One challenge that follows a groundbreaking invention is the task of designing a suitable replacement when the original idea becomes obsolete. Particularly in the early days of the automobile, changing public tastes, advancements in technology, and free-market competition created a near-constant need to evolve. For Henry Ford, evolution was not something for which he particularly cared. His Model T had revolutionized the automobile industry, wiping many upstart automakers off the map virtually overnight. By the mid-1920s, the Model T and its production methods stood among the most significant inventions of the twentieth century, with sales approaching fifteen million units.
Ford was one of the most powerful industrialists in the world, yet he seemed resistant to change the Model T, even as competitors encroached on its success. As the T soldiered on, General Motors caught up and gradually eroded Ford sales, eventually surpassing them. It took a dramatic drop in sales, and Ford dealers sounded alarms for Henry Ford to finally warm to the idea of a follow-up act for the old Model T.
The new Model A’s design incorporated many of the same fundamental principles which the Model T pioneered. Ford’s Design for Manufacturability ethos meant the Model A would be as efficient to build as the T while being able to accommodate more customizable options and features that buyers now demanded. From a technical standpoint, the Model A represented a vast improvement over the T. Power came from a 201 cubic inch, water-cooled, L-head inline-four. At 40 hp, it was nearly twice as powerful as the T. Gone was the complicated planetary gearbox with its levers and pedals, replaced by a 3-speed sliding gear transmission with conventional three-pedal controls for throttle, four-wheel brakes, and clutch. The chassis had far superior handling and ride quality, braking was vastly improved, and the car was capable of topping out at 65 miles per hour.
Nearly as important as the technical specification was Henry Ford’s relenting to his son Edsel when it came to the look of the new car. The elder Ford had a particular disdain for the frivolities of cosmetic appearance, so he turned the task of styling to his son. Interestingly, Edsel had a natural gift for aesthetics, capitalizing on his experience as the top man at Lincoln to design a handsome and modern car that was on par with trends set by the competition. Simultaneously the end of one era and the beginning of another, the Ford Model A was a resounding success, selling over four million examples between the 1928 and 1931 model years. Today as it was then, the Model A is affordable, delightful to drive, and simple to service, and it remains a cornerstone of the collector car hobby with tremendous popularity, and parts support the world over.
This 1929 Ford Model A wears the attractive and highly desirable factory Roadster Pickup body. The open roadster cab was a carryover from the Model T and was used exclusively on the Model A in 1928, and available as an option throughout the production run. In 1929, the closed cab shared with the commercial-spec Model AA joined the line and became the preferred choice for most pickup buyers, and RPU’s became increasingly scarce. This all-steel example is the subject of a body-off restoration to original specification, completed several years ago. It has been very well maintained and presents in excellent condition in black with straw-yellow wheels and pinstripes. The black paintwork is in good order, and pleasing details include a radiator stone guard, wood bed rails, and cowl lamps.
The restoration is faithful to original specifications, with the cab trimmed in durable black upholstery, with a period-correct rubber floor mat. The Model A is refreshingly spartan, with simple controls for throttle, spark, and choke. This example features auxiliary gauges for oil pressure and water temperature, discreetly added to the steering column. As with the body, the upholstery and soft top are in excellent order, reflecting the quality nature of the restoration.
Mechanically it is in fine fettle, and the 200 cubic-inch L-head inline-four fires up with ease and settles into the signature busy idle that makes the Model A so endearing. Engine detailing is honest and tidy, and it features an alternator for more reliable charging in all conditions. Ford’s Model A is one of the most important cars of the 20th century, and it is also an elemental part of the collector car hobby worldwide, with examples appearing in garages of the average hobbyist to the seasoned collector. This desirable Roadster Pickup would be at home in either environment and is sure to delight its next keeper.
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