Written by Shaun Walker, CNN
The Ford Model A represents the most basic of the two car families produced by Ford, a manufacturer that was largely responsible for changing the face of America as we know it today. In almost every aspect of its production, Model A production began before most other car brands could boast.
Founded in 1903, at the height of the “Frankensteined” automobile period, Ford’s 1920 Model A was conceived and built to simply be useful, then produce-and-market at the lowest possible cost.
Back in the Model A’s early days, assembly took all day, and while it was likely your average home-builder could build one today for several thousand dollars, in the 1920s, it cost about $2,300.
Some car junkies have fond memories of their parents unloading a Model A in the driveway, pulling out an easy handle and trusting that the three-person back seat could hold at least one more. Others remember their parents driving a Model A up to the office to compare the ergonomics of the seats to other office chairs. The prototype for the “first-person-deployable wheeled windshield” was designed at Ford.
Indeed, the Model A was ahead of its time in its production and engineering, boasting a design and production technique that made assembly lines not just easier, but safer and more efficient. This made for a half-century of one of the most successful car companies on the planet, including many carmakers that have gone bust since.
Celebrating Ford’s survival
It’s a recent auto history book that brings this innovation to life, telling the story of American automobile manufacturing and its legendary founders George Romney and Walter P. Chrysler in “Where the Wheels Go Round,” published by Vault Books.
The book is no mere primer on the cars, mechanics and designers who have come and gone over the decades; it captures the history of Detroit’s quality, industrial and political culture, as well as other institutions that existed in the Detroit of the 1920s. Yet it still tells the story of how the Ford, the Chrysler and the Mini achieved their specialness.
Often missing from the discussion of innovation — many academic historians think of Detroit more as a business, and less as a “venture capitalists city,” and thus forgetting to give it credit for the breakthroughs on offer from the tools and technologies it produced — the book recognizes the importance of Ford’s company.
The Ford Motor Company was founded, along with GM and Chrysler, as an invention and production company by George Romney, who, backed by Thomas Edison, spotted the potential of automobile manufacturing in the United States.
“Vault Books” author Chris Rushing offers a portrait of Boston-educated Romney, and his growing sense of the importance of his company and country.
In the car industry in particular, there’s a buzz of excitement among industry insiders at the prospect of Ford attempting to manufacture the 2020 Ford F-150 without using an aluminum body.