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Ford Model A (1927–1931)

The Ford Model A (also colloquially called the A-Model Ford or the A, and A-bone among hot rodders and customizers) was the Ford Motor Company's second market success, replacing the venerable Model T which had been produced for 18 years. It was first produced on October 20, 1927, but not introduced until December 2. This new Model A (a previous model had used the name in 1903–04) was designated a 1928 model and was available in four standard colors.

By February 4, 1929, one million Model As had been sold, and by July 24, two million. The range of body styles ran from the Tudor at US$500 (in grey, green, or black) ($8,872 in 2023 dollars) to the town car with a dual cowl at US$1,200 ($21,293 in 2023 dollars ). In March 1930, Model A sales hit three million, and there were nine body styles available.

Model A production ended in March 1932, after 4,858,644 had been made in all body styles. Its successor was the Model B, which featured an updated inline four-cylinder engine, as well as the Model 18, which introduced Ford's new flathead (sidevalve) V8 engine.

Features

Prices for the Model A ranged from US$385 for a roadster to US$1,400 for the town car. The engine was a water-cooled L-head inline four with a displacement of 201 cu in (3.3 L). This engine provided 40 hp (30 kW; 41 PS). Top speed was around 65 mph (105 km/h). The Model A had a 103.5 in (2,630 mm) wheelbase with a final drive ratio of 3.77:1. The transmission was a conventional unsynchronized three-speed sliding-gear manual with a single speed reverse. The Model A had four-wheel mechanical drum brakes.

The Model A came in a wide variety of styles including coupes (standard and deluxe), business coupe, sports coupe, roadster coupes (standard and deluxe), convertible cabriolet, convertible sedan, phaetons (standard and deluxe), Tudor sedans (standard and deluxe), town car, Fordors (five-window standard, three-window deluxe), Victoria, town sedan, station wagon, taxicab, truck, and commercial. The very rare special coupe started production around March 1928 and ended in mid-1929.

The Model A was the first Ford to use the standard set of driver controls with conventional clutch and brake pedals, throttle, and gearshift. Previous Fords used controls that had become uncommon to drivers of other makes. The Model A's fuel was situated in the cowl, between the engine compartment's fire wall and the dash panel. It had a visual fuel gauge, and the fuel flowed to the carburetor by gravity. A rear-view mirror was optional. In cooler climates, owners could purchase an aftermarket cast iron unit to place over the exhaust manifold to provide heat to the cab. A small door provided adjustment of the amount of hot air entering the cab. The Model A was the first car to have safety glass in the windshield.

The Soviet company GAZ, which started as a joint venture between Ford and the Soviet Union, made a licensed version from 1932–1936.

In Europe, where in some countries cars were taxed according to engine size, Ford in the UK manufactured the Model A with a smaller displacement engine of 2,043 cc (124.7 cu in), providing a claimed output of 28 hp (21 kW; 28 PS). However, this equated to a British fiscal horsepower of 14.9 hp (11.1 kW; 15.1 PS) (compared to the 24 hp (18 kW; 24 PS) of the larger engine) and attracted a punitive annual car tax levy of £1 per fiscal hp in the UK. It, therefore, was expensive to own and too heavy and uneconomical to achieve volume sales, so it was unable to compete in the newly developing mass market while also too crude to compete as a luxury product. European manufactured Model As failed to achieve the sales success in Europe that would greet their smaller successor in Britain and Germany.

Development history

From the mid-1910s through the early 1920s, Ford dominated the automotive market with its Model T. However, during the mid-1920s, this dominance eroded as competitors, especially the various General Motors divisions, caught up with Ford's mass production system and began to better Ford in some areas, especially by offering more powerful engines, new convenience features, or cosmetic customization.

Ford's sales force recognized the threat and advised Henry to respond to it. Initially, he resisted, but the T's sagging market share finally forced him to admit a replacement was needed. When he finally agreed to begin development of this new model, he focused on the mechanical aspects and on what today is called design for manufacturability (DFM), which he had always strongly embraced and for which the Model T production system was famous. Although ultimately successful, the development of the Model A included many problems that had to be resolved. For example, the die stamping of parts from sheet steel, which the Ford company had led to new heights of development with the Model T production system, was something Henry had always been ambivalent about; it had brought success, but he felt that it was not the best choice for durability. He was determined that the Model A would rely more on drop forgings than the Model T, but his ideas to improve the DFM of forging did not prove practical. Eventually, Ford's engineers persuaded him to relent, lest the Model A's production cost force up its retail price too much.

It was during the period from the mid-1920s to the early 1930s that the limits of the first generation of mass production, epitomized by the Model T production system's rigidity, became apparent. The era of "flexible mass production" had begun.

Legacy

The Model A was well-represented in the media of the era since it was one of the most common cars. Model kits remain available from hobby shops as stock cars or hot rods. High-quality die-cast Model As are represented in 1/24 scale by the Danbury Mint 1931 roadster and the Franklin Mint 1930 Tudor sedan.

Several models have obtained particular fame. The Mean Green Machine, a green and black 1931 Tudor sedan, has been a staple of University of North Texas football games and special events since 1974, maintained by the spirit organization Talons since the 1980s. The Ramblin' Wreck, a 1930 sports coupe, is the official mascot of the student body at the Georgia Institute of Technology and appears at sporting events and student body functions. Ala Kart, a customized 1929 roadster pickup built by George Barris, won two straight "America's Most Beautiful Roadster" awards at the Oakland Roadster Show before making numerous film and television appearances. Between October 1992 and December 1994, Hector Quevedo, along with his son Hugo, drove a 1928 Model A 22,000 mi (35,406 km) from his home in Punta Arenas, Chile to Ford headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. The car required minimal service, including a flat tire and transmission work in Nicaragua, and is now housed in the Henry Ford Museum. A 1930 Model A, used by the gangster John Dillinger to escape federal agents in 1934, was sold at auction in 2010 for $165,000.

Jenny Railcars

The West Side Lumber Company of California converted several Model As into railcars which could carry 12 people. A few still see regular service on the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, also in California, alongside Shays Nos. 10 and 15.

Gallery

References

Bibliography

  • Hounshell, David A. (1984), From the American System to Mass Production, 1800–1932: The Development of Manufacturing Technology in the United States, Baltimore, Maryland: Johns Hopkins University Press, ISBN 978-0-8018-2975-8, LCCN 83016269, OCLC 1104810110
  • Sloan, Alfred P. (1964), McDonald, John (ed.), My Years with General Motors, Garden City, NY, US: Doubleday, LCCN 64011306, OCLC 802024. Republished in 1990 with a new introduction by Peter Drucker (ISBN 978-0385042352).
  • Sorensen, Charles E. (1956), My Forty Years with Ford, New York: W. W. Norton, LCCN 56010854, OCLC 912748. Various republications, including ISBN 9780814332795.
  • Gauld, Graham. "The Ford Motor Company", in Northey, Tom, ed. World of Automobile, Volume 6, pp. 681–700. London: Phoebus, 1974.

Further reading

  • Henry, Leslie R. (2013). How to Restore the Model A Ford. Vermont: Echo Point Books & Media, LLC. ISBN 978-1626549418.

External links

  • Model A Ford Reference Sheet, Owners Manual, and Help
  • Model A Ford Club of America - [1]
  • Model A Restorers Club - [2]
  • Ford Model AA Truck Club - [3]
  • A-Ford Club Nederland - [4]
  • Ford Model A at Curlie
  • Follow Henry As We Tour The Long Beach Assembly Plant circa 1930
  • Ford Model A Assembly Plant in Edgewater NJ
  • Fordbarn, An active forum for discussion about the Model A Ford
  • 365 Days of A, One man's quest to drive a Ford Model A for an entire year.
  • 1930 Model A sales brochure

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