1930 Ford Model A ‘Huckster’ was assembled one piece at a time
Ross Heard never intended to own a Ford Model A “Huckster,” and Ford Motor Co. never really intended for such a vehicle to exist.
In both cases, larger forces intervened.
In the 1920s and early 1930s, Ford plants from Chester, Penn., and Dearborn, Mich., to Cork, Ireland, and Cologne, Germany, were cranking out variants of the rugged, reliable and clearly versatile Model A by the thousands.
There were sedan, coupe, roadster and pickup variants, to name a few, and several variants of some of those — hardtops, convertibles, with windshields, without windshields.
Missing from the lineup, at first anyway, was a delivery type vehicle with an enclosed cargo space.
The market stepped in and soon coach makers were offering wooden kits to fill that niche.
“People would buy the chassis from Ford, buy a body kit from somewhere else, and have it built,” Heard, who lives in League City, said.
“They were popular with peddlers and hucksters, people who drove around selling their wares.”
Heard’s 1930 Model A began as project of his brother Donald, who died in 2004, before the Huckster was complete.
“It came to me on a trailer and just in a bunch of pieces,” Heard said. “The pieces had never been together before, they came from different places.
“It’s a car that never was a car.”
Dick Crabtree, a friend of Donald’s and fellow Model A enthusiast, volunteered to get the Huckster together and running, Heard said. He figured it might take a year.
But as Johnny Cash warned in his song “One Piece at a Time,” building a car where there never was a car can be a time-consuming effort.
“A lot of things didn’t match,” Heard said. “One of the fenders was different. A lot of the pieces were different.”
Getting the Huckster underway took a lot of alteration and fabrication, and, ultimately, two years. Heard and Crabtree got it running in 2006.
While the parts aren’t all from the same place, they are all original and all made from 1930s-era materials; there are no fiberglass or plastic reproduction parts.
The Huckster is powered by Ford’s 201 cubic-inch in-line four cylinder engine mated to a three-speed, sliding gear manual transmission.
The Huckster, which probably weighs about 2,500 pounds, tops out at about 50 mph, he said.
“I’ve had it up to that fast once,” he said. “And I will never, ever do it again.”
Heard tries to drive the Model A at least once a week, he said. These rides are often solo. His wife, Elizabeth, refuses to ride in the Huckster.
“She was a power company lineman,” Heard said. “She had to climb those wooden power poles and is really worried about splinters. She’s afraid somebody will hit us.”