By Sterling McGinn
The Model A Ford is a special car. They are still on the road after all these years and are truly the “modern” antique vehicle.
The Model A, which debuted in 1927, is arguably one of the most popular antique cars prized by enthusiasts. With two major clubs, the Model A Ford Club of American (MAFCA), and the Model A Restorer’s Club (M.A.R.C.) the cars are known the country and the world over.
The vehicles are very simple and are far from luxurious. Even back then, they rode rougher and didn’t have all the accessories and the appeal of bigger cars. But the Model A was and is reliable and easy to fix. It will turn any head when motoring down a street. There are still many companies manufacturing and selling Model A parts.
Here is how it all began.
Henry Ford was still manufacturing his famous Model T in 1927, a car that had been a success on the market for many years. He made about 15 million Model T autos.
To compete with other major auto companies, Henry Ford reluctantly abandoned the car that made him famous. He and his only son, Edsel, rolled out Model A number 1 in December 1927. These fine automobiles were manufactured from 1928 until 1931, and their cars caught the eye of the masses in its day.
The Model A was also a success. The car had a 40 horsepower, four-cylinder, engine with a top speed of 65 mph. It was a big improvement from the old “Tin Lizzie”. The new auto had a real transmission, more features, and a prettier body.
An average individual at the beginning of the Great Depression could afford a Model A Ford. A Model A Tudor sedan cost $500, or about $8,261.61 in 2022. That Tudor model was the number one seller.
The Model A was manufactured in many body styles, including roadster, cabriolet, phaeton, and pick-up truck. Closed cars styles included the Tudor, Fordor, and Victoria.
Even in the 1950s, motorists were still driving Model A Fords. Rough roads broke them up and rust took its toll on the bodies. Many of the cars were eventually abandoned and parked behind barns and along fence rows. Sometime in the 1950s, the enthusiasm towards the cars renewed and people began restoring them.
After 90 years, they are still pretty special cars.
Why? I think it’s the people of the hobby. They are the magic that keep these classic beauties on the road decades later. There is also an emotional element and a personal and family connection to the vehicles. Maybe that’s why I am a proud Model A owner.
As a child, I used to watch the members of our local Model A Ford club, the Yooper As, drive their cars in local parades, to McDonalds, and on club tours. They sure caught my eye. The hobby was contagious.
I soon met some of the members, and they offered me rides, shared their knowledge, and even taught me the art of driving one of their prized processions. They were sure brave!
I met and became friends with Fred Greca, Rick Falconer, the late Charlie Johnson, and Jim Reynolds, among others. I bought my first Model A when I was attending Newberry High School.
It was a basket case. The engine, however, ran and was reliable. It needed new paint, and interior and body work. After graduating in 2013, and not knowing what the future would hold, the car had to be sold.
The most influential Model A’er in my life was my step-grandpa, John Duflo. He and his sister, Bernice, loved those cars and owned them throughout their lives.
Grandpa John had several when he attended Newberry High School in the 1950s. He later transported a 1931 Model A Victoria to the Philippines, then to Little Rock, Arkansas and to K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base during his career in the Air Force.
While watching old 8mm family films, you can see Grandpa John working on that well-traveled car. He restored it a couple of times, and reupholstered the interior with old wool Army blankets, which was similar to the original mohair material. He would always have a big smile when he talked about the time that he drove the Victoria down Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
When he retired and moved back to Newberry, he brought the car back home with him.
Grandpa John developed health problems, and sold his Model A Victoria in the early 1990s. But he still lit up anytime he talked about it. I wish I could find that car, though I think it would be nearly impossible.
Later in his life, he purchased a two-tone tan Model A Ford Fordor, with a body manufactured by Murray. I now own that car.
Like many Model A cars out there, it is the perfect driver car and looks good from across the street. It has paint issues on the fenders, but I am still proud to own the car. I don’t want a perfect car. You can’t enjoy the vehicle if it is pristine and restored from top to bottom.
The best part of driving a Model A is the people that you meet along the way. They always have many questions and I love to share my knowledge with them. Being behind the wheel of a Model A is the best feeling in the world, and the passengers can experience life in the slow lane.
Model A Fords make people happy. Just take a ride in your Model A and count the smiles, yells, and waves that occur as you’re driving. When you honk your “ahooga” horn people go crazy, and you can tell you made their day.
I think it is important to share the wealth of knowledge with people, especially kids. We need to generate an interest with the younger people, so the Model A Ford hobby lasts for generations to come. The Model A cars still have plenty of life left in them. They are not expensive and are easily obtainable.
It’s almost that time of year when Michigan Model A owners are getting their cars out from their long winter slumber. They take a little bit of maintenance, but they always start up and are ready to hit the road. There is nothing like the camaraderie of fellow Model A enthusiasts, who will both help you with your car and share a laugh and a good story.
If you have a Model A, get it out, and make someone’s day! That is what they are for.