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Welcome to the Greenwood.Net Curiosity Corner

Ford Cars

Apr 19, 2017

The Many Models of Fords April 21, 2017

Curiosity Corner
Dr. Jerry D. Wilson
Emeritus Professor of Physics
Lander University

QUESTION: Which Ford car came first, the Model A or the Model T? My grandfather says it was the Model A, but I think it was the Model T. (Asked by a curious car buff.)

REPLY: Some people think that Henry Ford (1863-1947) built the first gasoline engine automobile, but not so. That distinction is generally attributed to the German Karl Benz, who built a “Motorwagen” in 1886. In the early 1900s, there were several automakers, such as Duryea and Ransom Olds, and Henry Ford was among the early developers, with his first automobile being produced in 1903.
Now, on to your question. Your grandfather was right. The original Model A – the first car produced by Ford in 1903 – was a two-seater runabout that sold for $800-900. Between 1903 and 1908, Ford produced Models A, B, C, F, K, N, R and S. All these were model changes. For example, the Model C had a more powerful engine and longer wheelbase. The Model R, which cost $700, had a larger body, running boards and an oil lamp. Model S had a convertible top, gas lamps and umbrella holders, plus an option for a third “mother-in-law” seat. The Model S was also the last right-hand drive model.
Then came the left-hand drive Model T, commonly known as the “Tin Lizzie.” From 1908 to 1927, some 15 million were produced using Ford’s innovative assembly line production – and the T came with a safety glass windshield. It was generally considered the first affordable automobile. At $850, it was in the price range of middle-class Americans at the time. It was the Model T that Ford applied his famous quote, “People can have the Model T in any color – so long as it's black.”
And though your grandfather was right about the first Model A, there was a second Model A produced from 1927 to 1931. This is what you were probably thinking of. My dad had one of these Model As – very reliable and simple. You look under the hood and there was room to work on the engine. (Nothing like what you see under the hoods today.) I particularly remember when he installed a heater to warm the inside. It was an open cast-iron piece that fit over the manifold for heat. Air flowed through to an opening in the cab. Not too hot, but it sure felt good in those cold winters.

C.P.S. (Curious Postscript): In the word scent, is "S" silent or "C"? —Anonymous

Curious about something? Send your questions to Dr. Jerry D. Wilson, College of Science and Mathematics, Lander University, Greenwood, SC 29649, or email jerry@curiosity-corner.net. Selected questions will appear in the Curiosity Corner. For Curiosity Corner background, go to www.curiosity-corner.net.

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