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Hillsboro man takes pride, joy in restored Model A

Staff writer

The Model A was young Richard Dirks’ love at first drive.

Old and rusted, the car sat until it was taken apart. His dad who preferred to work on Model Ts. When it still ran, a high-school aged Dirks hopped behind the wheel.

“I used to drive it all around,” he said. “I would think about what a nice car it was and how it would be great to get it back in shape until it looked like new.”

He wouldn’t get the chance to renew the vehicle that sparked his passion for old cars until he spotted a 1931 Model A crumbling in a yard years later.

“I went and I got it bought,” he said. “I don’t remember how much I paid. I know it wasn’t over $200.”

Dirks drove the car Saturday at Hillsboro’s Downtown Cruise. He now owns a 1926 Model T Truck and has a 1935 Ford.

But the Model A was his first project.

Rescuing the battered beauty took years even for a mechanically inclined builder who worked 43 years for Donahue Corp.

Dirks rebuilt the Model A’s engine and did all of the body work himself, carefully sanding the dents out of its rusted frame.

He primed the car’s body himself, but left the paint job to a professional in McPherson.

Dirks told the auto body manager he wanted the car painted light tan with black fenders. He returned a week later to pick it up and his jaw dropped.

“I saw a yellow one sitting there, and I thought, ‘Well, I hope that isn’t mine, he said.

“Here comes the guy and he says ‘What do you think?’ and I say ‘How come it’s painted yellow?’ ”

The man patiently explained that an expert from the auto restoration program at McPherson college saw the car and told him 1931 Model A’s came in Bronson yellow with orange trim — not black and tan as Dirks requested.

So restorers painted Dirk’s car yellow without consulting him. He was furious.

“I took it home, even though I was not really happy and thought about what I was going to do to get back at him,” he said.

Dirks finished sprucing up the vehicle just in time for Tampa’s Centennial parade, where it was a huge hit.

The restored Model A has drawn nothing but smiles and compliments ever since.

“Whenever I drive by I hear people say ‘that’s a beautiful car,’ ” he said. “I decided that the yellow was OK and I liked it. It wasn’t what I wanted but it turned out to be a very good car.”

Now his pride and joy, the old coupe connects him to his grandfather who drove a Model T to California on dirt roads.

Back then a car trip meant travelers had to be ready to fend for themselves.

“All along the way people were stopped fixing a tire, working on the engine, doing something,” he said.

“You had to keep things going because there was nowhere to stop to get anything fixed — and you had to watch your gas because there were not too many gas stations. It was something.

Dad was pretty tough traveling in those days.”

Now he is tinkering with a 1935 Ford that needs work on its interior, but he admits, at 81, he may not finish it.

But making old things like the Model A shine again has given Dirks great joy and sense of accomplishment he cannot trade.

“It’s just something that I liked,” he said. “Taking an old piece of junk and fixing it up and making it look like new, that’s what I like to do.”

Last modified Oct. 1, 2020

 

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