So long, and thanks for all the fish
- Mar 6, 2005
- Motor City, Michigan
- 13 Ford Mustang GT, 17 Ford Fiesta ST
Was just reading an article on the Ford Model A on Hemmings when some things caught my eye.
I knew the production methods haven't changed all that much, we have photos of what our plants used to look like in the 50s and 60s, and a lot of it still looks the same. Sure we have a lot more automation, and everything is cleaner and more controlled, but on the whole a lot of it is still the same. But I used to think that teasers, spy photographers, catching new seeking out undisguised test cars on public roads, etc was all relatively recent - a move the auto journalism industry has made in the last 15-20 years - but it looks like its almost as old as the car itself.Henry Ford?s Model T revolutionized transportation in America by making the automobile accessible to nearly all, creating a need for a product that hadn?t previously existed. For nearly two decades, the Model T met the motoring needs of the American public, but by the middle of the 1920s automobiles from competing brands offered more style, better performance and improved amenities. Henry Ford?s response came in a secretive telegram to dealers on May 26, 1927, advising that Ford was ?starting early production entirely new Ford car? superior design and performance to any now in low price light car field.?
And with that cryptic announcement, Henry Ford halted production of the Model T and began retooling his factories to produce an all-new automobile, designed to effectively compete against all others in the segment. A similar announcement was given to Ford dealers for posting in local newspapers, but the verbose manifesto did little more than praise the Model T and tease the public that the new and yet-to-be-named Ford would surpass the Model T in every way. The statement?s closing paragraph read, ?At present I can only say this about the new model ? it has speed, style, flexibility and control in traffic. There is nothing quite like it in quality and price. The new car will cost more to manufacture, but it will be more economical to operate.?
As spring progressed to summer, and summer progressed to fall, rumors about the miraculous new Ford ran rampant. A period cartoon showed ?Henry?s new model,? bedecked with ornamentation and jewels fit for a king, labeled with a price tag of $500. Early spy photographers scrambled to get pictures of the car, but only the Automotive Daily News and the Brighton Argus succeeded, as Ford was particularly careful to limit testing on public roads. Despite its care, engine and chassis engineer Lawrence Sheldrick was nearly mobbed by curious onlookers during a 300-mile trip from Detroit to Claire, Michigan, and Henry and Edsel Ford were caught red-handed behind the wheel of a prototype by three curious Chicago Ford dealers who?d traveled to Detroit to catch a glimpse of the mysterious new Ford.
In late November came the announcement that Americans had been waiting for: on December 2, 1927, the still-unnamed Ford automobile would be shown to the public, at locations revealed to each and every Ford dealer. Pricing was announced on December 1, the eve of the showing, and to the delight of potential buyers, the new Model A would be priced comparably to the Model T. On the day of the car?s reveal, Ford News claimed that 10,534,992 people came to see the Model A, a number that represented 10 percent of the U.S. population at the time.
The Model A offered buyers elegant styling (described as a ?downsized Lincoln? by some), four-wheel brakes, improved fuel economy, a laminated safety glass windshield, hydraulic shock absorbers, and a 200.5-cu.in. four-cylinder engine rated at 40 horsepower, enough to deliver a top speed of 65 MPH. Seven body types were offered at launch, including Sport Coupe, Coupe, Roadster, Phaeton, Tudor sedan, Fordor sedan, and truck, and buyers could choose from four colors (Niagara Blue, Arabian Sand, Dawn Gray and Gun Metal Blue).
Deposits from eager customers poured in, and in the first two weeks the automaker had reportedly accumulated 400,000 sales orders from dealers (adding to the thousands of orders that had been placed prior to the car?s reveal). Though the Model A would only be produced from 1927 through early 1932, Ford sold over 4.3 million examples, and the car would help Ford transition from pioneer to modern automaker. The Model A would also go on to inspire generations of collectors, hot rodders and shade tree mechanics, helping to popularize the hobby that we?ve all come to know and love.
- See more at: http://blog.hemmings.com/#sthash.rdKSpj8z.dpuf