In the early 1900s, Henry Ford saw the increasing demand for more efficient mobility beyond the “horseless carriage”. He designed and created the very first production line that made his car, the Ford Model T, more affordable for the common man. From 1980 to 1927, the Model T sold over 15 Million units and was considered responsible for putting America on wheels.
Throughout the 1920s, Ford dominated the market with the Model T but competitors caught up with Ford’s mass production system and began to produce better cars with more powerful engines, new features, and improved looks. By the mid-1920s Ford’s dominance over the market began to erode. Henry’s son, Edsel Ford, convinced his father that a new car is needed to maintain their dominance of the car market.
Innovative New Model
In 1928, the Ford Model A was introduced. The engine was a water-cooled 3.3-liter L-head inline 4-cylinder that made 40 horsepower. The transmission was a conventional unsynchronized 3-speed sliding gear manual while stopping power was provided by mechanical drum brakes on all four wheels. With a 2,630-millimeter wheelbase and a final drive ratio of 3.77:1, it achieved a top speed of around 105 km/h, which was pretty quick at the time.
The Model A ushered in a lot of innovations. It was the first Ford to use the standard set of driver controls with conventional clutch and brake pedals, throttle, and gearshift. Its fuel tank was situated in the cowl, between the engine compartment’s fire wall and the dash panel. It had a visual fuel gauge, and the fuel flowed to the carburetor by gravity. It was the first car to have safety glass in the windshield. Best of all, the Model A came in a wide variety of body styles.
Ford’s First Global Car
Produced from 1928 to 1932, the Model A opened the opportunity for the Ford Motor Company to become a global carmaker. In addition to the United States, Ford made the Model A in factories located in Argentina, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United Kingdom. A total of 4,858,644 Model A’s were made during its 5-year production run.
Out of the millions of Model A’s produced by Ford, some units were imported into the Philippines. One particular Model A, a two-door sedan with a rumble seat at the back, was acquired and restored by Rodger Yu, a vintage car, motorcycle, watch and photography enthusiast. “When I first saw this car at an auction, I initially felt that it was priced too high”, narrated Rodger. “After I left the auction, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So, I asked my son to go back and I placed my business card on the Model A’s windshield.”
1920’s Ford in 2020’s Traffic
The seller eventually called up Rodger and they met at a restaurant that was owned by Rodger. To his surprise, the seller was actually looking for a car enthusiast who would be the next custodian of the Model A. The seller saw how Rodger dotes on and takes care of his collection of cars, motorcycles, wristwatches, cameras and audio equipment, and felt that the vintage Ford will be in good hands.
“When I got the Model A in 2017, it was already in good running condition”, added Rodger. “However, I am a very meticulous person and I had the car undergo a nut-and-bolt that took almost 3 years. I made sure that everything was done as the Ford factory did in 1928 to 1932.” To make his 1920’s Model A drivable in the modern traffic of the 2020’s, Rodger upgraded the electrical system from the original 6 volts to 12 volts and had a period-looking air-conditioner system installed.
Built To Perfection
Despite the liberties he took to improve the performance and driving convenience of his Model A, Rodger never compromised with driving safety and period aesthetics. He wanted a color that was correct for the car’s era and in the process, he had the car repainted thrice – from black, which he found too dark; to gold, which he found too flashy; to the current two-tone grey and black.
From the vintage radiator cap, which acts as a hood ornament and thermostat, to the step board garnishes, to the panel board and gauges in the interior, Rodger made sure that his Model A was loaded with period-correct accessories. He even ordered period-correct Firestone tires with white side walls from England when he cannot find correct ones in the U.S.
Built To Be Driven
Rodger built his 1928 Ford Model A to be driven. He drives it from his home to his office on weekdays and enjoys an occasional out-of-town drive during the weekends. On Sundays, he drives it to Escolta, Manila to hang out with like-minded vintage car and motorcycle enthusiasts. He enjoys driving his vintage Ford but jokes that it’s a “drunkard” because it gulps a lot of gas.
“I’m happy with how its restoration has turned out”, Rodger declares. “I drive it a lot and it makes people’s head turn when I pass by. This is one car that I will enjoy driving because it has tons of character. Some people offered me a lot of money for it but I’ll never sell it. I love my Ford Model A!”
Like the 1908 to 1927 Ford Model T, Rodger Yu’s Ford Model A was made on a production line that Henry Ford designed and created. And thanks to that production line, mass manufacturing made the automobile affordable to the common man and defined personal mobility for years to come.
Watch our video feature of this vintage Ford Model A in our YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JH-4MG5YOY0