Video: Time-Lapse Rebuild Of a 1930 Model A Four-Cylinder Engine

The Ford Model A’s 201 cubic-inch flathead inline-four-cylinder engine probably belongs in a museum, as an important part of Ford’s early history. However, just because it should be in a museum, doesn’t mean they aren’t completely serviceable powerplants. A quick rebuild with a few new, reconditioned, and recreated parts and this vintage powerplant is back making steam.

Originally making around 40 horsepower thanks to its incredibly low 4.4:1 compression ratio, there was a high-performance “Police” variant, which upped the compression by a full point and incorporated a more advanced heart-shaped compression ratio. However, that’s not the variant being rebuilt here, in this installment of Hagerty’s Redline Rebuild.

This particular example is 91 years old and happened to be leaking oil like a sieve. Not exactly something unexpected from an engine produced before television or even “talkies” (movies with sound). So, as is the way of the Hagerty team, it was time for a full rebuild, caught in their signature high-definition time-lapse style.

Interestingly, as the engine is torn down, it appears to be in better condition than some of the modern LS engines we’ve seen coming out of the junkyards and from Facebook Marketplace recently. This engine was obviously taken care of, especially to be running after all of these years. The Model A’s unique (by today’s standards, anyway) three-main-journal arrangement still catches us off guard, as does the valve-in-block arrangement of the L-head design, and the tiny lobes on the camshaft.

Insulated spark plug wires and connector boots? Who needs them, when you have bare copper straps! You’ve gotta love old technology. But hey, it still works!

Interesting to see, at 2:02 in the video, is the portable induction heater used to heat up the head studs in order to remove them from the engine block. As the engine gets machined, another interesting feature to take note of is the poured lead bearings — there are no easily replaceable bearing shells in this engine design.

Seeing the old style of parts is really cool, like the pistons that look like paint cans, with piston rings that look like they might be pushing a quarter-inch thick, The valve stems look like tree trunks, and the connecting rods that look to be as thick as they are wide (that is to say, not very). But at the end of it all, the freshly rebuilt engine looks like it might be good for another near-century of use.

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About the author

Greg Acosta

Greg has spent seventeen years and counting in automotive publishing, with most of his work having a very technical focus. Always interested in how things work, he enjoys sharing his passion for automotive technology with the reader.
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