The first Model A was manufactured from 1903 to 1905. This original Model A had a five gallon gas tank, an eight horsepower motor, and a top speed of around thirty miles per hour. 1,750 cars were made during this period.
By 1927, with sales of the Model T flagging, Henry Ford reluctantly began the process of retooling his operation for a new vehicle. Henry loved his Model T, but it just couldn't compete with competitors' more modern vehicles. The process could have been much quicker, but disputes between Henry and Edsel (Henry's son) over various aspects of the new car held the process up for six months. Once they reached an agreement, the re-tool took only ninety days to complete. The final design spec for the Model A brought many changes from the Model T -- Four-wheel mechanical brakes, a foot-operated accelerator, and conventional battery and coil ignition were all new for the Model A. It even had lighted instruments. The new Model A motor was a forty horsepower 3.3L four cylinder that moved the car to a maximum speed of around sixty-five miles per hour with fuel efficiency ranging between twenty and thirty miles per gallon, depending on driving conditions. Most of these improvements were ideas that came from Edsel, and while they were great advances for the Ford, the fact was that they were just catching up to everyone else's vehicles by this point. Plymouth already had hydraulic brakes, and Chevrolet was using six cylinder engines. Some months before the introduction of the car, Edsel announced "The New Ford Automobile is an accomplished fact. The tests already show that it is faster, smoother, more rugged and more flexible than we hoped for.".
A series of five Ford Motor Company ads were placed in newspapers, and on fifth day the new Model A was shown for the first time. The car was introduced live to much fanfare in Madison Square Garden. 1.25 million New Yorkers showed up to view the car during the show, and fifty-thousand placed orders for the new Ford.
The Model A was an affordable vehicle, close to the price of the Model T. In the 1920's a Model T cost about $300. The most expensive Model A, the Fordor, only cost $570. Other available trim levels included the Roadster for $385, the Phaeton for only $395, either a Tudor Sedan or Coupe for $495, and the Sport Coupe for $550. Good condition Model A's now sell for upwards of $30,000.
In comparison, the GM Chevrolet -- one of the Model T's major competitors, cost $200 more than the Model T in 1927, or about $500. It was a nicer vehicle than the Model T, which contributed to the declining sales near the end of the Model T's life.
The Model A was manufactured from 1928 to 1931, with a total production run of 4,320,446. That's not quite up to the Model T's fifteen million-plus sales numbers, but the Model T was available for 19 years. Chevrolet went to the length of buying and destroying their own used cars to increase new value in an effort to compete with these sales figures. The short life of the Model A is attributable both to the onset of the Great Depression and Ford's own coming V8. Still, it was a successful vehicle for its time.