam axle, with disc brakes and gas shocks at each corner.

Body modifications include a ’70s Vega station wagon ribbed roof, hand-formed bobbed rear fenders, a four-inch roof chop and four-inch channel over the frame, new safety glass and dual side-view mirrors. A sunken rear licence plate and Nerf bar bumpers, along with blue-dot ’38 Ford tail lamps are period correct and the rumble seat was repurposed as a trunk with electronic actuator. The hood pays homage to the ’50s with 70 hood louvers to protect the engine compartment from the weather yet dissipate heat. The coupe was then bathed in a flat black-suede paint job.

Initial power for the coupe came from a small-block Chevrolet V-8 and Turbo 350 three-speed automatic transmission. While it did get the coupe down the road, the elder Cushnie’s plan was to install a late ’50s vintage 348-cubic-inch V-8. Topped with a tri-power unit utilizing three Rochester two-barrel carburetors and an upgraded H.E.I. electronic ignition and four-core radiator for reliability, it made for a powerful cruiser.

In 1995, it received its gloss black paint job, handmade exhaust headers and 15-inch McLean wire wheels, turning B.F. Goodrich T/A radial tires.

Inside, there’s a pair of red 1980s Corvette power bucket seats, GM tilt steering column, power windows, cruise control, custom aluminum dash housing Stewart-Warner gauges and an Alpine stereo. There’s also a true rodder’s touch, with the simple, grey painted, plywood door panels.

Rick Cushnie passed in 2003 and the coupe lived in Arizona until July 2018, when Dave’s stepmother, Shelly, gave him the car. Since then, Dave has kept modifications to a minimum with the addition of LED headlamps and other simple upgrades.

“I want to keep the car close to my father’s vision of a classic hot rod and just enjoy driving it,” Cushnie says.

The final year of production for Ford’s Model A would be 1931, which would also be the year Ford produced its 20-millionth Ford. Ninety years later, their popularity among purists and hot-rodders alike is stronger than ever.

For an up-close look at Cushnie’s hot rod Ford and more than 100 other local rods, customs and classics, be sure to check out the Manitoba Street Rod Association’s 20th annual Rodarama car show running today through Sunday at East End Arena (517 Pandora Ave. E.) in Transcona— it’s a definite blast from the past the whole family can enjoy.

57ford@mymts.net

Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free PressCushnie took over care of his late father’s Ford — a prized ride he has fond memories of — in 2018. He’s made minimal modifications since.

Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

Cushnie took over care of his late father’s Ford — a prized ride he has fond memories of — in 2018. He’s made minimal modifications since.

Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free PressCushnie took over care of his late father’s Ford — a prized ride he has fond memories of — in 2018. He’s made minimal modifications since.

Larry D’Argis / Winnipeg Free Press

Cushnie took over care of his late father’s Ford — a prized ride he has fond memories of — in 2018. He’s made minimal modifications since.