The continuing popularity of Model A Fords in VSCC competitions is a tribute to a car in the run-up to which Henry Ford stopped all production of the immortal Model T for something like a year. This created global speculation about what would replace ‘Lizzie’, and enormous crowds blocked American thoroughfares when the ‘A’ appeared for the first time in the showrooms of New York and other American cities.
The Autocar sent a representative to the USA and published an accurate description of the still-secret ‘A’ which was copied by many English daily papers. Right at the close of 1927 the car was exhibited for the first time at Holland Park in London.
The original engine size was quoted as 2033cc, but a larger engine was available and is, I presume, used in most of the Fords competing in today’s VSCC events.
In 1911 Henry Alexander had conquered Ben Nevis with a Model T Ford but this had occupied several days, up a specially prepared track. In 1928 the same man used a 14.9hp Model A Ford tourer for another onslaught on the 4408ft mountain, using the normal bridle path after this had been reinforced with boulders at weak places and its surface somewhat improved at rough sections. Chains were used on the Ford’s back wheels but wheelspin was still experienced on waterlogged parts of the long track, whose gradient reaches 1-in-4 in places.
After two and a half hours the Ford was halfway up. Provisions for the crew of helpers were lost when the horse carrying them panicked and rolled down a 400ft ravine and was killed — a sad incident, as it may have lain injured before it died.
A mile from the summit the Ford’s transmission locked up and over an hour was lost while spares were brought up by horses from the halfway depot. The ascent was completed in a total of 9hr 30min. Next day the descent took two hours, in heavy rain. VSCC Ford drivers may find this impressive achievement reassuring when engaged in today’s trials.
But Mr Alexander would have been less happy in retrospect when informed that a Mr G F Simpson had accomplished the same feat, with a passenger alongside him, also in 1928, in a much less powerful Austin 7. His climb took 7hr 23min and had then descended in about two hours. This latter achievement was claimed to be the first one-day up-and-back onslaught of Scotland’s, and indeed Britain’s, highest mountain.