Model A

Model A Ford

The first car I remember was a Model A Ford. It was not the first of the cars my mother and father owned when I was small but I don’t remember them. I think they had a 1936 model when they got married in 1940.
What is the first car you remember? That might require a considerable amount of thought for many of the younger folks. Many families today trade cars fairly frequently and have multiple units at one time. In this country, we went from parking the cars in the yard to single carports, dual carports and then on to double, triple, and now, in some cases, four and six car garages. Some wealthy families have a “stable” of vehicles and you just go eenie meenie miney moe.

A fellow I know was visiting some very wealthy in-laws in Sarasota and slept late one morning. When he got up everyone in the family was gone. When he walked in the kitchen the cook asked what he was going to do that day and he said he guessed he was stuck at the house since everyone was gone. She responded, “Just walk down to the car stalls and pick out one. They all have the keys in them.” He said there were about a dozen vehicles of all types.

A gentleman who lives in my son’s neighborhood has what looks like a two car garage but when you look inside he has four cars with two classis cars parked over the others using electric lifts. Driving by some of the more expensive homes now you may see six garage doors. Mom, Dad, three kids and there may be a boat in one of them. The house keeper parks in one in some households. Mustn’t have any cars parked about, you know.

The first car I remember? Well, it was actually a truck. A Model A Ford truck.  My parents had cars before my dad went into the army but, as I mentioned, I was too young to remember them and have only seen some of them in pictures. There was a 1936 Ford in one picture. A 1940 Ford in another one. My father’s father had several cars but the 1940 Ford is the first one I can remember. Others I saw in photos.

It was my mother’s father that we stayed with, while my dad was in the army, and he had a Model A truck and a 1934 Ford Sedan that he drove on Sundays if the road was not muddy. He kept it in an enclosed garage and seldom took it out. It was for special occasions. I remember the Model A as black and it had stake (wooden bodies) that allowed hauling a cow (barely) or produce hampers. It was the first vehicle I ever “drove” in the field and around the farm.

I have no pictures of my grandfather’s Model A but this is a similar one, minus the wooden stake bodies, and is advertised for sale at:

Ford had introduced the Model T in 1908. It changed life and work in America, forever. It was a mass produced car made on the first assembly line for the everyday family. They made the last one in 1927 after producing 15,000,000! That was quite a feat at the time.
Driving a Model T was a lot like flying a helicopter: both hands and feet were required to drive and operate the gears, brakes, and steering. One pedal for the two forward gears and neutral and one pedal for reverse. There was a hand throttle for the gas. There was a foot brake and a hand brake. Started with a crank.

The Toyota Corolla holds the record for most cars ever produced of a model with over 37,000,000 produced worldwide though revised several times during that period and is not the same vehicle as it was in the beginning. The old VW Beetle sold 21,000,000.

I rode in a Model T once that I remember. Mr. Sandy Justice had one that he kept under his carport for years at his house up on Highway 80 near Sandy Point and he took us for a ride one day. I wonder what ever happened to it. I hope his family still has it.
Ford started making the Model A in 1927. It was a big improvement over the Model T and had such things as four wheel brakes, shock absorbers, four color choices, and a three speed transmission with reverse. With a forty horsepower engine, it would run about sixty five although my grandfather never seemed to go over forty five.

Wikipedia Photo
A two door sedan ran about $495. A restored one today can go for big bucks. Hot-rodders have glommed on to a lot of the remaining Model A’s and put in big engines and chopped and channeled the cars into roaring beauties. There were 4,839,340 Model A’s produced over the next four years.

On the internet, there are You Tube sites where you can go and hear a Model A engine running. Like the Harley Davidson Motorcycle, The Model A had a somewhat distinctive sound.

Don’t ask me how I know this, but if you started the engine, put a watermelon under the rear wheel and engaged the transmission, you could walk off and leave it running in gear with just a little throttle and it would sit and spin until the tire wore through the watermelon. Then, you better hope it was not too much throttle as you would have to run the thing down, jump up on the running board and then get it and stop it. A lot of fun in the field, when Granddaddy was not around! I would not recommend this to my grandchildren today. Going downhill, you could let off the gas and move the manual spark advance lever to get a series of pow-pow-pow’s out of the engine backfire. Not real good on mufflers, however.

It had no heater, so a lap robe was in order. “Bundle up” was a common expression. If possible, park on a little slope and you could start it with a little push in case the battery was low. You could also use a hand crank if you weren’t too worried about getting a broken wrist or arm. Three people could squeeze into the front seat but the person in the middle needed to be able to dodge the gear shift lever. Radio? You gotta be kidding.

The windshield wiper, well, they worked with a little manual assistance. Air conditioning? You bet: open the bottom of the windshield out to let the air flow through.

My grandfather would kick it out of gear going down any hill to save a little gas. There was always a gallon jug of water on board as the Model A did not have a pressurized cooling system. Carrying a heavy load on a hot day might cause it to boil out the water and it would have to be replaced. No antifreeze was in use so the radiator and engine drain cocks were opened to drain out the water on cold nights to avoid frozen and cracked engine blocks. Fill it back up the next day. No radio, back up cameras, collision avoidance, or automatic transmissions, etc.

This little truck went everywhere. You might see it at the feed and seed, at Jones Oil getting a drum of fuel, or Sanders Store getting a cup of ice cream. It might have been at church or the Georgia Farmer’s Market. It might be out in the field where the produce was being picked for market. It might be in the woods where firewood was being cut. It was a working vehicle.

Some people would jack up one wheel and use a belt to drive a wood saw. Once, when I was a small kid, I remember getting upset in the middle of the night and wanting to go home. It must have been about 2:00 AM. My grandfather, instead of yelling and screaming and threatening me with bodily harm, bundled me up and took me home. That might be my favorite Model A memory. Maybe that’s a favorite Grandfather memory. That was the kind of man he was.

My Uncle Ray came around the “bad curve” on the dirt road they lived on and claimed the steering wheel locked and he ran into the dirt bank. I don’t know if the wheel locked, but I know it wrecked the Model A beyond repair.

My grandfather went somewhere and found a Model A sedan. My Uncle Ray, me and my Grandfather, with some help from Uncle JC and Wallace Long cut the back off and built another Model A truck out under his car shelter. Lots of people did that, I’m told.
I do not know what became of either of them. At some point the Model A and the ’34 Ford were gone and replaced by a 1950 F-1 pickup and a ’50 Ford sedan and soon, a 1950 Buick Straight 8. The Model A era was over in Sandy Point. But it is another time I remember fondly.

The Model A Pictures can be seen at Texas Classic Cars Of where they have a list of Model A’s and other models for sale.
Credits for the engine photo can be seen at Wikipedia.


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