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Five Reasons Why We (and everyone else) Love the Ford Model A

September 4, 2014 Think THF

Henry Ford and Edsel Ford Introducing the 1928 Ford Model A at the Ford Industrial Exposition in New York City (Object ID: P.O.4083).

It’s that time of year again, and Old Car Festival inside The Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village is the place to see Ford Model As. The beloved automobile will make up almost a quarter of the sweet rides on display this year. But wait, Old Car Festival covers 42 years of vehicles, 1890-1932, so why are there so many from the four years the Model A was produced? After some research and talking with our Curator of Transportation Matt Anderson, here’s why.

5. You can drive it on the road

Okay, this one seems pretty obvious. But some restored vehicles, no matter how sexy they look, tend to putt along on side streets with lower speed limits. With higher speeds and better brakes, Model As are known to drive pretty darn well on modern roads. Despite being 80+ years old, many Model As can cruise easily at 40-45 miles per hour thanks to an engine exactly twice as powerful as its predecessor, the Model T. And the Model A’s mechanical brake system on the wheels—admittedly less secure than a hydraulic brake system—is safer than the Model T’s mechanical brakes on the transmission.

Of course, Model Ts are still extremely popular and drivable, but most vintage car owners want to show off their prized vehicles on the open road, and the Model A gives us more route options. Racing down the freeway might not be an option, but give the car a break—the Model A is older than some of our grandmas. And my grandma doesn’t drive the freeway, either.

4. You can learn to drive it without a historian present

So the Model A can handle the road. But more importantly, today’s drivers can handle the Model A. The car was the first Ford to have controls we’re used to, like gas pedals and a conventional gear-shift lever to name a few. Before the Model A, Ford “horseless carriages” like the Model T were built under the assumption the driver only had experience driving, well a carriage, horse included.

More modern controls in the Model A help drivers like me and you guess how to, you know, put it in gear or make it stop. We might still need to Google, “how to drive a Model A,” but at least we’re not completely lost at the wheel.

3. Replacement parts are not crazy difficult to find

If you’ve got a vintage car that’s the coolest, most obscure, one-of-three-ever-made—congratulations. But you know where I’m going with this. Collectors of rare cars dread the day they need to replace a part because finding one or getting a new one made is no easy task. Not all car buffs have the luxury of that kind of time, energy or money.

But with the Model A, a lot of original parts are still floating around out there since Ford built right around 5 million Model As between the 1928 and 1931 model years. And as our Model A love is no secret, there are now vendors who make less expensive, sometimes more reliable copies of vintage parts. So the Model A is a sweet vintage vehicle, plus, the replacement parts are comparatively easier to get ahold of. Especially if you look in the right places, like Bert’s Model A Ford Store in Denver or the Model A Ford Club of America’s classified ads.

We’re not saying restoring a Model A is easy by any means, but the availability of parts opens up the art of car restoration to more of us because the Model A is fun to restore and maintain, not a giant headache.

Ford Automobile Dealership, 1931 (Object ID: P.833.56190.5).

2. They’re relatively affordable

This isn’t rocket science, but it’s true. Let’s revisit a fun-fact we gave you two paragraphs ago: about 5 million Ford Model As were made, and a lot of them are still around. So the Model A is historic, but it isn’t quite rare enough to cost an arm and a leg—a phrase which here means the $70,000 you could pay for a Packard of the same vintage. Yikes.

Some highly scientific research (looking on eBay) revealed there are decent Model As out there priced as low as $6,000. What’s not to love about that?

1. Eye-popping styles and colors

There is a practical side to car restoration, like finding replacement parts and choosing drivable routes, but we can’t deny the Model A is just pretty. Seriously, we could stare at this car all day.

With new sporty body-styling, the Model A was an instant hit. Millions of people stormed Ford showrooms on December 2, 1927 because, as an Irving Kaufman song of the time period claimed, “Henry’s made a lady out of Lizzie.” Well, we think Lizzie was always a lady, but the Model A undoubtedly brought some serious class to the early American auto scene, styled to look like “a baby Lincoln,” and offered in an array of colors, contrasting with all those black Model Ts. For all his mechanical prowess, Henry Ford didn’t have much of an eye for style, but his son Edsel gave the Model A body the elegant finesse that we can’t get over. And today, especially in the Motor City, taking a pleasure cruise in a piece of automobile history is really a special treat.

With the looks, the performance and doable restoration--it’s no wonder we love the Model A so much! We can’t wait to see the approximately 200 stunning, unique Model As driving the streets of Greenfield Village or parked for up-close ogling during Old Car Festival this year. Join us this weekend and we can drool over wire wheels and glossy colored fenders together.

Sarah Kornacki is a Media Relations Intern at The Henry Ford.

Old Car Festival

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