24th Apr, 2024 13:00

Pavilion Gardens | Buxton, Derbyshire

  Lot 68

1930 Ford Model A "The Ballard Special" Speedster
One off, bespoke built twin-engined pre-war racing madness

Estimated at £60,000 - £80,000

Lot details

Registration No: BF 9899
Chassis No: A3761199
MOT: Exempt

  • Built to a completely bespoke specification, engineered to incorporate two back-to-back Ford Model A engines
  • Recently displayed at the InterClassics Car Show in Maastricht, where it was praised for sheer engineering prowess
  • Hand finished aluminium Speedster body in true late 1920s / early 1930s Bonneville Salt Flats racing style
  • Fully road legal and supplied with a V5C Registration Document

Amid rumours that several States were preparing to ban his Model T due to its 'unsafe' hand-operated braking system, Henry Ford begrudgingly succumbed to pressure and authorised the development of a successor. Introduced in December 1927, the Model A was greeted with unprecedented demand. Longer and lower-slung than the Model T, it retained transverse-leaf suspension but proved significantly more refined. Designed by Howard Hicks, its 3285cc, L-Head four-cylinder engine developed 40bhp (twice the Model T's output) boasting niceties like coil ignition and integral water pump. Mated to a three-speed manual gearbox, it gave a top speed of 65mph necessitating the fitment of four-wheel braking.

In the early years of the automobile, the founding fathers of American motor racing in all forms (including the boot-legging of illegal liquor across State lines) were forever looking for ways to get more power from their relatively basic Model A. It is in this spirit that the vendor of this splendidly whacky machine adheres to - he himself dedicating his work to his lifelong passion of moving old metal as quickly as possible, just as they did in the 1920s. The story began a number of years ago when the vendor was involved in a conversation about the mythical early attempt at a twin-engined Model A and was told that it simply 'wasn't possible'. Thankfully, the vendor is the type of individual where the word 'can't' is like a proverbial ‘red rag to a bull’ and thus it was time for the dream of creating a working car in the aforementioned format to become to reality. Fortunately, the vendor has accumulated a large collection of Model A chassis' thanks to years of running buying trips in the United States so a good example was quickly chosen from the bunch. Two Model A engines were sourced and the vendor had a hard time figuring out a way to engineer an appropriate coupling between the two engines. In the vendor's own words:

"We fabricated a steel interconnected housing which the front and rear engines bolt onto, using the original existing bolt holes on the engines. Once this was done, we knew that we still had to be able to drive the rear engine's cooling system, so we had to experiment to find the best way to not lose traction to the final pulley after the slip from the various belts. For this, we decided to fabricate a new bottom pulley on the front engine, not only as a belt pulley but also with a chain sprocket to drive a shaft down the side of the engine to the rear. This shaft, in turn, is a direct drive into the end of the alternator and also incorporates a belt-drive pulley to the rear water pump. The belts are the old fabric machine-type link belts, which are the easiest to use when you need to vary the lengths of the belts as we did.

There was no need to lengthen the chassis, but we did have to bring the support bars out from where they used to be, located under the gearbox bell-housing at the front and from the torque tube at the rear, the torque tube and prop-shaft being significantly shorter than the original version. The steering was moved back and lowered and a longer steering rod fabricated.

The crankshafts are pretty much standard, except the front of the rear crank has been strengthened to cope with the increased torque. The detail in the connection of the crankshafts and how we have timed them is, I’m afraid, something I cannot share, so I will leave it to the imagination and speculation of the wider community. However, trial, error and catastrophic failure were all endured before we finally succeeded."

Amazingly, the vendor has been able to configure the engines timed 90 degrees out so that they now run in a traditional Straight 8 form with a 1-5-2-6-4-8-3-7 firing order - thus meaning that the whole experience is actually rather pleasant due to being very torquey and very smooth. The vendor's dedication to authenticity means that the car runs two original type distributors with points that work incredibly well and the transmission is a standard three-speed Model A affair with an original-type mechanically operated clutch in which the vendor is very confident of its reliability properties. On our inspection, a quick prod of the starter button fired both engines into life almost instantly and the vendor advises this is usually the case.

The bodywork was hand-crafted from aluminium by the vendor and is a testament to the detail driven approach that he takes. Taking inspiration again from the 1920s and 30s era Speedsters that once sped across the Bonneville Salt Flats, it is a fabulous mixture of louvres and rivets, each individually positioned for the greatest visual effect. The bodywork has also been hand sign-written in a period-style to and it must be ominous to any competitor when they see "7.2 Litre" written on such a light vehicle. For further authenticity, the dashboard has been built using period-type gauges, a small luxury in a fairly stripped-down interior to preserve lightness.

It is not often that we get offered such an engineering gem that makes us stand back and admire the sheer amount of work that has gone into it, however, the 'Ballard Special' is one of the rare opportunities for any true petrolhead to go completely giddy. If you are looking for something very special that will gain respect from any Vintage motoring enthusiast, here is your chance!

For more information, please contact:
Lucas Gomersall
07484 082430


Auction: Pavilion Gardens | Buxton, Derbyshire, 24th Apr, 2024

An auction of classic, collector and performance motorcars to be held in the beautiful surrounds of the Pavilion Gardens, Buxton, Derbyshire.Venue Details

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Tues 23rd April from 12pm
Wed 24th April from 9am

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