For at least 30 years, when Ford drivers got stuck on the highway after a tailback from Interstate 94, they’d roll down their windows to find a glimpse of a Model A taxi.
That car, which Ford knew would become its bread and butter, was only going to be mildly uncomfortable. The cabmakers, Hugel-Aust, had declared the Model A “the racer’s car” and declared it even easier to take corners than a sports car.
Such a statement later came to seem ridiculous, but not before Ford took some early steps. For one thing, it improved the production model with a hand crank and graduated a couple speed bumps. As Henry Ford famously once said of it, “When a child is taught to hold a fork right, he is never to have to depend upon a machine.”
In just two short decades the Model A went from a bit of a rarity in motoring and aviation to a sight wherever a woman’s shoe size was necessary.
But now they were a thing of the past, used by ordinary drivers for simple transportation. In 1974, when Ford decided it was time to abandon the first edition of its own iconic sports car, I was too young to remember or care. I think my father recalled that it was too big to fit in his Ford II’s trunk and, though he missed his shoes, he didn’t need a Model A to make him happy. That was unlikely to alter his little seatbelt hole habit.
Over the years, of course, the Model A not only became a part of American history but our national symbol, appearing on our highways, our backpacks, our underwear and somehow, almost perpetually, in Western civilization’s pursuit of death and destruction. For that very reason it is important to remember the importance of its industrial revolution forefathers.
We were born to love this car, but we have forgotten that it was made to push out the boundaries of design and engineering ingenuity. A good date to remember this is all the way back on the day it was first produced. It happened on September 13, 1927.
For a fascinating investigation into the history of America’s first car from that day forward, check out The Stockwell Earp Collection.