The following history of the Model A was provided by the The Orange County Model A Ford Club. They have one of the most active chapters in California and are famous for their “Pancake Breakfast” which is put on each each year in Hart Park.
THE MODEL A FORD: 1928-1931 This brief history of the Model A Ford is intended for the general public who are not as aware of Henry Ford nor the development of this automobile. There are a number of excellent publications that provide full information on the development and impact of the Model A Ford.
The history and story of Henry Ford and his impact on the development of the automobile is a fascinating history in itself. In 1908, Henry Ford initiated the design and production of an automobile “for the people”, that every family could own: the Model T. This car had a production run for 19 years. The car continually changed to meet the demands of the people, but essentially remained the Model T.
By 1927, Ford sales were dropping severely. Competition from other car companies such as Dodge Bros, Chevrolet, and others were hurting the sale of the Model T. Edsel Ford, Henry’s son, knew what had to be done, but he had to convince the venerable old man himself that the era of the Model T had come to an end. Around- the time that the 15 millionth Model T was being produced, in mid 1927, discussions and reality were setting in. Henry Ford made the decision that “we’ve got to do it”. That meant design a new car. He also decided that this was a new beginning. Since his first automobile in 1903 was a Model A and subsequent models were B, C, etc, this new beginning would start with “A” again. So was born the Model A Ford.
Without any plans for a new car, the Ford plants were closed, and design for the new car began. This in itself was unprecedented, for a company, especially one as large a Ford Motor Company to completely shut down without any plans, then completely redesign the factory, and start up again. Henry set a number of ground rules, but the overall development of the components were delegated to his associates. Edsel Ford was responsible for the overall design. Every one of the 5,500 parts were new. Official announcement of the new Ford came in May 1927. The announcement of the new car resulted in a drop in overall car sales and Ford dealers had a rush of orders on a car that had never been seen.
Many advances were made on this car and some of which were unheard of for a car of this price range:
Safety glass windshield -Four wheel mechanical brakes -Four shock absorbers -Electrically welded steel spoke wheels
Engine features included:
4 cylinder, L head, 200.5 cu. in. engine developing 40 horsepower at 2200 rpm. Fuel: Updraft, single barrel carburetor with gravity fed fuel lines. Cooling: thermo-syphon with centrifugal impeller and 2-blade airplane type fan. Electrical: 6 volt positive ground, coil and distributor ignition system with electric L starter and generator.
The introduction of the new car on December 2, 1927 in New York City, drew over 10 million people to view it. The car exceeded all expectations especially with its price being nearly that of the low priced Model T, ranging from $375 for the Roadster to $570 for the Fordor Sedan. Ford sales skyrocketed and once again became leader in the automotive world.
The Model A continued to undergo numerous modifications to improve it. The transition from 1929 to 1930 brought about redesign of the body style with a newer streamlined look. A new rustless steel (stainless) was incorporated for much of the outer bright work, such as the radiator shell, and the head, cowl and taillights. A smaller wheel and tire, from the 21 inch to 19 inch. Once again in 1931, design changes that eliminated the outside sun visor on the Fordor sedan and also introduced several new body styles to boost sales.
Overall, there were over 4,800,000 Model A Fords produced. It is believed that over one million of these cars are still in existence.
For history of the Ford Model T, check out “History of Henry Ford & the Model T” –