The Model A proved to be a worthy successor and the cars were an instant hit with motorists when they hit the road in the US at the end of 1927.
By late 1928, they were being assembled at the Marina plant in Cork and played a key role in the company’s buoyancy at the start of the 1930s.
Henry, showing an emotional attachment to the Model T, had been reluctant to stop production, and his son Edsel, is credited with doing much of the research work on the Model A.
Its genesis can be seen in a telegram Henry sent to dealers on May 26, 1927, advising that Ford was “starting early production (of an) entirely new Ford car… superior design and performance to any now in low price light car field”.
A Ford statement soon after teased the public about the new design:
“At present I can only say this about the new model — it has speed, style, flexibility and control in traffic. There is nothing quite like it in quality and price. The new car will cost more to manufacture, but it will be more economical to operate.”
Read more: Former employees of Ford on Cork's Marina share their memories
On December 2, 1927, a selection of Model As were displayed to an expectant public at various US Ford dealerships and Ford News claimed that 10,534,992 people went to view them — or 10% of the US population at the time.
Although production of the Model A ended in 1932, it emerged sufficiently from its predecessor’s shadow to chalk up well over four million sales.
It boasted a 3-speed transmission, hydraulic shock absorbers, and four-wheel mechanical brakes, as well as an electric starter, water pump, speedometer, gas gauge, and Triplex safety glass.
Bob Clarke, Dealer Principal at Bandon Motors, owns a Model A among his vintage Ford collection. “They are a good old yoke to drive,” he said, “they are more conventional than the Model T, with three gears, and the accelerator pedal is between the clutch and brake.”
The Model A was sleek and stylish compared to the Model T, and Vaudeville songwriter Irving Kaufman wrote a ditty about it called Henry’s Made A Lady Out Of Lizzie — referencing the Model T’s nickname ‘Tin Lizzie’.
Evidence of the Model A’s durability came in 1992, when father and son Hector and Hugo Quevedo embarked on a 26-month, 35,000km journey from their home in Chile, to Ford HQ in Dearborn, Michigan. The car required minimal service, including a flat tyre and transmission work, and is now in the Henry Ford Museum.