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Fixing up the Ford Model A Doodlebug


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#1 tiretrx OFFLINE  

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Posted October 12, 2017 - 07:16 PM

As some may know I recently purchased a Ford Model A Doodlebug. It's a tractor made from a Model A chassis, engine, and sheet metal, with a Commercial Ford Model AA tranny and rear end. She has some issues, both by design and the wear and tear of 90 years of use. To be clear, I bought it with my eyes wide open. The seller was very honest, and a pleasure to meet. The machine ran and was drivable. 
 
My plan is to improve it user-wise, and with time, put my twist on it aesthetically. But, at no time do I want it where we can't drive for any length of time. 
 
Some things that needed immediate attention were a lack of a muffler, a broken exhaust manifold, poor running engine, and a driveshaft that was fairly scary. But, as luck would have it, a week after I bought the doodlebug, I was given a side job to do a large barn clean out. To my incredible good fortune there was a good number of Model A parts included! Including a seized engine and a NOS complete exhaust system!
 
Here's the engine, after I removed the exhaust manifold, and the exhaust system.
 
IMG_20170929_210106.jpg IMG_20170929_210034.jpg
 
As I said the engine ran pretty rough. After going over things, some wiring was replaced, did the timing, but it just seemed despite me going over the carb twice, it just wasn't metering fuel properly. I have a bud that had a good known rebuild on the shelf, so I traded a bit of cash and the old one for it.
 
Here's the engine with the replacement exhaust manifold, carb and muffler installed.
 
IMG_20171011_202010.jpg
 
After some carb adjustment.........she almost purrs. Also did a compression check. Was happily surprised with a reading of 60, 60, 45 & 55 lbs. from front to back. All are in acceptable range. Three are on the high end. Put a cap of MMM in each cylinder overnight. Good to go.
 
The back of the frame had been framed with a hunk of oak. It was pretty rotted, so we welded in a piece of channel.
 
IMG_20170929_184147.jpg
 
Part of the new design was stretching the DB a bit. This would not only make for roomier seating, but would improve the ride. We settled on moving back the rear end 11 inches.
 
 IMG_20170930_155050.jpg
 
While we were there we removed the driveshaft, linkage and input/output shafts. Time to redesign, rebuild and fabricate.
 
IMG_20170930_154854.jpg
 
 

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#2 Cvans OFFLINE  

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Posted October 12, 2017 - 08:35 PM

Hey Ellis I'm sure glad you updated this. I think about your Doodlebug often. If I was younger or had a need for one I think I would be on the hunt for one. 


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#3 boyscout862 OFFLINE  

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Posted October 12, 2017 - 10:29 PM

When things come together like this, it was meant to be. The swap in Plainfield is on Saturday. Good Luck, Rick


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#4 jdcrawler OFFLINE  

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Posted October 12, 2017 - 11:40 PM

That's a neat doodlebug.

I've always like the old T's and A's that were converted into tractors and doodlebugs.

Farmers and other mechanical inclined people were defiantly creative on building a usable machine with the old car parts.  


Edited by jdcrawler, October 12, 2017 - 11:42 PM.

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#5 tiretrx OFFLINE  

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Posted October 13, 2017 - 07:57 AM

Hey Ellis I'm sure glad you updated this. I think about your Doodlebug often. If I was younger or had a need for one I think I would be on the hunt for one. 

 

There's a certain charm about these machines, Chris. They provoke thought and conjecture of their life's birth, and journey. Of the people, and the times. When I examine how they did things, I try to envision the tools they had, the skills. Pretty neat stuff :thumbs:

 

When things come together like this, it was meant to be. The swap in Plainfield is on Saturday. Good Luck, Rick

 

All started with you, Rick!

 

That's a neat doodlebug.

I've always like the old T's and A's that were converted into tractors and doodlebugs.

Farmers and other mechanical inclined people were defiantly creative on building a usable machine with the old car parts.  

 

Thanks, Ray. Yes, whoever built this was a smart and resourceful cookie. They did a lot with a little. And it worked. Lots of respect for their skills.


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#6 Cat385B ONLINE  

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Posted October 13, 2017 - 08:43 AM

Will lengthening it affect the turning? Pretty tight or is a country mile to turn around?
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#7 sharkman OFFLINE  

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Posted October 13, 2017 - 09:11 AM

Are those wood blocks under the axle? if so, do you plan on replacing?


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#8 tiretrx OFFLINE  

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Posted October 13, 2017 - 12:02 PM

Will lengthening it affect the turning? Pretty tight or is a country mile to turn around?

 

I would think it would have to increase the turning radius, Scott. But at the same time it's still a shorter wheelbase than my Model A pickup, so I'm thinking it won't be an issue.

 

Are those wood blocks under the axle? if so, do you plan on replacing?

 

Yes, they are. They're made of oak and in real solid shape, so I'll be still using them. My plan is to true them up and use chamfers all around to spiffy them up and decrease the chance for sharp edge damage, etc. Also....... the red paint?...........gotta go!


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#9 DZG OFFLINE  

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Posted October 13, 2017 - 01:03 PM

I heard a rumor that henry ford heard of people building these and thats kind of where the N series tractors came from??
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#10 tiretrx OFFLINE  

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Posted October 13, 2017 - 01:13 PM

Ok, so I was able to finish up one little project before the weekend. It's the U-joint in the first picture. Couple issues with it. First being, it's looser than the hips on a belly dancer. Second, it's off a Ford Model AA. They're tougher to find than Model A ones, and more expensive when you do. Third, I'm cheap. So, I wanted to try and see what I could do with it. The ears and bushings both showed wear, especially the unhardened bushings. With the ear wear, a rebuild kit was out. First thing was turning the ears true again. This brings up something I'm asked about a fair amount as a machinist. Can you machine hardened material? Almost as much, I've been told you can't. The truth is, you can. Hopefully, without boring everyone, I'll share a bit of what I've learned with this piece. After determining the ears were hardened by running a good medium file over them and not removing any metal(plus hearing that distinct irritating sound), I chucked the center block in a lathe. The key to machining hardened material is using solid carbide tooling. Cemented carbide works fine, I'm using indexable inserts here.

 

db uj1.jpg db uj8.jpg db uj2.jpg

 

Next, and this is where I'm taking a bit of a flier here, I added zerk fittings all around. To do that I'm adding a small cross hole and a fill hole. This could be trouble with the case hardened ears perhaps fracturing. After some thought I figured the UJ is toast anyway, and either way, I'll learn something.

 

The key here was using a solid carbide drill to make a spot chamfer. But more importantly getting that spot below the hardened outer surface. Once that was done, I simply sent an 1/8" HSS drill behind it.

 

db uj4.jpg

 

Back to the lathe with carbide drill for fill holes.

 

db uj5.jpg

 

Another thing to know about hardened material is it is brittle. I didn't want to tap the zerk fitting holes, so I turned most of their threads off and lightly screwed them in with some retaining compound. Solid as a rock.

 

db uj6.jpg

 

Next up, turned the new steel bushings. Here's an old, with a new.

 

db uj3.jpg

 

Assembled unit. Feels great, time will tell if I wasted my time.

 

db uj7.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Edited by tiretrx, October 13, 2017 - 01:14 PM.

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#11 Cvans OFFLINE  

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Posted October 13, 2017 - 06:55 PM

That joint really looks good.  Time and talent can save a lot of money. Any idea what a new joint would be worth?


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#12 jdcrawler OFFLINE  

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Posted October 13, 2017 - 07:38 PM

That's excellent work on the U-joint but adding the grease fittings has me confused ....

Doesn't this joint run inside a closed drive shaft housing ?


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#13 HANKG OFFLINE  

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Posted October 13, 2017 - 08:24 PM

That's awesome Ellis, I stepped in the same pile of sh as you with finding a numbers matching engine for my Brillion, love it when a plan comes together.
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#14 tiretrx OFFLINE  

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Posted October 13, 2017 - 09:31 PM

That joint really looks good.  Time and talent can save a lot of money. Any idea what a new joint would be worth?

 

Thanks, Chris. I have a quote on another loose one(he has two) for $75 and $100 each. The seller has extensive used stock, but told me how hard it is to find AA parts. So, if I bought one I'd still be in the same boat, maybe a bit better, but still a worn part. That's why I said, why not try.

 

That's excellent work on the U-joint but adding the grease fittings has me confused ....

Doesn't this joint run inside a closed drive shaft housing ?

 

Correct, Ray. Stock, this has an enclosed torque tube. That disappeared when they made the doodlebug. It was totally open. So I chose to try and upgrade the present linkage. Plus, as said, I lengthened what I had by 11 inches. I'm banking on the new maintenance ability and that it won't be subjected to a true tractor environment with me. It will basically be a yard puller.

 

That's awesome Ellis, I stepped in the same pile of sh as you with finding a numbers matching engine for my Brillion, love it when a plan comes together.

 

Thanks, Hank.........sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. Congrats, on your engine score, bud  :thumbs:


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#15 Alc ONLINE  

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Posted October 14, 2017 - 05:23 AM

On enclosed driveshafts , did they use just one U-joint at the front? Was there gear oil up that far to keep it lubed so grease fittings not needed ?


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