Factory Methods in the Vintage Era

No.6 : FORD

Whereas makes formerly dealt with in this series have been built largely by hand in small numbers and therefore rank as cars to delight present-day vintage-car enthusiasts, for many years prior to 1929 the Ford had been mass-produced and consequently is not quite in the same category. However, some vintage car folk regard all old cars as of interest and as several model-A Fords can be expected to act as tender-cars to the model-T Fords that will congregate at Beaulieu later this month, it is of interest to look briefly at how these were made, in Manchester, at the rate of about 170 a day, thirty-two years ago.

The sensation created by the introduction of the new Ford model in 1927 to supersede the obsolete model-T has never since been surpassed in automobile history. Fourteen months later the millionth of the type went into service, an output that it had taken Ford seven years to reach during the model-T regime.

In England the model-A Tudor (2-door) saloon was by 1929 in full production at the Trafford Park factory, although on May 16th that year Edsel Ford had cut the first sod at Dagenham and the days of Ford in Manchester were numbered. If you inquired then as to the fate of Trafford Park they told you the factory would be kept busy producing spares for model-Ts and for the model-As built at Dagenham….

As it was, there were 4,000 hands working a five-day 40-hour week to build some 850 Fords in that time, at a “princely payrate” as one observer put it.

A comprehensive test laboratory checked components, even down to the density and texture of the upholstery, before they were mass-assembled into complete cars. After rapid erection from a pile of parts the front axle assembly went into a single jig in which the stub axle setting was checked for correct tracking, any necessary adjustment being made to the track rod, before it, and the back-axle assembly, went through adjacent paint ovens.

Bodies were swung down onto the chassis by a pneumatically-controlled wire rope. The finished cars were driven off the conveyor line, as they are today, to receive a final check over and for headlamp focusing, the lamps having been turned sideways deliberately after being fitted, to ensure that focusing wouldn’t be overlooked.

Incidentally, the workers all wore single-piece overalls with the Ford facsimile in red silk on their backs.

The model-A engines needed practically no running-in, for each crankshaft was spun at high speed for just 20 seconds to bed-in the bearings prior to assembly. Road wheels were spun in a circular tank while paint was sprayed downwards onto the centre, to ensure an even finish automatically by centrifugal action. Brakes were adjusted while a pressure of 20 lb./sq. in., as exerted by a special tool, was applied to the mechanism.

Model-A radiators were machine and jig-made, almost untouched by hand. Yards of 1 in.-wide copper strip was drawn over six pairs of rollers to form it into a tube, it then passed on through a fluxing bath, on through a solder bath, the temperature here being 600° F., self-soldering the outside of the seam. The tubes would withstand a pressure of 1,700 lb./sq. in. The 116 fins were set up in a steel nest, and the 94 tubes were placed in a cage, the nest and cage then being placed opposite one another on a machine with one punch per tube, so that the tubes were pushed through the fins to form the radiator core. This core then went into a flux bath at 550° F. for self-soldering, after which the bottom tank was soldered on, the side walls following, then the top tank. After final assembly with sheet solder strains were compensated for by heating the radiator to 212° F., and any leak revealed by pressurising at 14 lb./sq. in. under water.

Electrical components were tested in samples from the main supply. Raw body panels came to Manchester from Detroit in cases, the panels were spot-welded into a complete Tudor body with dash and scuttle in an average time of 4 min. 35 sec., after which the body was sprayed with Pyroxylin, before being stoved for 1.5 hours at 225° F. A car every 2.8 minutes, approximately, rolled from the Trafford Park plant in 1929, mainly Tudor saloons, although Fodor saloons and open 2- and 4-seaters were still prominently in production a year from the end of the vintage era.—W. B.

The Vintage Section of the A.C.O.C. had 31 pre-1931 A.C.s on its books by June 1st, ranging from a 1910 A.C. Sociable to a 1930 Magna.

Lord Montagu has bought a 15T “Alfonso” Hispano-Suiza for £1,300. J. St. C. Berry who is rebuilding one of these fine Edwardian sporting cars, in Tasmania, and has located a complete spare engine and gearbox in Victoria, has heard reliable rumours of two more of these Hispanos near Melbourne, dismantled but carefully stored, and knows of a rare car of this make, but “heavier and clumsier” than a 15T, being restored in the same place.

The Vintage Car Club of New Zealand continues to issue its excellent printed quarterly Beaded Wheels, the last issue of which (No. 26) contained an interesting illustrated account of “Prince Henry” Vauxhalls in Wanganui, and the final chapter in the story of the New Zealand 1914 T.T. Sunbeam, etc. 

The Vintage Austin Twelve-Four Register has issued a list of its members and their cars, prepared and printed at their own expense by Jim and Jean Heston, which makes most interesting reading. This comparatively young Register had 144 members at June 15th last, of whom 116 owned pre-1931 Austin 12/4s. The most popular vintage is 1928, with 32 cars, followed by 1929 with 25 cars and 1927 with 23 cars. Oldest 12/4 is dated 1922. Apart from 12/4s there are nine 16/6s, eight 12/4s from 1931-34, three 6-cylinder Twenties but only one of the fine old 4-cylinder Twenties (and that the Hon. Secretary’s “Brooklands” model) on the books. Where have all the Twenties gone? The Register hopes to hold a closed rally at Longbridge on September 10th to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the car tor which it caters.

The Sunbeam S.T.D. Register is holding a trial in Essex for its members on September 10th and its annual Sandhurst Tests and Concours d’Elegance in October. The next Inter-Register Contest is the 12/50 Alvis Register Night Rally on September 23rd and the Trophy is to he presented at an informal gathering at the Newlands Corner Hotel, in conjunction with a Dunlop Film Show, on November 25th.

Cars that should be salvaged include a 1921 Sunbeam hearse and two bull-nose Morris tourers, a model-T Ford engine and some Angus-Sanderson bits in Scotland, where a 1921 Dennis ‘bus and 1929 Minerva were scrapped recently, the remains of a model-T chassis and wheels in Lincolnshire and a circa 1919 Thornycroft lorry on perished “solids” in Somerset. The Daimler referred to recently turns out to be a 1926 35/120 landaulette which has been bought by a London enthusiast to save it; he will dispose of it to an interested party. In the same Cheshire yard he found a 1920 Bristol ‘bus engine and a Hotchkiss Morris engine, both sound. There is a 1926 Jowett tourer with dismantled engine and minus some body parts, in Hampshire, looking for a home as its owner is busy with a 1926 500-c.c. Sima-Violet, and someone wants a vintage Trojan van. At a semi-derelict farm in Hens a Renault 45 coupé de ville, a Zebre coupé and a Le Zebre light car have been discovered in a barn, where they have lain since 1923 or earlier, by someone who hopes to restore them—data required. In the Isle of Wight, two Austin Twelves, two Singers and a 1934 Talbot and a 1907 de Dion engine have been found in a shed, where a 1933 Sentinel steam lorry is being restored, while a 1925 Rolls-Royce Twenty is reported for sale in Cardiff for about £60. There is also a model-T Ford lorry which is offered on three or four years’ loan, with up to £50 to spend, to anyone who cares to restore it. Letters can be forwarded.

Vintage miscellany. When D. Gough’s daughter was married recently the bride arrived at the church in a 1905 Daimler and the couple left for their honeymoon in a 1927 Austin Seven. J. C. M. Davidson’s. 1932 Delage, a Show model, came 279 miles to a recent Delage O.C. rally, averaging 33.5 m.p.h., including getting through London, and 20.3 m.p.g. The engine is original save for h.t. leads, hoses and distributor arm and has been decarbonised three times. Otherwise it has never been touched in some 74,000 miles. In the M.O.T. test the hand-brake showed 55% efficiency and the servo foot-brake 100%. J. G. Watson is restoring a circa 1909 S.C.A.T., No. 14382, and needs data, photos, spares etc. His address is: 75, Chatsworth Road, Silverstream, Wellington, N.Z.

Correction. In our V.S.C.C. Oulton Park report we credited Winder’s Frazer Nash with third place in the first race. The official results show I. S. Kerr’s Alvis to have been third.


This ambitious event, for which Newhall Street was closed, took place last July and attracted 181 entries. Dense crowds attended at the route checks and Concours d’Elegance entries were of a very high standard. This fixture is to be an annual one and around 300 entries are anticipated in 1962.


Industries ASSN,. Challenge Trophy (Best Concours): G. Fenwick (1919 Norton).

Best Quibell Challenge Cup (Best opposite class): R. H. Shute (1902 Singer).

The Ariel Challenge Cup (Best multi-cylinder): S. Greenaway (1912 Scott).

The B.-G. Memorial Challenge Cup (Best pre-1908): A. H. Foxton (1902 Minerva).

The B.S.A. Trophy (Best vintage combination): D. Allen (1925 Triumph).

The Douglas Challenge Cup (Best Douglas): E. Brockway (1914 “Ladies’. Model”).

The Greeves Challenge Cup (Best vintage 2-stroke): J. Baines (1921 Triumph).

The Phil Heath Challenge Cup (Best sprint m/c.): H. B. Snashall (1927 Rex Acme).

The James Challenge Cup (Best veteran combination): J. A. Butterworth (1913 Sunbeam).

The Midland Cup (Best scooter): H. Fenby (1922 Unibus).

The Miniature Cup (Best under 201-c.c.): D. Bell (1901 Quadrant).

The Jas. L. Norton Memorial Challenge Cup (Best o.h.v. m/c.): T. A. Chivers (1929 Velocette).

The Regent Challenge Cup (Best 2-stroke): D. Norton (1914 Triumph).

The T.D.C. Challenge Cup (Best with free-wheel): D. S. Cooper (1903 Wearwell Stevens).

The Triumph Challenge Cup (Best Triumph): W. Palmer (1914 498-c.c.).

The Velocette Challenge Cup (Best horizontally-opposed twin): F. Burke (1913 Williamson)

With such a fine awards list some of you may want to join the V.M.C.C. for this event alone. Hon. Membership Sec.: R. N. Corah, Tudor Vale, Wellford-on-Avon, Warwickshire.


The Sunbeam Motor Cycle Club’s 15th annual Veteran and Vintage Rally took place in Petworth Park on July 23rd, and did in fact commemorate the 37th anniversary of the club’s formation. An entry of 140 included 52 cars (the remainder being motorcycles), more than half of which were in the pre-1915 class.

Points were awarded for mileage covered on the journey to Petworth, to which were added points for age of driver and age of machine. And after a lunch interval, competitors set off on a 14-mile tour of the quiet Sussex by-roads (described in the regulations as a Demonstration Run) – warmly approved and applauded by the locals.

Winner of the McNab Memorial Bowl for the oldest driver of the oldest machine was Cyril Usher (aged 62) with his beautifully maintained 269-c.c. de Dion, manufactured in 1899. Tom Lightfoot’s familiar 1902 Mercedes helped him win the award for best member, and best of the V.S.C.C. contingent was L. E. Parks (1927 Singer Junior). Awards were presented at the conclusion of the rally by Brig. C. V. Bennett.

The Trojan O.C. offers free to a good home the prototype rear-engined Trojan saloon; it needs some rebuilding but a derelict car is available for spares. Storing the car has become difficult for the Club. Inquiries can be forwarded.

Stop Press.  Mon. Pierre Demeester of Paris is anxious to find a car of this make, as his company used to manufacture them – do not confuse it with the English Deemster light car. A Simpar has gone back to its original maker in Paris. Spares for 1922 Overland and old Vulcan and Leyland lorries, 895 x 105 tyres and model-T Ford wheels are available through a reader in Ormskirk, and a 1926 18-h.p. Armstrong Siddeley converted to a recovery vehicle but in running order is in danger of being scrapped in London unless bought for a few pounds.