Hyped by Henry Ford himself as one of the best models to ever hit the American market, the Ford Model A has managed to retain that status over a century later.
As successful as the Ford Model T was, by the 1920’s it began to fall out of favour with consumers – and had more or less overstayed its welcome. Model T sales peaked at 1.8 million in 1923, and despite a cosmetic facelift in 1926, Model T sales still continued to slide.
With competitors offering more style, better performance and improved amenities, Henry Ford went back to the drawing board to craft a follow up model. Along with his son Edsel and a team of the very best engineers that the Ford Motor Company had to offer, the first Ford Model A began to take shape.
Unveiling The First Ford Model A
Whispers of a new era began to circulate, with Henry Ford himself issuing a telegram to his dealers on May 26, 1927. The contents of the somewhat cryptic message indicated that production had indeed started on a new model, with the end goal being superior design and performance to any other vehicle within the low price light car field.
The hype appeared to serve Ford well. With Americans chomping at the bit to see what the company was up to, photographers scrambled to get pictures of the car in any way they could. While the Automotive Daily News and the Brighton Argus were the only enterprises to succeed in that mission, Ford took great care to limit testing on public roads. Despite this level of diligence, engine and chassis engineer Lawrence Sheldrick was almost mobbed by curious onlookers during a 300 mile trip from Detroit to Claire, Michigan. On top of that fiasco, Henry and Edsel Ford themselves were caught behind the wheel of a prototype by three curious Chicago Ford dealers, who had in fact traveled to Detroit to catch a glimpse of the mysterious new model.
Finally, on December 2, 1927, the Ford Model A was released to the public. A whopping 10.5 million Americans attend the first day of displays at Ford dealerships around the country, or 1 in 10 American citizens. By the end of the first week, 25 million people had already viewed the Ford Model A.
At that point, the changeover from the signature Ford Model T to the Ford Model A was the largest and most costly undertaking in industrial history. Experts now estimate that the cost of this undertaking was between $100 million and $250 million to Ford Motor Company, but did the gamble pay off?
Henry Ford was renowned for his disdain for cosmetic vanity in motor vehicles. However, this reluctance to embrace the future was part of the reason why the Ford Model T “hung around” for as long as it did. In comparison, Edsel Ford was considered to be a visionary, and to avoid being left behind, he spent years trying to persuade his father to enter the modern era of car manufacturing. Henry finally relented, and although it was his name behind the Ford Model A – it was actually Edsel that took charge and pioneered most of the new design work.
Described as “a downsized Lincoln” by some, the Model A offered buyers a glimpse into the future when it came to elegant styling. With four wheel brakes, improved fuel economy, a laminated safety glass windshield, hydraulic shock absorbers and a four cylinder engine rated at 40 horsepower, the Ford Model A boasted technical features and the aesthetic flair that consumers had come to expect. The Ford Model A was released in a wide variety of body types and colour variants, including –
- Coupe (Standard and Deluxe)
- Business Coupe
- Sport Coupe (Standard and Deluxe)
- Roadster Coupe
- Convertible Cabriolet
- Convertible Sedan
- Phaeton (Standard and Deluxe)
- Tudor Sedan (Standard and Deluxe)
- Town Car
- Fordor (five-window standard, three-window deluxe)
- Town Sedan
- Station Wagon
Needless to say, the Ford Model A was a hit with the American people and proved to be a lifeline for the Ford Motor Company. Finally able to claw back some sales from Chevrolet, customer orders were coming in thick and fast even before the vehicle was properly released. Deposits rolled in, and an additional 400, 000 sales were made on top of the preorders already scheduled. Unfortunately, it’s success was short lived thanks to the Great Depression, but unsurprisingly Henry Ford was already hard at work on his first V8 automobile that would go on to eventually replace the Ford Model A.
Although the Ford Model A was only in production from 1927 to 1932, Ford sold over 4.3 million models and played a significant role in pivoting the enterprise from an industry pioneer to a modern automobile operation.