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Ford Model A-1903

Updated on April 2, 2017
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John is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in History from Montclair State University and thoroughly enjoys reading literature.

In the last article, we took a look at Ford's first ever car, the Quadricycle. In today's article, we'll take a look at the first official car he created, the Model A. It took seven years after the introduction of the Quadricycle for Ford to design and build the first Model A, which would become a symbol industrialization and wealth. His Model A helped to set the stage for modern automotives.

This is not the car you are looking for! This is a 1930 Model A, not the original 1903 version. Not mine, see source.
This is not the car you are looking for! This is a 1930 Model A, not the original 1903 version. Not mine, see source. | Source

Now, there may actually be some confusion here. But, some might be saying, the Model A wasn't released until 1927! Ah, but Ford was a bit tricky here. He released two versions of the Model A, one in 1903, and another in 1927. The Model A I am writing about here will be the 1903 version of the vehicle, the one directly after the Quadricycle. It took Ford quite some time to be able to create and sell the original Model A. This was mainly due to a lack of investors. He was unable to find serious investors for his proposed automobile company. It did not help that he had tried to start a automobile business before. One that had failed. So it was understandable that he had a hard time finding investors for his second venture. He finally found 12 investors and created his company in June of 1903, right in the middle of the Second Industrial Revolution. He couldn't have picked a better time if he was trying. The economy was booming, and American workers were making quite a bit more than ever before. People had money to burn, and automobiles were the hot new technology. However, success did not come easily for the early Model A.

Hard Beginnings

The first Ford factory was on Mack Avenue in Detroit, owned by one of his investors. Within almost a month, Ford was nearly out of money, and didn't have a single order for his Model A car. Finally, July 20, 1903, an order came in for a Model A. Actually, three orders came in for Model A's The customers must have been exceedingly happy with their newfangled automobiles, and sales jumped. So the Ford Motor Company survived the turbulent first year. From 1903 to 1905, about 1700 Model A's left Ford's factory, sold for about $750 each. There were options that could make the car more expensive. A roof for the car would cost you an additional $30 for a rubber roof, $50 for a leather roof. If you wanted a tonneau version of the car, or a Model A with a backseat, it would cost another $100.

A Model A with a roof option! Not mine, see source.
A Model A with a roof option! Not mine, see source. | Source


But what about this car was so popular, other than the "new technology" angle? There were plenty other automobiles on the market at this point, most notably the Oldsmobile and Cadillac automobiles. By 1904, there were 280 companies making automobiles. So why was Ford so different, what made his cars become imprinted in American history? Well, the Model A had something hidden under the hood. The engine was a two cylinder, and was capable of producing up to 8 horsepower. The top speed was just about 30 miles per hour, with a two speed transmission. This was completely unheard of in a passenger car. Most other passenger cars simply did not have that much power. An Oldsmobile Pirate racing car, however, did surpass it.


The Model A was also advertised for its supposed reliability and simplicity. Remember that automobiles were a new technology for the time, and many people didn't even know how to drive a car, let alone fix one if something broke! Most simply didn't have the mechanical skills. A automobile that was simple to use and easy to fix was a seller. According to one advertisement, it was a so easy to use, a 15 year old boy could run it! According to Ford, they had the most reliable car yet, made only from the finest of materials of course! This combination of easy to use and mostly reliable is what started the selling. That and the options offered by Ford.

A Model A with the Tonneau option. Not mine, see source.
A Model A with the Tonneau option. Not mine, see source. | Source

Features and Options

Before, I mentioned a tonneau version of the Model A. Unlike some automobiles of the time, you could get a Model A that sat 4 people instead of the usual 2. The chassis was shaped so the rear seat was slightly higher than the front seat. Also, if you happened to have the money, and wanted some shade as you drove through the countryside, you could splurge for a roof! A rubber roof was slightly cheaper ($30) than the leather roof. ($50). These were not very large, and were Of course, automobiles did not feature windows or a windshield as of yet, so the roofs provided only slight protection from the elements. Some other features, albeit standard features, that made up the Model A was a live action suspension system, headlights, mechanical brakes, and a 72in wheelbase. The addition of the brakes was a vast improvement over the Quadricycle, which lacked that particular feature. The suspension system also helped to sell the car, helping to ensure a smoother ride than before. Where the Quadricycle had a tiller and no brakes, with only 4 horse power. The Model A was definitely a step up from the Quadricycle.

Model A Survives Until Today!

One of the original "First Order" Model A's still survives to this day, reinforcing in a way, the truth of Ford's ads about reliability. This Model A is Ford's oldest surviving products was one of the three orders that helped to save the company. Originally the car was owned by Herbert McNary. Bill Ford Jr. bought back this piece of history, bringing its story full circle as it returns to Ford. It is incredible that a car, built over 100 years ago, has survived until today. It is in apparently great condition as well.


The Ford Model A was redone about a two decades after it's first introduction to the world. It's second introduction was even more popular than it's first. This was the car that saved the Ford Motor Company. The Quadricycle started the idea for the company, and the Model A saved it. The Model A was the first product actually produced under the Ford Motor Company, and not just built by Ford himself. They say that the first step is the most important, and I do believe that this first step should not be overlooked in favor of its later, more popular incarnation.

Did you know there were two different versions of the Model A?

See results

If you enjoyed this Hub, please comment or rate below! If you see something wrong, please sing out! As always, if you want to take a look at my sources, here they are!

Ford Rebuys Model A:

Ford's First Order:

Model A is auctioned:

Annnnnd - Early Ford.


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