The 1928 Ford Model A
The Model T put the world on wheels, but the competition began to surpass it. What would Henry Ford and his company do next?
Ford customers made it clear in the mid-1920s that the venerable Tin Lizzie – the Ford Model T - had run its course and that it was time for Ford to develop the “next big thing” for the automobile market. While competitors were building cars that were better suited to the quickly modernizing roads and consumer tastes, Henry Ford believed that the Model T was still the best option for those living in rural areas, as well as those who desired accessible prices. It became clear to everyone that updates and lower prices for the T would no longer suffice, so in late 1926 Henry Ford directed his engineers to start work on a new Ford – the Model A.
The new Ford was a completely different car that did not carry-over any parts from the Model T. It was lower and sleeker than the Model T and had beautiful bodylines that were the direct influence of Edsel Ford’s styling ideas. While it still used a four cylinder, similar to the Model T, the Model A was more powerful and smooth and was capable of 55 to 65 mph. It came with Triplex shatterproof safety windshield and hydraulic shocks, both a first for Ford and unheard of in the low-priced field. It was also the first Ford to carry the famous blue oval logo and the first car assembled at the new Rouge manufacturing complex. As for the name, Henry Ford said that the car was so new and different that they would “wipe the slate clean and start all over again with Model A.”
Introduced to the public in December 1927, the 1928 Model A was an immediate sensation. Some 10 million people viewed the new vehicle in the first week. The crowds gathered in such numbers that many cities needed to send police to help direct traffic around those who lined up to see the new Ford. While enthusiasm and demand were high, production lagged. The newly installed assembly line for the Model A at the Rouge was not up to full capacity until the middle of 1929, when they were able to produce 9,000 units a day.
The Model A showed that customers’ tastes were developing as fast as the newly installed paved roads and manufacturers needed to change as quickly. It also showed that Henry was indeed “able to make a lady out of the Lizzie!”