For all those innovative contributions Henry Ford made to ‘the century of the automobile’, he could be deeply resistant to change.
The Ford Model A of 1903 had to wait nearly a quarter of a century to be reborn as the eventual successor to Henry’s beloved Model T, which he stubbornly refused to replace for far too long. Indeed, the delay nearly ruined Ford, as the competition caught up and overtook.
But the new Model A revved to the rescue in the nick of time, becoming as important to the company as the Model T . . . perhaps more so, as it represented a bright future rather than the outmoded past. Buyers had almost infinite choice, with Ford fitting a huge selection of bodies onto the sturdy A ladder chassis. There were around 40 variations on the theme, inspired by Henry Ford’s talented son Edsel. These included commercial vehicles like mail trucks, panel trucks, wood-panel delivery trucks, pickups and taxis that are hugely popular today. For car drivers the choice was bewildering, with numerous options among sedans, phaetons, coupes, roadsters and station wagons. Launch prices ranged from $385 for a basic roadster up to $ 1,400 for the plush Town Car. Oh, and the seven basic body styles came in a choice of four colors!
The recipe was successful. Everyone, from Hollywood stars, including Lillian Gish and Will Rogers, to politicians such as New York Governor (and future President) Franklin D. Roosevelt, had to have one and nearly five million Model As were sold inside five years, dramatically setting Ford on the revival road. They were easier to drive than the Model T, with conventional controls and a three speed gearbox.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
1927 (until 1931)
3.3 I (201 cid) Straight Four
Top speed around 65 mph (104 km/h)
YOU SHOULD KNOW:
Those seeking a drive can find usable examples of the Ford Model A in many countries – as well as at ‘home base’ in Michigan, it was produced at Ford factories in Canada, France, Germany and Great Britain, and there was even a joint manufacturing venture with Soviet Russia.