How well I remember the Model A Ford. This was the first automobile that I can recall my family owning. It was a black, box-like, two-door sedan, powered by a four-cylinder engine, which provided our transportation for many years.
It sat regally, on 19-inch wire wheels with a spare wheel and tire attached to a horn-shaped, mount at the rear of the body. The 19 inch Tires held “Inner-Tubes,” that could easily be patched, by the owners. “Repair Kits were available at all Service Stations.”
In a day when power was not as important as efficiency, the up-draft carburetor, combined with the four cylinders and a manual “three in the floor” transmission was adequate to propel the vehicle at an accepted speed of around 35 miles per hour.
Starting the car was more complicated than merely turning a key. Mounted on each side of the steering column were two levers. The left lever was the ‘spark’ and the right was a ‘manual accelerator’.
These levers must be operated in sequence. If the battery was charged; the first order of business was to turn the key to the on position. The spark lever was then raised to reduce the compression of the engine. Then the accelerator lever was lowered and with the right foot depressing the starter button. located at the junction of the floorboard and the firewall; At the same time; the right hand must also reach for; and ‘pull the choke rod- located; in front of the passenger seat’.
After the engine fired, the spark lever was lowered to smooth the idle of the engine. If the battery was dead, starting the car required two persons. While one manipulated the controls, the other stuck the manual crank through a hole just under the radiator and turned the crankshaft. Care must be used here. If the machine should “MISFIRE,” the manual crank could break an arm.
Another option was If; by chance, the car was parked on a hill, manual starting could be accomplished by allowing the car to roll, placing the shift in second gear and “popping the clutch.”
Access to the rear seat was easily accomplished since the original “bucket” seats in front could be folded twice to allow for unencumbered entry. Many a young person, (including myself)’ learned to drive at an age, when it was necessary to fold the backrest down in order to see through the windshield. However, the driver’s legs must be long enough to reach the floor-mounted accelerator; (or foot-feed), as this was sometimes called.
Although not provided as standard equipment; an accessory was available in the form of a Manifold Heater. This was simply a metal hood that could be attached to the manifold of the engine. The end of this heater, nearest the fan and the front of the engine, was bell-shaped to allow air to be forced over the manifold and warmed.
It was then directed through a hole in the firewall directly in front of the passenger side and into the car. However, this was much less efficient than the rest of the vehicle; therefore, winter travel required the use of comforters and / or warm clothing.
Maintenance usually was provided by the owner and was simplicity itself. It has been said that the Model A could be kept in tip-top condition for years with only a pair of “Vise-Grip Pliers”, and a coil of “Hay-Bale Wire”.
Unlike today’s jammed engine compartments, every part of the engine could be easily accessed. An occasional grease job,;a few oil changes; and sporadic spark plug changes, were pretty much the extent of required maintenance.
Although not as comfortable as our modern vehicles, the Model A served its owners well. Comparatively speaking; this vehicle was much more of a value at a cost of around six to eight hundred dollars than today’s everything; automatic, computerized, automobiles.
I would gladly purchase a new Model-A today and spend the rest of the $20/30,thousand dollars plus;, that is the going price for many of today’s automobiles, proudly chug-a-lugging along the nation’s highways. I am not in that big a hurry anyway.
I am surprised that the popularity of today’s antique automobile shows has not encouraged Ford Motor Company to, Re-invent the Model-A.
If, by chance, they decide to bring the original plans out of mothballs, I will suggest to them that the first vehicle off the assembly line should be a coupe with a rumble seat and a manifold heater included as standard equipment.
Of course, an added incentive would be to offer the vehicle at the original price range of around $600,00; in order to appeal to cheapskates such as myself.
“So; children:” “Go on to the moon and back.” “I just want to drive my Model A to the store for my afternoon ‘R. C. Cola,’ and ‘Square Cheese Cracker”