The Model A has always been looked upon as the working man’s dream come true. When the Model A was first offered on December 2, 1927, the public flocked to Ford dealerships and eventually ordered over 713,000 vehicles. Buyers enjoyed this much-improved Ford over the well-worn Model T. By its second year, Model A sales jumped to 1.7 million units. Ford was again on a roll, but over the horizon, economic problems were developing in America, and auto sales would soon begin to plummet.
Towards the end of the decade, Ford Motor Company, like all others, was struggling to keep sales alive as the Great Depression was beginning to take hold. By 1930, Ford sales dropped to just 1.26 million units, and it was beginning to look like 1931 would also be a rough year. As he did in the past, Henry focused on finding ways to reduce the cost of his cars in an effort increase sales. One example for 1931 was the replacement of stamped brake drums with cast brake drums. Henry probably squeezed more savings out of his products than any other manufactures. While this helped in cost control, it did little for 1931 sales.
Ford attempted to grab additional sales of the more affluent segment of the market by releasing a convertible sedan. Built only for one model year, it was based on a two-door closed cabin Victoria, but with a retractable canvas roof. Door posts and rear quarter posts were left intact. The design provided more weatherproofing than the typical convertible and unique styling. Priced at $640, it was by far the most expensive Ford product for the year. Unfortunately, the more affluent chose not to purchase it, which could imply that perhaps they were not doing quite so well in life. Sales were just 5,085 units for the year. For all others who purchased a Model A, the only exterior change was the front grille, which received a blackout treatment in the upper end of the grille shell.
The Model A interior remained the same as in 1930. The three-speed shifter was located on the floor, along with the parking brake. Ford’s instrument panel was simple yet adequate for the time, with a speedometer, fuel gauge, amp gauge and ignition key location. Standard equipment included a manual function driver’s side windshield wiper, but little more.
Owners were more than satisfied with the Ford powertrain. When the Model A was introduced in the 1928 model, output doubled from 20 to 40 horsepower compared to the Model T. The increased horsepower allowed a Model A to attain a top speed in excess of 60 mph, quite good for a low-price car. The engine proved to be extremely reliable. Handling, on the other hand, was not Ford’s forte. Still using buggy springs on both front and rear axles, the Ford took ruts well but was not known to do very well in corners.
While the Model A continued to be produced, Ford was already working on its replacement, and 1931 would be the last year of the Model A. Sales wound up being abysmal. Only 626,579 Fords were sold. However, over its four-year run, 4.3 million Model A’s were sold. It was a wonderful car for its time and, today, owners enjoy the thrill of driving a piece of history still cherished today.
Fuel For Thought
Sales dropped by over 50% from 1930
New painted radiator grille shell
First year for cast brake drums
Top speed in excess of 60 mph
Number built – 626,579 units
Construction – Body-on-frame
Engine – Four-cylinder flathead
Power/Torque – 40 horsepower/128 lbs./ft. torque
Transmission – Three-speed manual with floor shift
Suspension front – Straight front axle with transverse spring
Suspension rear – Solid axle with transverse spring
Steering – Worm and sector, 13 to 1 ratio
Brakes – 11-inch four-wheel drum, mechanically operated, total of 225 ½ square inches of total braking surface
Length/width/height – 165 inches/67 inches/N/A
Wheelbase – 103.5 inches
Weight – 2,380 lbs.
0-60mph/quarter mile – 29.0 seconds, quarter mile 23.0 seconds at 55 mph (Road and Track, February 1957 on a 1930 Ford Model A)
Top speed – 63 mph
MPG – 17-20 mpg (Road and Track, February 1957 on a 1930 Ford Model A)
Price – MSRP - $490 (2-Door Coupe); Today – $9,700 - $24,100
Engine – The Model A engine doubled the horsepower of the Model T Ford. Its 200ci, 40hp flathead engine provided brisk acceleration for a low-priced car. The engine proved to be reliable, with low cost to the owner.
Handling – Handling, at best, was fair. While more refined than the Model T, the transverse springs, straight front axle and high center of gravity did not handle well on corners. The Ford’s high ground clearance allowed it to go where other cars could not. In general, The Model A was stout, reliable and cheap, the basis for a successful car for the masses.
Contemporary styling for a low-priced car
Parts are readily available for restoration
Continues to be available at a reasonable price
Great car to turn into a hot rod
What To Pay
1931 Ford 2-Door Coupe
MSRP – $490
Low – $9,700
Average – $15,200
High – $24,100
*Prices courtesy of NADA, www.nadaguides.com
Insurance cost is $169/year for a stock 1931 Ford coupe valued at $15,200. For a modified vehicle, insurance cost is $250/year. This is based on 3,000 miles per year of pleasure driving
*Based on a quote from Heacock Classic Car Insurance, www.heacockclassic.com
Front bumper - $235.00
Hood - $440.00
Brake drum - $95.00
Muffler - $200.00
Rear quarter patch panel - $28.95
Radiator - $585.00
*Based on information from Snyder’s Antique Auto Parts, www.snydersantiqueauto.com
1931 Plymouth 2-Door Coupe
Number built – 9,696 units
0-60/quarter mile – 26.0 seconds, quarter mile 22.0 seconds at 56 mph est.
Top speed – 65 mph est.
Price – MSRP – $565; Today – $6,575 - $13,150
1931 Chevrolet 2-Door Coupe
Number built – 28,379
0-60/quarter mile – 24.0 seconds/21.5 seconds at 57 mph est.
Top speed – 67 mph
Price – MSRP – $535; Today – $7,700 - $22,500
Most Model A’s are used as weekend drivers and enjoyed regularly. There are Model A clubs throughout the nation that regularly have outings. Only a small percentage are trailer queens.
Original Ford Model A by Jim Schild
Legendary Model A: The Complete History of America’s Favorite Car by Peter Winnewisse
1928-1931 Model A Restoration and Maintenance Handbook by Ford Motor Company
Henry’s Lady: An Illustrated History of the Model A Ford by Ray Miller and Glen Embree
The Model A represented excellent value for the money. With a comfortable interior, modern electrical system, vacuum wipers and peppy four-cylinder engine, the Model A was a pleasure to drive. The only weak points were its mechanical braking system and buggy spring ride.
Owner: Josh Zartmann
Body: All steel 1931 Ford 5-window coupe, unchopped, channeled 5 inches over frame, 1932 Ford grille shell, 1934 Ford passenger car headlights, 1950 Pontiac taillights
Frame: 1931 Ford frame, fully boxed, 12” kick-up in read
Engine: 1948 Ford flathead, Mercury 4” crank, 276ci, 1940 McCulloch supercharger, Almquist dual carb adapter, dual Stromberg 97 carburetors, Harmon & Collins magneto, Grancor cylinder heads, homemade lake pipe headers with cherry bomb glass packs
Transmission: Stock 1939 Ford 3 speed, 1948 torque tube driveshaft
Rear end: 1948 Ford banjo with 3.54 gears
Wheels: 1940 Ford wheels, 1940 Ford hubcaps and trim rings
Tires: Front – Firestone 600x16; Rear – Firestones 700x16
Interior: Burgundy naugahyde, black carpet, 1936 Ford banjo steering wheel, 1951 Mercury dashboard