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Ford Model A, 1931

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Ford Model A, 1931
Smithsonian Institution, Negative #: 74-11741-CN


This object appears in the following sections:

Smithsonian Automobile Collection — Car collection, 1930-1949

Ford Model A, 1931
Ford Model A, 1931

Ford Model T

Ford Model AA stake truck

Ford radiator emblem

Ford roadster

Ford Country Squire station wagon

Ford Mustang automobile

Ford Model A automobile
Catalog #: 335,243, Accession #: 315,444
In collection
From the Smithsonian Collection

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Ford Model A was one of the most publicized and best-selling cars in America. It was sporty, attractive, well-built, and smooth-running compared to the Model T, which it replaced in the 1928 model year. Thousands of people were eager to see for themselves that "Henry's made a lady out of Lizzie," and they stormed Ford showrooms when the Model A debuted on December 2, 1927. In less than two weeks there were 400,000 orders, and Henry Ford could not keep up with the demand for his latest "gift" to an increasingly mobile nation. Despite the onset of the Depression, Model A production remained strong at 1,261,053 cars in 1930 but fell to 626,579 cars in 1931, the last year that the Model A was produced. Donald E. Wolff donated this restored 1931 Ford to the Smithsonian in 1974.

Physical Description

This black 1931 Ford Model A Deluxe Roadster has an open, two-door body with a folding top made of wood and cloth. It can accommodate a driver, two passengers, and two additional passengers in the rumble seat, which folds out and has a snap-on cloth top. The four-cylinder engine developed 40 horsepower. This car carries numerous accessories. Some are Ford options, and others were added by various owners. They include a detachable fabric trunk and rear luggage rack; radiator stone guard; side-mounted spare tires with cloth covers and rear-view mirrors; glass wind vanes beside the windshield; a spotlight; runningboard-mounted storage containers with spare water, oil and gasoline; and a runningboard-mounted luggage rack. The optional hood ornament depicts a quail in flight. This Model A was restored before it was donated to the Smithsonian.

Date Made:
Dates Used:
1928 - 1931
Gift of Donald E. Wolff

In the early 1920s, the plain, utilitarian Ford Model T far outsold other new cars and gave millions of working Americans the advantages of personal mobility. But by the mid-1920s, Ford's market share was shrinking because other automobile manufacturers offered stylish, sophisticated cars at low prices and enticements such as buying on credit. Henry Ford decided to replace the Model T with a new car that would attract as much attention as the "Tin Lizzie" once had. The much-anticipated 1928 Ford Model A was chic and sporty, and it had mechanical features that the Model T lacked: a three-speed, sliding-gear transmission, four-wheel brake system, and hydraulic shock absorbers. Sales were strong, but Ford never again dominated the new-car market as it had at the height of the Model T's popularity; Chevrolet, Plymouth, and other makes proved to be formidable rivals in the 1930s and beyond. In the 1932 model year, Ford replaced the Model A with a new line of cars featuring V-8 engines.

Related People, Places, and Events
Ford Motor Company

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