October 20, 2023

This 1932 Ford Model B was Parked 25 Years Ago. Will it Run?

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This farm truck was last registered in 1962, and we’re going to drive it. Maybe.

Douglas Glad


In This Article

Category: Hemmings Garage

Make: Ford

Model: Model B

Year: 1932

The Sibley. The basement. Editorial. Those are the names we use for the first floor of the Hemmings building in Bennington, Vermont. Half of the floor is an editorial department cube farm; the other half holds 25 or so near-original classic and vintage cars and trucks in a small garage called the Sibley. Some of them run and drive, like the 1969 Chevelle and the 1987 IROC, but most of them have been sitting on flats for decades. Our plan was to walk down the rows and get them all running, then sell the ones that are too nice to drive or too weird to keep, while using the rest for road trips and fun. The first car in the row was a 1937 Hudson Terraplane delivery that was too nice and too rare to take out on the road. Leaving that for a future collector, we moved to the next vehicle: a 1932 Model B pickup truck that was parked 25 years ago. Will it run? The inspection sticker and the plates suggest it last saw the road in 1961 or ’62. The battery was missing, and no one here had ever heard it start. We decided it was the perfect vehicle for the first-ever episode of Hemmings Garage presented by POR-15!

What is a 1932 Model B?

1932 Model B Pickup

Ford folks know that in March of 1932, the Model 18 was introduced with 221-inch V-8 that made 65 hp. The V-8 equipped Fords became known simply as a Deuce, ’32, or Ford V-8. That same year, the Model B was also introduced with the 200-inch four-cylinder that made 50 hp. Both the B and the Deuce shared the same basic body, front and rear transverse leaf spring suspension, and four-wheel mechanical brakes. This truck was a simple 1932 Ford Model B.

What is a Survivor?

1932 Model B Pickup

Museums are full of survivors, or cars that are beyond their usefulness and have never been modified or rebuilt. In this case, the ’32 has what appears to be the original drivetrain and interior, paint, and plenty of dents and scratches that indicate it was used as a farm truck/snow plow until it wasn’t needed anymore. Our records indicate it was donated to Hemmings in the 1990s and pushed into a corner.

1932 Model B Suspension and Brakes

Model b Suspension

The Model B was a revolution for dirt-cheap transportation. Instead of rear brakes only, like the Model T, the B had four-wheel mechanical drums and two transverse (side-to-side) leaf springs for suspension. Our Shop Foreman Junior Nevison found that the brake linkage was frozen, and the grease was “concrete.” After lubing the parts, the brakes are now (relatively) safe. Later Fords featured hydraulic or “juice” brakes. If a brake update is in the Model B’s future, we didn’t want to go too far into working on the existing brakes. While Junior was working under the truck, he noticed that the I-beam axle was bent and the crossmember was broken into six pieces. In addition, he found that the kingpins, radiator, and fuel pump needed to be rebuilt. If you are lucky enough to find a ’32 in this condition, buy it anyway.

Getting a 1932 Ford Model B Truck Running

Model B engine

The upside to only having 4.6:1 compression is that the engine turns over easily. While grabbing the belt, we spun it through the four-stokes and didn’t hear anything scary. The distributor on the Model B has an internal timing advance. Sharp eyed Ford folks will note that the distributor is out of the engine in the photo. We found an original Model B distributor at Columbia Early Ford in Hudson, New York, and were in the process of the swap. The stock fuel tank was full of rust, so we bypassed it with a gas can and added a temporary fuel filter and fuel line. We also removed the distributor cap and turned the engine over to check for spark—after we found a set of reversed wires behind the ignition switch, we had it. With fuel, compression, and spark, it started and ran for about 30 seconds before we noticed water leaking out of the cylinder head.

Next Time in the Sibley Garage

Model B cylinder head, flathead

The intention was to drive this truck to lunch or the golf course that day; a quick inspection of the cylinder head killed those plans. On the far right, you can see that the entire quench area of the cylinder head is missing. The damage there explained why there were exhaust fumes in the radiator and water in the cylinders. Despite this, the engine ran and idled.

Coming up next, we’ll scrounge a cylinder head, add fluids, repair the wiring, fix the brakes, and get it to idle and drive.

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