Cars and Airplanes
By Geoff Wheatley
Ford Model A Roadster
Cars and Airplanes
1927 a year to remember if you like car and airplane history. Charles Lindberg flew the Atlantic solo in the Spirit of St Louis while six months later Henry Ford introduced the popular "Model A" Motorcar. Unlike the introduction of its predecessor the "Model A" was launched with all the publicity that could be created in 1927, in fact the only thing missing was to have Lindbergh sponsor the car by driving it to visit his record beating airplane that was now on public display. To be correct the launch did not take place until December 1927 while Lindy created an equally impressive performance in May of the same year. I would suggest that the launch date of December was carefully planned to coincide with the Christmas holiday period and the New Year.
At Christmas drivers are seriously thinking of a new vehicle while buying in January gives you the very latest model although in the case of the Model A the car went on for the next seven years being for many, the very latest model. Regretfully there is no published figure on the success of the car in its first months of production but we do know that it sold for under $500 and the Ford Company, in co operation with certain financial intuitions offered extended payments to would be owners.
The New York Herald Times reported that over a million people found their way to the Manhattan Ford Headquarters in the first few weeks of 1928 to see the car, followed by thousands of sales to both drivers and would be new drivers over the next year. Despite the restricted choice of colors in previous years the Model A offered the buyer a large selection for the new machine, in fact the Motoring Media of the time suggested that no true owner would ever reject the standard Ford color...Black...How wrong can you be? What may not be fully appreciated was that there were three styles of car.
Coups...Cabriolet and Sedan. Within two years of the presentation Ford had passed the leading car manufacturer "Chevy" in total sales. Another attraction to the success of the motor car in this period was the construction of national roads that continued into the depression years under the governments "Provide Work Programs". Filling stations seemed to blossom and multiply where you could not only fill up with gas at around fifteen cents a gallon but also get free maps and something to drink while the staff checked your tires, oil and water not forgetting to clean the windscreen and in some locations brushing out the interior. In company with such facilities there were cabins, camping sites, and attractive restraints for the truly hungry traveler.
When probation had been repealed you could always stop for a cold beer or an evening cocktail, perhaps even two! California was the popular location and was enjoying the gift of a growing economy. Those of you that have seen the movie "Grapes of Wrath" will remember that California was the destination of the work seekers after the effects of the Great Depression in the early 1930's. The Model A continued production until 1932 when the revised Ford A/B took over for another three years. The model A broke all production records within its first two years of production selling in excess of one and a half million vehicles, the car also had four breaks instead of the usual two and a totally unique Safety Glass Windshield. The Financial Times of the day featured an investment article that stated, “The easiest way to get rich was to own a Ford Dealership” quite a compliment by any standards! Did I mention that Lindy did get to drive a Model Ford about a year after his successful flight, Ford presented him with a gift...Yes that right a Model A that it was reported he was still driving five years later. We must assume that this car shared the same garage space as the French Citroen that the Mayor of Paris gave him after his successful Atlantic flight.
We all know that his was the first solo flight across the Atlantic but what is not common knowledge was that two British flyers flew from North America to Ireland in a British WWI bomber, eight years before the Lindy flight. They had intended to fly into Britain but got lost and ended up in a bog in southern Ireland. I guess that better than the North Sea!
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