The Ford Model A needs little in the way of an opening introduction. Ford had enormous shoes to fill when it came time to replace the Model T, and by the end of the T’s 18 year run, Ford’s dominance was fading. A new car was desperately needed, and while consumers and dealers demanded ever more features, Henry’s staunch pragmatism and disdain for frivolous styling slowed progress. Henry Ford eventually conceded, largely due to the influence of his market-savvy son Edsel, and the stylish and feature-filled Model A was born. The Model A debuted in 1927, featuring an L-head four-cylinder engine of 201 cubic inches, mated to a conventional sliding fork transmission, which finally put the complex and archaic planetary unit in the T to rest. Also new was a conventional three-pedal arrangement, an on-board electric starter, four wheel brakes, and a full line of new open and closed body styles. Henry had to adapt his assembly lines for flexible mass production, allowing him to build any number of body styles at the same time, yet retain the sheer volume he mastered during the time of the T. Despite getting a late start in the face of competition from the likes of Chevrolet, the Ford Model A proved to be yet another smash hit for Ford – selling over a million units by its second year in production, and going on to sell over 4.8 million examples of all body styles by the time production ended in early 1932 when the V8 powered Model 18 and improved 4-cylinder Model B took over.
The Model A has gone on to become the backbone of the classic car hobby. Given the ubiquitous nature and mechanical simplicity, they are the ideal choice for an enthusiast seeking their first foray into the world of antique automobiles. Plentiful parts and a vibrant, enthusiastic community of owners also allows for even the most novice owner to enjoy a Model A to the fullest. Edsel Ford’s restrained yet classic styling lends the Model A with a sense of classlessness… something only a handful of cars (Mini, Mustang, Beetle) have managed to achieve. Even the most serious collectors make room for a Ford Model A, such is their significance, as well as the pure and simple joys they provide from behind the wheel.
This 1929 Model A wears the rare and desirable Roadster Pickup body style. This delightfully patinated example struck us with its honest, hard-working character. Almost as important as the truck itself, it comes to us with a 10-page, hand written letter from a Mr. Tom Umholtz of Pennsylvania, who purchased the truck in 1965, detailing when he first saw it, how he came to own it, and his own work in tracking down its history. It is a wonderful story that makes this truck all the more endearing (including a tale of it being rolled on its side once!). He originally bought the truck in 1965 after seeing it at a local auction in Pennsylvania, as he was currently employed as a carpenter, his boss said he needed a truck, so Tom bought the A for $375. Apparently, his boss was less than pleased when he showed up in a battle-worn Model A with no top! But the truck was fundamentally sound, and through many years of careful ownership and regular use, he nursed it back to top mechanical condition, all along making improvements to the cosmetics as he could. Since his time with it, the “RPU” (Roadster Pick-Up) has been preserved with all of its visual history intact.
The body is finished in dark Brewster Green (resprayed in the late 1960s for a whopping $25), while fenders and the pickup bed are black. The paint is care worn and work worn, and while the body shows a few battle scars here and there, it is solid, sound and correct Ford sheetmetal and it is fabulously endearing. The soft top is in very good condition, and the frame works as it should. Brightwork on the Model A is limited to the stainless steel radiator shell and bumpers, all of which appear in good order, fundamentally sound but in keeping with the rest of the care-worn character of this truck. Black wire wheels are shod with blackwall tires all in good order and the bed is fitted with a cherry wood plank floor that Mr. Umholtz installed in the 1960s. The bed rails are believed to be original. The overall appearance is that of a truck that has been worked hard, yet also cared for like a cherished old tool – something that has a job to do, and has been maintained so it can do it reliably.
The cab is simple and workmanlike, again with barrels of character and a sense of living history that is often lost on perfectly restored examples. As with any Model A, controls are simple and it is built to last. While the cosmetics of this particular truck set the stage, it is the way it drives that completes the story. Like a trusty old tool, it starts and runs with reliable precision. The 201 cubic inch four-cylinder engine emits its signature burble and provides ample torque for easy driving. Short shift the non-synchronized 3-speed manual transmission (which is easily mastered and one of the simple pleasures of the Model A) and simply let the torque do its job. Four wheel mechanical brakes pull up strong and square with little drama.
This Ford Model A has a wonderful history that it wears proudly on its sleeve. It would make a fine choice for a first-time classic buyer, as well as an established collector who simply loves an iconic car with a great story. Honest, charming, and in wonderful mechanical order, this Model A Roadster Pick Up will hopefully continue to feature in many more delightful stories for years to come.