Ford Model A (1927–1931)

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Ford Model A
1928 Model A Ford.jpg
1928 Ford Model A Tudor sedan
ManufacturerFord Motor Company
Also calledGAZ A (USSR)
ProductionOctober 1927 – March 1932
Model years1928–1931
AssemblyArabi, Louisiana

Buffalo, New York,[1]
Chester, Pennsylvania,[1]
Chicago, Illinois,[1]
Dallas, Texas,[1]
Denver, Colorado[2]
Dearborn, Michigan,
Jacksonville, Florida,
Long Beach, California,
Louisville, Kentucky,[1]
Norfolk, Virginia,[1]
Memphis, Tennessee,[1]
Richmond (San Francisco), California[1]
Seattle, Washington,[1]
Somerville, Massachusetts,[1]
St. Louis, Missouri,[1]
Saint Paul, Minnesota[1]
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada[3]
Buenos Aires, Argentina,
Santiago, Chile,
Asnières-sur-Seine, France,
Cologne, Germany,
Yokohama, Japan
Copenhagen, Denmark,
Cork, Ireland,
Trafford Park, England,
Barcelona, Spain,
Trieste, Italy,
Nizhny Novgorod, Soviet Union,

Tophane, Istanbul, Turkey
DesignerHenry Ford
Edsel Ford
Body and chassis
ClassFull-size Ford
Body styleA – Chassis

Convertible sedan (400A)
Business coupe
Deluxe coupe
Special coupe (1928–29 limited run)
Sport coupe
Standard coupe
Deluxe coupe
Standard Fordor sedan – Murray
Standard Fordor sedan – Briggs
Deluxe Fordor sedan – Murray
Deluxe Fordor sedan – Briggs
Leatherback Fordor sedan
Standard Fordor sedan – slant windshield
Mail truck
Panel truck
Phaeton 2-door
Phaeton 4-door
Deluxe service pickup
Roadster pickup
Deluxe pickup
Standard roadster
Roadster utility
Deluxe roadster
Sport roadster
Station wagon
Taxi cab
Town car
Town car delivery
Standard Tudor sedan
Deluxe Tudor sedan

Wood panel delivery
LayoutFR layout
PlatformA Chassis
RelatedFord Model AF
Ford Model AA
Engine201 CID (3.3 L) L-head I4
Transmission3-speed sliding-mesh manual
Wheelbase103.5 in (2,629 mm)[4]
Length165 in (4,191 mm)
Width67 in (1,702 mm)
Curb weight2,265–2,465 lb (1,027–1,118 kg)
PredecessorFord Model T

The Ford Model A (also colloquially called the A-Model Ford or the A, and A-bone among hot rodders and customizers)[5] 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.[6] 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.[7] The range of body styles ran from the Tudor at US$500 (in grey, green, or black) ($8,521 in 2022 dollars [8])[7] to the town car with a dual cowl at US$1,200 ($20,451 in 2022 dollars [8]).[9] In March 1930, Model A sales hit three million, and there were nine body styles available.[7]

Model A production ended in March 1932, after 4,858,644 had been made in all body styles.[10] 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.


Prices for the Model A ranged from US$385 for a roadster to US$1,400 for the top-of-the-line town car. The engine was a water-cooled L-head inline four with a displacement of 201 cu in (3.3 L).[11] This engine provided 40 hp (30 kW; 41 PS).[11] 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[11] with a single speed reverse. The Model A had four-wheel mechanical drum brakes.[11] The 1930 and 1931 models were available with stainless steel radiator cowlings and headlamp housings.

The Model A came in a wide variety of styles including coupes (standard and deluxe), business coupe, sport 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 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 tank 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.[4] 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.[12]

The Soviet company GAZ, which started as a joint venture between Ford and the Soviet Union, made a licensed version from 1932–1936.[13] This served as the basis for the FAI and BA-20 armored cars which saw use as Soviet scout vehicles in the early stages of World War II.

In addition to the United States, Ford made the Model A in plants in Argentina, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom.

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).[14] However, this equated to a British fiscal horsepower of 14.9 hp (11.1 kW; 15.1 PS)[15] (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, 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 Britain and Germany.[16]

Development history[edit]

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.[17][18][19] Also, features Henry Ford 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 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.[20] 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.[21]

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's rigidity, became apparent. The era of "flexible mass production" had begun.[22][23]


The Model A was well represented in 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 Model As 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 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 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.[24] 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.[25]

Charlie Ryan's song "Hot Rod Lincoln" featured a modified Model A. The song has been covered several times since its original release.

Jenny Railcars[edit]

The Jenny railcar is a Ford Model A automobile converted for rail use.

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.[26]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "FORD'S CAR OUTPUT 1,200 TO 1,500 DAILY". The New York Times. March 23, 1928.
  2. ^ "Ford Assembly Denver Colorado". Hemmings Motor News. American City Business Journals. Retrieved February 20, 2021.
  3. ^ "Ford of Canada plant — railway cars brought the parts that were assembled into complete vehicles | Winnipeg Regional Real Estate News". Retrieved August 23, 2022.
  4. ^ a b Kimes, Beverly (1996). standard catalog of American Cars 1805-1942. Krause publications. ISBN 0-87341-428-4.
  5. ^ Bianco, Johnny, "Leadfest" in Rod & Custom, 9/00, p. 86.
  6. ^ Schild, Jim (2009). Collector's Originality Guide Ford Model A. MotorBooks International. ISBN 9781610608886.
  7. ^ a b c Gauld, p. 693.
  8. ^ a b 1634–1699: McCusker, J. J. (1997). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States: Addenda et Corrigenda (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1700–1799: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1800–present: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved May 28, 2023.
  9. ^ Gauld, p. 694.
  10. ^ "Model A Production Figures". Model A Ford Club of America. Retrieved April 12, 2015.
  11. ^ a b c d Cheetham, Craig (2004). Vintage Cars - The Finest Prewar Automobiles. Rochester, United Kingdom: Grange Books. p. 31. ISBN 1840136359.
  12. ^ "Directory Index: Ford/1930_Ford/1930_Ford_Brochure_02". Retrieved November 20, 2011.
  13. ^ Sorensen 1956, pp. 206–208.
  14. ^ Werner Oswald. Deutsche Autos 1920-1945 p. 416 ISBN 3-87943-519-7
  15. ^ Clutton, Cecil, Paul Bird and Anthony Harding. The Vintage Car Pocketbook ; The Motoring Encyclopaedia (1935?)
  16. ^ "0 – 100...We celebrate a century of Ford in style...". Auto Express. Issue 724: 56–62. October 2–8, 2002.
  17. ^ Sorensen 1956, pp. 217–219.
  18. ^ Hounshell 1984, pp. 263–264.
  19. ^ Sloan 1964, pp. 162–163.
  20. ^ Hounshell 1984, pp. 280–292.
  21. ^ Hounshell 1984, pp. 280–281.
  22. ^ Hounshell 1984, pp. 263–301, Chapter 7: Cul-de-sac: The Limits of Fordism & the Coming of "Flexible Mass Production".
  23. ^ Sorensen 1956, pp. 217–231, Chapter 16: Farewell to Model T.
  24. ^ Cardinale, Anthony. "Chileans on a Roll in Vintage Car Trek Detroit-Bound Model A Ford Arrives Here After 21,700 Miles". Buffalo News. Buffalo, N.Y.: November 30, 1994, p. A.1.
  25. ^ "Dillinger's getaway car sells for $165,000 - Jan. 24, 2010".
  26. ^ "Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad Bounces Back After Railroad Fire". KVPR Valley Public Radio. October 18, 2017. Retrieved November 20, 2022.
  27. ^ Daniel, Hagen. "Der Ford Model A mit Holzvergaser". Retrieved October 12, 2021.


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