How-To Grilled To Perfection
Australian Street Rodding|January 2021
Modifying the grille shell, fitting head and taillights

We’re starting to get down to the last of the major details on the Model A bucket re-creation. The only major components still to be dealt with include head and taillights, roll bar, fuel tank, battery and radiator/grille. Then it will be the last of the internal items like seat, seat belts, floor and gauges. This issue we deal with the radiator and grille and then go on to mount the head and taillights.

Having a small block Chevy engine in place means I need to allow for as much cooling as possible in the radiator area, so I called up Norm at Aussie Desert Cooler to discuss the options. Since the body of the Model A is channelled the depth of the chassis (four inches), the overall height of the radiator needed to come down by the same amount. It’s not simply a matter of shortening the radiator by that amount and doing that would limit it’s capacity to cool the engine, so I elected to mount the radiator level with the bottom edge of the chassis rails at the front instead of at the top as they were originally. Because the chassis rails taper toward the front, that doesn’t give me the required four inches difference to match the channelled body, so I opted to have the radiator made 1-1/2 inches shorter to make up (or should that be take away) the difference. The overall theme of the bucket is a late sixties style rod, so I didn’t want a modern aluminium radiator for it, rather an original style brass version painted black. Norm was straight onto the job and the result was a slightly shorter Model A radiator ready to set up in the car.

The first thing I did on receipt of the radiator was to cut up the large cardboard box it came in and use flat sheets of it to protect the front and rear of the core as shown in the photos. It is so easy to damage the core fins while fitting up the car that I didn’t want to take any chances. My memory was some help in this regard. When I was building my original bucket back in 1969, I was using the workshop on my father’s farm at Ultima, in the Victorian Mallee. All farmers up there have a sheep dog and I was using dad’s ute to drive back and forth to the farm while building the bucket. When it came time for a radiator, I found one to suit at the local wreckers (it was from a ’48 Dodge if I recall correctly, but fitted reasonably into the Model A shell). I put it in the back of the ute and prepared to leave for the farm and of course the dog had to come too. He leapt into the back of the ute and landed fair and square on the radiator, bending a lot of the fins – lesson learnt a long time ago!

Back to now. With the core suitably protected, I set about checking if my proposed mounting position adjacent to the lower edge of the chassis rail was going to work. It dropped directly into place. I requested Norm to allow for the original Model A style bracket at the top of the radiator to accept the original type support rods that extend back to their brackets on the upper firewall. I already had a surplus pair of stainless steel support rods left over from the ’36 Ford Tudor project so they were shortened and reshaped slightly to hold the radiator in place at the top.

Next we turn our attention to the grille shell. Up to this point I had been using an old, not-so-good original grille shell that came off my Model A Tudor many years ago when I replaced it with a new one. I would like to run a chromed shell this time around on the bucket but it will have to be shortened to suit. For this reason I wanted to start with a plain steel, new repro Model A item that was purchased from TCR Carponents in Melbourne. Having none of the original holes for crank or grille badge, this new shell suits my aim to keep the bucket style as clean looking, but still readily recognisable, as a Model A. It was trial fitted with the radiator in place just to be sure it would fit between the radiator and the chassis rails at the bottom, which it did quite well. However, this trial fitting also revealed a minor problem area that would have to be taken into consideration when I shortened the grille shell.

When the grille shell is fitted to the shortened radiator, the lower section hangs down below the bottom of the chassis rail by a considerable amount and even after shortening by 1-1/2 inches to suit the shorter radiator, would have to be further modified so that the bottom section won’t come into contact with the tie-rod when the steering is turned.

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