That Iolan Bill Fritsche’s 1929 Model A Coupe — redone with exacting attention to detail — was selected the best Ford in Allen County Fair’s Car Show very likely is the result of his many years of quality control and engineering work for Midland Brake.
Fritsche first worked for Midland in North Carolina and moved to Iola’s plant, then Berg-Midland, in 1982. He retired in 2000 from what had then become Haldex.
The 81-year-old coupe became Fritsche’s when he was a 15-year-old in Indianapolis.
“I bought it for $250,” he said, showing a photo of the auto that then sported small-dimension tractor tires attached to its rear end. “Funny thing is, it was towed to Indianapolis from Kansas not long before I bought it.”
The car was stripped to its frame and refinished, but not to authentic standards. “I had it painted a cream color with black fenders,” Fritsche said. Henry Ford had famously said of the car that customers could have “any color they want as long as it’s black.” Later, a very dark blue was added.
When the Fritsches moved to Iola they brought along the Model A and he began a more thorough restoration.
As he dismantled the car, he took photographs so he would be sure to put it back together as it came. His attention to detail even included the tack pattern on the wood frame of the car’s upholstered seat.
By the time he was ready to start refurbishing the Model A, it was a conglomeration of parts, including its dismantled engine and transmission, scattered about a garage he had rented for the project.
“It didn’t need much body work,” Fritsche recalled, although he did remove paint down to bare metal and carefully cleaned louvers on the flaps of the hood. When repainting started, he gave the engine four coats, “more than probably most others have had.”
A glitch did surface during painting of the body.
He bought one gallon of paint, applied it and then had another mixed. They didn’t match, which led him to sand down the whole car and start over. Per manufacture standards in 1929, the body is so dark blue it’s difficult to differentiate from the black of the fenders.
The original wood frame seat was retained and wife Brenda helped with the interior. The only thing that Fritsche didn’t do was some subtle pin-striping on the body and repainting of the wheels. And the only thing that isn’t original are nickel-plated brass valve covers on the wheels.
He finished the project in October 2008 and had driven the car only 438 miles before it was parked in Riverside Park Saturday morning.
“I do drive it some for pleasure,” Fritsche said, “but I’m careful to avoid places where there’s lot of traffic.”
Fritsche’s Model A was one about 75 cars in the show that drew spectators throughout the day.
Original car, 1900-1948: first, Bob Lang, 1908 REO; second, Russell Richards, 1929 Ford; third, Les Barnett, Ford Model A.
Original car, 1949-1972: first, Rick Dougherty, 1965 GTO; second, Greg Hill, 1970 Barracuda; third, Don and Mary LaCrone, 1956 Chevy Bel Air.
Original car, 1973-2010: first, Morgan Lammey, 2010 Camaro; second, Leon Hay, 2010 Camaro; third, Linda Bishop, 1973 Corvette.
Modified car, 1900-48: first, Duff and Joyce Cole, 1927 Ford; second, Paul and Sandy Smethen, 1940 Ford convertible; third, Terry Shumate, 1939 Pontiac opera coupe.
Modified car, 1949-1972: first, Tannor Thill, 1965 Mustang Fastback; second, Roger and Ginger Millbern, 1951 Ford Tudor Deluxe; third, Enos Perez Jr., 1953 Studebaker.
Modified car, 1973-2010: first, Bud Bishop, 1977 Corvette; second, Denton Wallace, 1989 Camaro; third, Ben Reeder, 1988 Mustang GT.
Original Truck, 1949-1972: Robert Mundt, 1972 Chevrolet.
Original Truck, 1973-2010: first, Jack McKarnin, 1979 Ford; second, Zack Henry, 1990 Ford.
Modified truck, 1900-1948: Richard Sigg, 1937 Dodge.
Modified truck, 1949-1972: first, Dusty Hans, 1956 Ford; second, Melvin and Sue Nation, 1957 Chevrolet Cameo; third, Delbert Collins, 1970 Chevrolet 410.
Special interest, 1900-2008: first, Curtis Utley, 1937 Ford stock car; second, Don White, bicycle with patriotic tires; third, Don White, green and yellow bicycle.
Tri-5 (1955 to 1957 Chevrolet): first, Roger Mintz, 1956; second, Melvin and Sue Nation, 1957; third, Mike Anderson, 1957.
Custom motorcycle: Jeff Ellis.
Stock motorcycle: Don Puckett.
Best modified: Gene and Pam Smith, 1937 Plymouth.
Best stock pickup: Fidel Shaaban, 1953 Army Jeep.
Best modified pickup: Larry Richards, 1946 Studebaker.
Best Chevrolet: Marvin Aikins, 1967 Chevelle SS.
Best Ford: Bill Fritsche, 1929 Model A coupe.
Best Mopar: Elmer Moore, 1969 Charger.
Best engine: Frank Wiseman, 1929 Ford Model A.
Best paint: Rodney Kimlin, 1965 Chevrolet Impala convertible.
Best interior: Larry Richards, 1946 Studebaker.
Best of show: Rodney and Nancy Burns, 1950 Chevrolet Fleetline.