Ford Model A (1927–31)
|Ford Model A|
|Manufacturer||Ford Motor Company|
Long Beach, California
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Trafford Park, England
Saint Paul, Minnesota
|Body and chassis|
A – Chassis
|Related||Ford Model AF
Ford Model AA
|Engine||201 CID (3.3 L) L-head-4 I4|
|Transmission||3-speed sliding gear manual|
|Wheelbase||103.5 in (2,629 mm)|
|Length||165 in (4,191 mm)|
|Width||67 in (1,702 mm)|
|Curb weight||2,265 lb (1,027 kg)|
|Predecessor||Ford Model T|
|Successor||Ford Model B|
The Ford Model A of 1928–1931 (also colloquially called the A-Model Ford or the A, and A-bone among rodders and customizers) was the second huge success for the Ford Motor Company, after its predecessor, the Model T. First produced on October 20, 1927, but not sold until December 2, it replaced the venerable Model T, which had been produced for 18 years. This new Model A (a previous model had used the name in 1903–1904) was designated as a 1928 model and was available in four standard colors.
By 4 February 1929, one million Model As had been sold, and by 24 July, two million. The range of body styles ran from the Tudor at US$500 (in grey, green, or black) to the Town Car with a dual cowl at US$1200. In March 1930, Model A sales hit three million, and there were nine body styles available.
The Model A was produced through 1931. When production ended in March, 1932, there were 4,849,340 Model As made in all styles. Its successor was the Model B, which featured an updated 4-cylinder engine, followed by the Model 18 which introduced Ford's new flathead (sidevalve) V8 engine.
Prices for the Model A ranged from US$385 for a roadster to $1400 for the top-of-the-line Town Car. The engine was a water-cooled L-head 4-cylinder 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 3-speed sliding gear manual unsynchronised unit with a single speed reverse. The Model A had 4-wheel mechanical drum brakes. The 1930 and 1931 editions came with stainless steel radiator cowling and headlamp housings.
The Model A came in a wide variety of styles: Coupe (Standard and Deluxe), Business Coupe, Sport Coupe, Roadster Coupe (Standard and Deluxe), Convertible Cabriolet, Convertible Sedan, Phaeton (Standard and Deluxe), Tudor Sedan (Standard and Deluxe), Town Car, Fordor (2-window) (Standard and Deluxe), Fordor (3-window) (Standard and Deluxe), Victoria, Station Wagon, Taxicab, Truck, and Commercial.
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 Ford models used controls that had become uncommon to drivers of other makes. The Model A's fuel tank was located 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. Model A was the first car to have safety glass in the windshield.
The Soviet company GAZ, which started as a cooperation between Ford and the Soviet Union, made a licensed version of the Model A from 1932-1936. This itself was the basis for the FAI and BA-20 armored car, which saw use as scout vehicles in the early stages of World War II.
In Europe, where cars were taxed according to engine size, Ford equipped the Ford Model A with a 2,033 cc (124.1 cu in) engine providing a claimed output of just 40 hp (30 kW; 41 PS). However, the engine size was still large enough to equate to a fiscal horsepower of 14.9 hp  (as opposed to the 24 hp of the larger engine) and attracted a punitive annual car tax levy of £24 in the UK and similar penalties in other principal European markets. It therefore was expensive to own and too heavy and thirsty to achieve volume sales, and so 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 England and Germany.
Historical context of Model A development
From 1913 through the early 1920s, the Ford Motor Company dominated the automotive market with its Model T. However, during the mid-1920s, this dominance eroded as competitors, notably General Motors, caught up with Ford's mass production system and began to outcompete Ford in some areas, especially by offering more powerful engines, new convenience features, or cosmetic customization. Also, features Henry considered to be unnecessary, such as electric starters, were gradually shifting in the public's perception from luxuries to essentials.
Ford's sales force recognized the threat and advised Henry Ford 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.
Henry's disdain for cosmetic vanity as applied to automobiles led him to leave the Model A's styling to a team led by his son Edsel, even though he would take credit for it despite his son doing more of the work.
It was during the period from the mid-1920s to early 1930s that the limits of the first generation of mass production, epitomized by the Model T production system, became apparent. The era of "flexible mass production" had begun.
Film and media
Perhaps in reference to the remarkable upgrade from the previous Model T, a song was written about the Model A by Irving Kaufman called Henry's Made a Lady Out Of Lizzie, a reference to the moniker Tin Lizzie given to the Model T.
Several Model As have obtained particular notoriety. The Ramblin' Wreck, a 1930 Sport 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 to December 1994, Hector Quevedo, along with his son Hugo, drove a 1928 Model A 22,000 miles (35,000 km) from his home in Punta Arenas, Chile to the Ford Motor Company 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.
1928 Model A engine with modern aftermarket air filter
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ford Model A.|
- Model A Ford Reference Sheet, Owners Manual, and Help
- Model A Ford Club of America - 
- Model A Restorers Club - 
- Ford Model AA Truck Club - 
- A-Ford Club Nederland - 
- Ford Model A at DMOZ
- 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