After discontinuing the Model T in 1927, Ford Motor Company closed down operations for almost six months to develop its next car—the new Model A. Responding to a more affluent consumer market, the car was more powerful, more luxurious and equipped with more features than its predecessor.
Realizing that consumers of the prosperous Twenties were ready for more comfortable and stylish cars, Henry Ford envisioned a new car that would deliver speed, power and comfort, and be suited to the improved roads and the quick-paced life of the day. It would be lower, longer and wider than the T, more pleasing in proportion, and available in a variety of models and colors. And it would be named after the first car made by Ford back in 1903—the Model A.
The lines of the Model A suggested those of its richer relative, the Lincoln—so much so that the Model A was often called "the baby Lincoln." Body colors included several trendy hues, which was a heady change from the monochromatic Model T, available only in black from 1914 to 1925.
Like the Model T, Model A could go anywhere and do anything on 20 miles to the gallon, but with greater safety and far superior comfort.
First-time features included hydraulic shock absorbers, a safety glass windshield, bumpers, automatic windshield wipers, tilt-beam headlights and a Bendix self-starter. Even with the new features, Ford was able to offer it at prices close to those of the Model T.
Ford adopted a four-cylinder, 200-cubic-inch L-head engine for Model A, only a little larger than the engine used in the Model T, but developing 40 horsepower at 2200 rpm. The new engine had aluminum alloy pistons and cylinder head, three-bearing counterbalanced crankshaft, and battery distributor ignition. Model T's outdated planetary transmission gave way to a three-speed sliding gear type made of heat-treated chromium steel; the clutch and transmission were duplicates in miniature of those of the Lincoln.
During the five months between the end of Model T and delivery of the first Model A, 400,000 orders had piled up, and by early 1928, orders had mounted to 800,000. Ford made almost two million Model A's in 1929, but Black Thursday came on October 24th of that year, ushering in the Great Depression. By 1931, sales had dropped to 620,000 units.
Model A production ended in August 1931. By that time, more than 20 million Fords had been built, almost five million of them the brilliant little Model A.
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