History of the Ford Model A
Henry Ford was always convinced that people should satisfy themselves with nothing more than a good, simple and economical car. At the price of great efforts, his inner circle finally succeed in eroding his stubbornness and, in May 1927, after having produced more than 15,000,000 Model T's since 1908, Ford closes his plants for many months in order to retool his assembly lines for the production of his next legend: the Model A. The latter will ultimately be produced in 5,000,000 copies between 1928 and 1931. This new miracle is equally attributable to Henry and his son Edsel. Henry will dedicate himself to the mechanical aspects and Edsel will bring a whole new look to the people's car. Whereas the Model T was nicknamed Tin Lizzie, the Model A will be known as the Baby Lincoln.
No new automobile has ever been so expected in History. The competition sharply felt the hurt of this waiting period (as much as tens of thousands of Ford employees which were temporarily laid off) since many were putting off their purchase of a new car in order to see what Henry was going to pull out of his hat this time.
When the New Ford is unveiled in December of 1927, riots occur in a few cities. 25,000,000 Americans (more than one out of every five man, woman and child in the U.S.A.) literally assault Ford showrooms in the space of only one week!
A fresh jaunty look, sparkling performances, easy drivability and a low price all contribute to half a million sales on the spot!
Ford easily retakes first place in sales,
Compared to the Model T, technical improvements are numerous although certain anachronisms persist. For example, the Conestoga-wagon transverse semi-elliptical suspension is kept.
On the other hand, a water pump, an oil pump and hydraulic shock absorbers are added. The 2-speed planetary transmission is replaced by a modern 3-speed gear box. But since it is not synchronized, the driver must now master the
Moreover, the carburetor is gravity fed, eliminating the need for a fuel pump. Since the gas tank is now immediately behind the rudimentary instrument panel, it is now possible to determine the fuel level by peering through
a small port-hole.
Brakes are now on all 4 wheels and are actuated by steel rods. Henry will insist that his brakes remain mechanical all through the 1930s even though all his
competitors have adopted the hydraulic system. He took satisfaction in explaining that a single small leak could incapacitate the entire hydraulic system. But have you ever seen all 4 rods from a mechanical system break at the same time? He will relent only in 1939 after years of supplications from Edsel.
The engine is a 4 cylinder affair of 200.5 cubic inch,
producing 40 horsepower. A comfortable cruising
speed is 40-45 miles an hour and a top speed of 65
miles an hour can be reached. Compression ratio has
been expressely kept low (4:22 / 1). Of course, this
low ratio lowers horsepower output and speed but, on
the other hand, allows the use of lower grade fuels
even if de-carbonization of cylinder heads isn't
performed regularly. Longevity, dependability and
simplicity were more important to Ford than performances.
Wheelbase is 103.5 inches. Track is 56 inches. Weight varies from 2,050 to 2,386 pounds depending on the model.
In 1930, the appearance of the Model A is refreshed. The grill is higher as well as the hood line. The front fender curve is more graceful. Wheel diameter is reduced from 21 inches to 19 inches.
At the end of WWII, the Model A will become the unchallenged queen of the vintage car scene. This brief moment in
automobile history (1928-1931) will generate the largest gathering of enthusiasm around a single model that no other has ever equalled since. Two gigantic Clubs and an entire spare part industry see the light of day. The abundance and ease with which technical information and new or refurbished parts can be found have made the Model A the easiest vintage car to buy, understand and maintain. One could even be able to assemble a completely new Model A from all the new parts that can be found on the market today! However, assembling the 6,800 distinct items to do so could well run over $50,000.