DEARBORN – It’s no coincidence that a car named the Model A started the road to success for Ford Motor Company in 1903.
Though that road – mirroring those of the time – was anything but smooth.
Henry Ford founded Ford Motor Company on June 16, 1903. One month later, his cash reserves were less than $250.
In short, the company needed a doctor. Interestingly enough, Dr. E. Pfennig of Chicago was one of three customers who came to the rescue.
A much-needed cash infusion of $1,320 arrived on July 13, 1903, keeping Ford Motor Company afloat. This amount included Dr. Pfennig’s full payment and deposits from the two other customers.
Dr. Pfennig’s Model A was shipped to him on July 28, 1903, from the plant on Mack Avenue. The 1903 Ford Model A had a two-cylinder engine producing 8 horsepower and displacing 100 cubic inches. It could reach 30 mph on smooth roads, which were rare.
By contrast, the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 has an eight-cylinder engine displacing 355 cubic inches and can attain a top speed of more than 200 mph.
Only one of the three Model A cars sold on July 13, 1903, remains. Executive Chairman Bill Ford recently purchased it at auction. The announcement of the purchase and its return to the Ford family kicked off the yearlong celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of Henry Ford.
Car No. 3 and chassis No. 30
Bill Ford’s 1903 Model A is a red Rear Entry Tonneau, car No. 3 and chassis No. 30. Prior to him acquiring it, the vehicle had only five previous owners in its 109-year existence. The car was bought initially by Herbert L. McNary, a butter maker from Britt, Iowa. Records show that McNary put down a $170 deposit on the $850 car.
Harry E. Burd, a collector, was the next owner. His research led him to believe this example was car No. 3 and chassis No. 30. He sold it in 1961 to a Swiss Ford dealer, who displayed the Model A in Cologne, Germany, at Ford’s European Center.
Burd then bought back the Model A in 2001. It was purchased by John O’Quinn in 2007, who was the final owner before Bill Ford.
The 1903 Model A sits on a wheelbase of 72 inches and weighs about 1,250 pounds. About 1,700 were produced over 15 months. It was praised in the August 1903 issue of Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal, which reported the following:
When in motion there is a light purring of the gear to be heard if one listens for it; there is absolutely no vibration to be felt; the riding is perfectly smooth and agreeable.
The wagon is, of course, under entire control, and is extremely handy in a crowded street, and, taken all in all, this latest of American wagons offered leaves very little indeed to be desired.
There will undoubtedly be advances in the art, but there will never be any wagon much more comfortable for its passengers than the Ford, and the machine work is excellent, everything being finished and secured in a workmanlike manner.
The Ford Company finishes the bodies itself, and the external appearance is extremely good.