“I know some people think that salesmen make a car. We believe that a car, if it is good enough, will make salesmen.”—Henry Ford, circa 1926.
New Ford: 1928
After making some 15-million Model-Ts between October 1908 and May 1927 the Ford Motor Company shut down its assembly-lines at Highland Park and River Rouge. A new model was required, because people were discovering that for less than the price of a Model-T they could buy a not-too-elderly used Buick and in the new-car market the out-dated, two-speed, back-braked Model-Ts were selling only twice as well in 1926 as Chevrolets, whereas in 1924 the proportion had been six-to-one in favour of Ford. It is interesting, too, in view of the current American safety regulations and their far-reaching effects on car design, that in 1926 safety authorities in Washington, according to Charles Sorensen, who was Henry Ford’s advisers, were criticising the Model-T’s brakes, some State safety boards were threatening to ban these cars, and the German government had issued orders to stop the use of Model-Ts because of unsafe brakes, which Ford agents in that country overcame, according to Sorensen, by substituting cables for rods.
Clearly, a new Ford was overdue. Speculation as to what lines it would follow was stupendous—no new car has created more interest, none has raised as much controversy or had a greater reception, than this replacement model, known as the Model-A Ford.
So far as Britain was concerned, speculation commenced in the autumn of 1926, when it was rumoured that six- and eight-cylinder cars had been built in the Dearborn experimental shops. By March 1927 The Autocar reported that Henry Ford had announced a new car intermediate in size and price between the defunct Model-T and the V8 Lincoln, and rumoured that it would be called the Edison. In America the guessing went on. A four-cylinder engine was expected but there was talk of a hybrid sliding gear shift and entirely new body styling. At the end of May Ford (England) Ltd. gave a luncheon to the Press in London but the guests were told nothing of the specification of the new car; all Henry Ford would say was that it would have exceptional power, speed, style, flexibility, and case of control in traffic. Meanwhile the Model-T would continue to be made at Manchester and Cork. So Dame Rumour endowed the forthcoming replacement with any number of cylinders from one to eight and a more unorthodox transmission each day. . . .
By the summer four cylinders were confirmed and then the true specification broke as World news in the New York paper Automotive Topics on August 13, 1927. The Model-A was revealed in the form Ford enthusiasts know so well, with Gene Farkas-designed four-cylinder 77½ x 108 mm. (2,033 c.c.) side-valve engine, 3-speed and reverse sliding-pinion transmission, transverse springing, L. P. Sheldrick-conceived, rod-actuated, balanced four-wheel-brakes and wire wheels. (On American and export models the engine size was 3.3-litres.) The Autocar had sent one of its staff to Detroit and his cabled report was published in their issue of November 18th, 1927, confirming these details. During this speculative year Ford had waived his dislike of broadcasting and pieces of old-time classical music had been sent out over American networks to sustain interest in the 1928 model at fever pitch. It was said that the new Ford took only 90 days to get into production and that the year’s delay was due largely to disagreements between Henry Ford and his son Edsel who was responsible for the new car; the fact is that the first picture of the Model-A did not reach this country until November 1927 (it appeared to be a not very accurate drawing, showing artillery wheels).
The new Ford was finally revealed in this country at the Ford Motor Industries Exhibition at Holland Park (ironically, where B.M.C. have premises today) from December 2nd to 10th, Edsel Ford attending in person. The least-expensive saloon cost £185. Previously, New York traffic had been forced to a standstill as hysterical crowds surged to get their first glimpse of the replacement for Model-T. The Model-A did not have any sporting aspects but in 1928 one climbed Ben Nevis and two tourers ran in the T.T., amongst the Bugattis, Bentley’s and Mercedes. This happened again in the 1929 T.T., when the Model-As of Masterton and Wright completed the course. During 1928 633,594 of these cars were built and the total of all versions from 1928-35 was over 4½-million. For a time this new Ford doubled US sales compared to Chevrolet but it failed to retain this lead, although the Ford Dealer and Service Field Magazine of Milwaukee did its best by comparing the Model-A with the Model-T and other makes of American cars part by part, to prove its superiority, which makes very interesting reading!
New Ford: 1968
The new 1,100 and 1,300 c.c. Ford Escort models announced last month are not quite comparable with the Model-A, which was a one-model production of a company which before the war was the World’s biggest automobile producer, with the Model-T, and which had virtually “invented” mass-production. But it has some things in common. For instance, it is the utility model of the present Ford range (but is of interest to Motor Sport readers because it is available in 1300 GT and 1.6-litre Cortina-Lotus twin-cans forms, with a full range of those splendid Ford competition options available). It replaces the Anglia in a range of 27 former Ford models, now increased to 29. In saying goodbye to the Anglia, Ford ends a 28-year association with a model-name which won a place in the hearts of nearly two million motorists around the World.
The history of the Anglia goes back to October 1939 when the £126 E04A model was introduced. The first Anglia enjoyed as much success as could be expected of a new car in the second month of World War II and continued after the war with few basic changes. Over 50,000 were made and many are still in regular service. In 1948 came the Anglia’s £298 successor, the E49A, and when the last left the assembly line in September 1953 the 8-h.p. chapter in Ford car history came to a close, with production totalling nearly 159,000.
But the demand for low-cost transportation was still as great as ever. Sales of the 100E Anglia of 1953-9, with its entirely new body design, reached 382,000, more than half of which were exported. The last member of the Anglia family, the 105E, was introduced in the autumn of 1959. Here was the first small o.h.v. Ford, the first Dagenham car with four forward speeds, and the first breakaway from current orthodoxy in styling.
Within a few months a thousand a day were being built and it became the fastest selling British car ever. Total production of this model alone reached 1,288,956. It brought the grand total of the Anglias in a 28-year life cycle to 1,829,612. Such a large number ensures that the familiar silhouettes of successive models will continue to be seen on the roads for many years to come.
Now, 40 years after the debut of Model-A, comes another important new Ford. There may be a sense of disappointment that the new Escort does not have such long-rumoured features as an overhead camshaft, fuel injection, flat-four engine or i.r.s. In normal performance standard forms it is apparently sufficiently light for drum brakes to suffice, while the valves are still prodded by push-rods. The body styling is new; gone is the once-much-vaunted reverse-angle rear window; perhaps because the World’s family motorists refuse to do without a back shelf on which to carry wet umbrellas and boxes of tissues.
In fact, the Escort cannot be called revolutionary; it shows about as much advance over the Anglia as A over T. The engine is sufficiently sophisticated, especially as the classic d.o.h.c. valve gear is used for the fastest version. But the ride has been the least satisfactory aspect of non-i.r.s. Ford cars, so it will be essential to know whether the springing will prove adequate for the Escort or will show up to even greater disadvantage on this lighter, smaller car. If the latter should prove to be the case, Ford should be ashamed of allowing B.M.C./Moulton to get ahead in this matter of small-car suspension. Incidentally, there is only one body form, which should surely be referred to as the Tudor?
But much of the Escort’s specification is new. For the first time in its smallest model Ford has a 5-bearing crankshaft and the Escort engines are the latest bowl-in-piston, crossflow-head type introduced last year for the Cortina, tyre size has gone down from 13in. to 12in. (except on the exciting twin-cam version) and there is rack-and-pinion instead of recirculating ball steering. More roomy, better finished with metallic paints, and of higher performance than the Anglia, the new Escorts have the excellent Ford “Aeroflow” ventilation. Ford claim an economy of 36 m.p.g., 0-69 m.p.h. in 20½ sec., and 80 m.p.h. from the 1100, 32½ m.p.g., 0-60 m.p.h. in 16½ sec., and 85 m.p.h. from the 1300, 0-60 m.p.h. in 13.7sec. and 92 m.p.h. from the servo-discbraked, twin-Weber 1300GT, and 0-60 m.p.h. and 115 m.p.h. from the 115-b.h.p. twin-cam Escort. I shall be glad to check any or all of these claims when Ford make road-test cars available to me.
The Ford Escort was introduced at a pre-Christmas dinner party at the London Hilton, at which its future was toasted in Berncasteler Braunes, Hallgarten 1964 and Mouton Cadet, Rothschild Selection 1960, just as if Mrs. Castle had never been born! Each guest received a reminder of the Escort’s styling, in the form of a pre-production Dinky-Toy miniature, cleverly prepared in secret by Meccano Limited. In the New Year those journalists fortunate enough to be able to spare the time away from more mundane duties, or having nothing more important to do, depending on the point of view, were flown to Morocco to try Escorts for themselves. About this my P.A. reports on page 116.—W. B.
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