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Ford Model A (1927–31)

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The Ford Model A (also colloquially called the A-Model Ford or the A, and A-bone among rodders and customizers),[2] 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 1903–04) was designated a 1928 model and was available in four standard colors.

Ford Model A
1928 Model A Ford.jpg
1928 Ford Model A Tudor Sedan
Manufacturer Ford Motor Company
Production 1927–1931
Assembly Chester, Pennsylvania
Chicago, Illinois
Dearborn, Michigan
Jacksonville, Florida
Long Beach, California
San Francisco, California
Saint Paul, Minnesota
Windsor, Ontario
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Santiago, Chile
Cologne, Germany
Yokohama, Japan
Copenhagen, Denmark
Cork, Ireland
Trafford Park, England
Geelong, Victoria
Nizhny Novgorod, Russia
Body and chassis
Class Full-size Ford
Body style

A – Chassis
Convertible Sedan (400A)
Business Coupe
Deluxe Coupe
Special Coupe ('28–29 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

Station wagon
Layout FR layout
Platform 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)[1]
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
Ford Model 18

By 4 February 1929, one million Model As had been sold, and by 24 July, two million.[3] The range of body styles ran from the Tudor at US$500 (in grey, green, or black)[3] to the Town Car with a dual cowl at US$1200.[4] In March 1930, Model A sales hit three million, and there were nine body styles available.[3]

Model A production ended in March, 1932, after 4,858,644 had been made in all body styles.[5] Its successor was the Model B, which featured an updated 4-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$1400 for the top-of-the-line Town Car. The engine was a water-cooled L-head inline 4-cylinder with a displacement of 201 cu in (3.3 l).[6] This engine provided 40 hp (30 kW; 41 PS).[6] 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 unsynchronized unit[6] with a single speed reverse. The Model A had 4-wheel mechanical drum brakes.[6] The 1930 and 1931 models were available with stainless steel radiator cowling and headlamp housings.

The Model A came in a wide variety of styles including a Coupe (Standard and Deluxe), the 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, Town Sedan, Station Wagon, Taxicab, Truck, and Commercial.[citation needed] 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.[1] 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.[7]

The Soviet company GAZ, which started as a joint venture between Ford and the Soviet Union, made a licensed version 1932–1936.[8] 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, 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 2043 cc providing a claimed output of 28 hp (21 kW; 28 PS).[9] However, the engine equated to a British fiscal horsepower of 14.9 hp (11.1 kW; 15.1 PS)[10] (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 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 A's failed to achieve the sales success in Europe that would greet their smaller successor in England and Germany.[11]

Development historyEdit

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 outcompete Ford in some areas, especially by offering more powerful engines, new convenience features, or cosmetic customization.[12][13][14] 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.[15] 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.[16]

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.[17][18]

Film and mediaEdit

The Model A was well represented in media of the era since it was one of the most common cars. Model kits are still available from hobby shops in the 2000s, as stock cars or hot rods.

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.[citation needed]

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 to 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.[19]

Charlie Ryan's song "Hot Rod Lincoln" featured a Model A with a Lincoln V8 and other modifications.


Example Model A Ford Automobiles
1928 Model A Business Coupe 
1930 Deluxe Roadster 
1928 Model A engine with modern aftermarket air filter 
1929 Model AA heavy-duty truck variant of the Model A 
1928 Model A open-cab (roadster) pickup 
1931 Deluxe Tudor 
1928 Model A hot rod with roll pan, chopped top, and late-model headlights and mirrors 
A custom with 1931 Roadster body and chassis,[citation needed] Deuce grille shell, chrome-hatted carburetors, drilled I-beam dropped front axle, finned drum brakes, and zoomie pipes 
1928 Model A Ford on display at the Henry Ford Museum. Driven 22,000 miles from Chile to the museum in Dearborn, Michigan. The journey started Oct 1992 and ended Dec 1994. 
1929 Ford Model A Gazogene on display at the Tampa Bay Automobile Museum. This car was modified in 1939 to use an alternative fuel in the form of wood or charcoal. 
1928 Ford Model A Fordor with Wood gas generator. This car was fitted with a 1941 Kaiser wood gas generator. 
A 1929 Ford Model A with a station wagon body as seen at the Museum of Automobiles in Arkansas. 
1929 Town Car from The Museum of Automobiles in Arkansas. 


  1. ^ a b Kimes, Beverly (1996). standard catalog of American Cars 1805-1942. Krause publications. ISBN 0-87341-428-4. 
  2. ^ Bianco, Johnny, "Leadfest" in Rod & Custom, 9/00, p. 86.
  3. ^ a b c Gauld, p. 693.
  4. ^ Gauld, p. 694.
  5. ^ "Model A Production Figures". Model A Ford Club of America. Retrieved 2015-04-12. 
  6. ^ a b c d Cheetham, Craig (2004). Vintage Cars - The Finest Prewar Automobiles. Rochester, United Kingdom: Grange Books. p. 31. ISBN 1840136359. 
  7. ^ "Directory Index: Ford/1930_Ford/1930_Ford_Brochure_02". Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  8. ^ Sorensen 1956, pp. 206–208.
  9. ^ Werner Oswald. Deutsche Autos 1920-1945 p. 416 ISBN 3-87943-519-7
  10. ^ Clutton, Cecil, Paul Bird and Anthony Harding. The Vintage Car Pocketbook ; The Motoring Encyclopaedia (1935?)
  11. ^ "0 – 100...We celebrate a century of Ford in style...". Auto Express. Issue 724: 56–62. date 2–8 October 2002.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. ^ Sorensen 1956, pp. 217–219.
  13. ^ Hounshell 1984, pp. 263–264.
  14. ^ Sloan 1964, pp. 162–163.
  15. ^ Hounshell 1984, pp. 280–292.
  16. ^ Hounshell 1984, pp. 280–281.
  17. ^ Hounshell 1984, pp. 263–301, Chapter 7: Cul-de-sac: The Limits of Fordism & the Coming of "Flexible Mass Production".
  18. ^ Sorensen 1956, pp. 217–231, Chapter 16: Farewell to Model T.
  19. ^ 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.


Further readingEdit

External linksEdit