In the last few weeks, John McClain has drawn more attention than most people driving around Altoona. You may have noticed him around town — or rather, you may have noticed his car.
McClain recently purchased a 1931 Ford Model A, and between its old Hollywood appearance and its thunderous rumble as it chugs down the street, it’s hard to miss.
“It’s my first Model A,” McClain says. “I kind of always wanted to have one.”
McClain has been a part of various car clubs around the Des Moines area for years, including the Central Iowa Model A Club. He’s been interested in cars for his entire life, but he’s only collected cars for the last 10 years. Since McClain purchased his Model A, he’s taken it to three car shows. He even won Best in Show at the Deery Brothers Show and Shine Car Show in Pleasant Hill.
“I like taking it out to the shows, but more than anything it’s just fun to drive,” McClain says.
But McClain only drives it around town — he saves the longer trips for his more modern cars. Part of this is due to the fact that the Model A’s top speed is 40 mph.
“You can’t be in a hurry to get anywhere,” McClain laughs.
Even though the car doesn’t get McClain around very quickly, it’s still in good shape. It’s got 42,387 miles on it, about 100 of which McClain has put on himself. And it looks as good as it did the day it was purchased new, back in the 1930s.
The Model A has had a frame-off restoration, and all the parts are original. In fact, it’s so original that it still has an operational hand-crank start, and when McClain drives, he has to remember to adjust the throttle and time the spark advance.
“There’s a lot of stuff you got to do when you drive these. You can’t just turn the key,” McClain says. “I’m still learning.”
McClain says that although he has no concrete plans to acquire another car anytime soon, he’s still a car guy, and he’s probably not done collecting.
“I guess right now I’m going through a Model A phase,” he says. “Maybe next year it’ll be something else.”