Father, son search for their stolen 1929 Ford Model A
LANCASTER, Pa. (AP) – About 15 years ago, Ralph Wright was astonished to find a lovingly refurbished Ford Model A parked in front of his house, ready for him to drive.
Last week, the 84-year-old Willow Valley retiree was just as surprised to discover the car had gone missing.
An 18-foot black Haulmark box trailer containing the green sedan vanished from a fenced storage facility in Pequea Township sometime between July 28 and Aug. 28.
Who would want to steal a vintage jalopy with purple plates, yellow wheels and a stuttering engine?
Wright has been studying the question with Southern Regional Police Officer Dianne Carter.
“That car is not exactly an 18-year-old’s dream,” said Carter, who has been reviewing security camera video from Willow Self Storage, 3300 Willow Street Pike.
Unfortunately, she added, whoever stole it “could chop it and sell it as parts.”
But even the pieces might be traceable.
The Model A Restorers Club is broadcasting word of the theft, said Sheila Hippler, the office manager for MARC’s national headquarters in Garden City, Mich.
Ralph Wright Jr., of Spring Grove, York County, said he’s spent so much time working on his dad’s car “that I’d probably be able to identify half the parts.”
It was the younger Wright who brought the car into the family.
He purchased it after his father remarked that it would be great to have a vehicle made the year he was born, 1929.
“We just showed up on Father’s Day with it,” Ralph Wright Jr. said. “He had no clue that it was a gift. He wanted to take a ride. I said, ‘Well, it’s yours.’”
Henry Ford’s Model A line replaced the Model T, called the “Tin Lizzie,” in 1927.
“In those days,” Ralph Wright said, “they didn’t have VIN numbers. But they did number (cars) sequentially. and they stamped the number on the motor.”
The engine number of the stolen car is 3,563,347, indicating it was made in June 1930—close enough to Ralph Wright’s birth year for his son.
The vehicle came from a Southern estate collection of 32 antique cars. The family knows little else about the Model A’s history.
The car had about 238 miles on its odometer.
“It would do 55,” the son said, “but it was an exciting 55.”
Except for the upholstery, said the elder Wright, who worries that the thief or thieves might try to convert the car into a street rod, “it’s all original stuff” that someone had restored to mint condition.
He liked to take the vehicle on ice cream runs and country rambles—sunny days only.
He also drove the car in parades here and in York.
He last showed it off at a Willow Valley function in early June.
“The day I found out it was stolen was the day the information for the Millersville parade came in the mail,” the elder Wright said. “I guess I’ll put that aside.”
His son said he kept the car in a climate-controlled garage in York during the winter.
The Model A was loaded into the trailer and parked at the storage facility over the summer for easy access, the father said.
In May, he said, before the car was brought over, someone broke into the trailer and stole an air compressor, battery charger, tools and other items.
His wife, Cheryl, was alarmed by the burglary.
“Women’s intuition,” he said. “’Don’t take that (car) back down there,’” she told him. “But, of course, I didn’t listen.”
It’s unknown whether the thefts are related, or whether the trailer thieves were even targeting the antique.
“I’m pretty sure they knew that car was in there,” said Carter, who said that lightning had hit the storage facility and disabled the security gate.
Wright’s son estimated the value of the average restored Model A at $20,000.
But this vehicle is irreplaceable, he said.
Information from: Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era, http://lancasteronline.com
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