Model T vs. Model A

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Model T Ford Forum: Forum (old): Model T vs. Model A
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By david stannard (Stannard) on Wednesday, March 12, 2003 - 05:27 am:

I hate to trouble you all with such an elementary question, but I am writing a non-fiction book about a famous murder case in which a key player, who owned a Model A Ford, supposedly could not tell the difference between it and a Model T. The years in question are 1929 and 1930. I gather that the Model T stopped production, and the Model A began production, in 1928 . . . no? Can anyone tell me what the MAJOR differences were between the Model T and the Model A? If they were significant, I can show that this witness was lying. Many thanks for your help. David S.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Bruce McCalley , Allison Park, PA (Bruce) on Wednesday, March 12, 2003 - 08:45 am:

Other than both the A and the T had four-cylinder engines and four wheels, there is nothing in common between the two. The A was a vast improvement and an entirely new automobile. The two models had entirely different appearances.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Michael Pawelek-Brookshire,Texas (Michaelpawelek) on Wednesday, March 12, 2003 - 09:32 am:

Those that love and care for their Model T's and Model A's could easily distinguish between the different models, in fact experts like Mr. McCalley could most probably tell you what month a Model T was made by feel with a blind fold on, but to 99% of folks today almost every vintage auto painted black is called a "Model T". I've had numerous people in my barn over the years looking at my small collection of antique autos and some have even asked me if the 1899 Leggett pictured below is a really early Model T. Then again, folks back in the 1920's and 1930's most probably could tell the difference much easier than folks today....Michael
Leggett


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Ken Swan (Kswan) on Wednesday, March 12, 2003 - 09:56 am:

Bruce, I am not a lawyer nor am I a Model A expert although I did own one for about a year, but I believe there were two things in common on the '27 Model T and the '28 Model A. One was the name 'Ford', and the other is both had 21" tires.
So a hot shot defense lawyer could use that as a loop hole in the author's otherwise air tight case. Hey what is the definition of 'is'? Ken Swan


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Bruce McCalley , Allison Park, PA (Bruce) on Wednesday, March 12, 2003 - 11:04 am:

Picky, picky, picky. They both used the same kind of gasoline. No doubt there were a few nuts and bolts in common as well. Should I mention the 1903 Model A? (The T and 1928 A probably used the some of the same paints as well>)


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Michael Perigo (Mperigo) on Wednesday, March 12, 2003 - 01:21 pm:

Okay Guys,

This is a very personal subject for me. I have two Model "T"'s and a fully restored Model "A."
My wife says that I can only keep one. Which should it be? A or T I have to admit that I have already thought of getting rid of the wife!

What are your thoughts?

Mike


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Joe Sperlazzo (Tman) on Wednesday, March 12, 2003 - 01:46 pm:

I don't know what model model t you are talking about but I own a 1926 tudor model T and if it was parked behind a 1929 model A tudor and you were to look at them from a short distance other than roof line and headlites you couldn't tell them apart easily.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Fred L. Olenberger (Sironto) on Wednesday, March 12, 2003 - 02:02 pm:

David
I am one of the "rookies" in the Model T world but I would like to put in my 2 cents. Not sure how your story is going to unfold but the difference you are looking for may be in the area of how you drive them. The "A" models drive like any ol stick shift from the 40's or 50's. The "T" models were very different. If you were to jump into an "T", thinking it was an "A", you would probably still be there when the fuzz arrived. There is no "stick" to shift in a "T", the gears are changed with the pedals. Hope that helps.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Fred L. Olenberger (Sironto) on Wednesday, March 12, 2003 - 02:04 pm:

Then again, if this is a true story anyone who was driving a '29 or '30 A could have, and probably did drive the earlier "T".


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Nicholas L Unger (Nick) on Wednesday, March 12, 2003 - 02:09 pm:

One word, TRANSMISSION If someone was driving but could not or didnot know how to back a T that would be a dead give away. Backing pedel and backing slow speed of the T v the A. For years befor my first T ,or when I would see a old car on the road and say look at that model T. The early cars to my 1943 eyes all were all T's. Be they Olds, Ford T or A, Chev or others


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By David Grant Stewart, Sr. (Davidgstewartsr) on Wednesday, March 12, 2003 - 03:00 pm:

This is all too funny for words, but I guess somebody here is serious, so I'll bite.

The thesis of supposing that somebody in 1929-30 could not tell the difference between a T and an A seems to be based on mapping the ignorance of our generation onto theirs. It is easier to mistake a Star, Overland, or Chevy for a Ford than an A for a T. But you could probably get away with it with the present generation.

As silly as it may seem to some, I think your question does have merit. I cite as an example told to me by one of our local Model T club members. This really did happen! He entered his 1927 T in a Model T judging contest and the judge [who picked this guy?] told him that "Model A's were NOT allowed; this is a Model T contest."

The 1927 Ford T looks more like a 1928 Ford A than any earlier T or later A does because of the same tire size (21") and wire wheels and shiny metallic radiator shells on both.

But, to your question, Mr. Stannard:
Viewed from the front:
1. The Model T has a straight line across the top of the radiator core; the A has a double curve dipping in the middle that looks somewhat like the top of a valentine heart.
2. The vertical sides of the T radiator shell are perpendicular and parallel; those of the A slant outwards going down and are not parallel.
3. The A has a gas cap in the middle of the cowl; the T has a rectangular vent door there.
4. The A has smoother, rounder front fenders.
5. The T headlights are painted; the A headlights are shiny metallic.
6. The A usually has a black horn immediately below the left headlight.
There are countless other differences but these are the "anybody can see that" differences.
Once again, there are actually fewer differences in other makes of cars, so the premise seems a bit shakey.

And, yes, the last T was made in 1927 and the first A was made for the 1928 model year.

A major change in the A came in 1930 when it went from 21" tires like the T to 19" tires like the Chevy and almost everybody else at that time. Lots of other changes that year but perhaps all less obvious.

I'm attaching frontal views of a 1927 Ford Model T, a Ford Model A, and a 1929 Chevrolet. Perhaps you can see that it would be easier to mistake the Chevy for a Model A than to mistake the Model T for a Model A.

The T picture is from McCalley's From Here to Obscurity, p. 241.

The A picture is from the Ford archives, reproduced on the cover of the Model A Ford Restoration Handbook by Gordon E. Hopper, no date or copyright, 1971 printing, published by Clymer.

The Chevy picture is from an original 1929 magazine advertisement, reproduced in Clymer's The Wonderful World of Automobiles, p. 265.

Good luck with your book.

Model T
Model A
Chevrolet


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By David Grant Stewart, Sr. (Davidgstewartsr) on Wednesday, March 12, 2003 - 03:08 pm:

P.S.

I'm assuming the mistake was only in appearance.

If the mistaken individual actually drove the car, it is simply not possible to mistake any Model T for any Model A, as these fellows have suggested while I was uploading the pictures.

Unless, of course, he was totally soused with bootleg booze. Then, anything's possible. Or perhaps more correctly, nothing is.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Michael Perigo (Mperigo) on Wednesday, March 12, 2003 - 03:34 pm:

Joe,

I have a 1926 Coupe and a 1926 Depot Hack and a 1929 Tudor. The real question is "which of the two - A or T - is the most practical from an enjoyment point of view. I lean to the T for the sheer historial value and its charm. But the A is more practical for touring and comfort. TO me, one of each is perfect since each has its place. All things being said, I will probably stick with the A. There seem to be many more, and I belong to a local MARC chapter where I can find help if I need it. In my area, T's, at least as far as club activity is concerned, are not as plentiful.

Mike


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By david stannard (Stannard) on Wednesday, March 12, 2003 - 05:00 pm:

You folks are incredible--as is Mr. Daut, who sent me a separate message. Since I didn't know if I'd get a response, my question was very general. May I be more precise? In September 1931 a woman who owned a 1929 or 1930 Model A (no other info on it available) told police she had been abducted by some men who were (she said) driving an "old" Ford or Dodge with a torn and flapping cloth top. The car that was driven by the men who soon were arrested was a 1929 Model A Touring car in pristine condition. There are many other reasons for believing them to have been innocent, but what do you think are the chances that she (who claimed to have been in the abductors' car for about 15 minutes) would not recognize it as a Model A if she owned one? From what you have told me, the shift mechanism would make it hard to confuse a Model T from a Model A, but how common was the Model A type of transmission in other (non-Ford) so-called "older" cars at that time? Anything else? Maybe we can help solve a 70 year old mystery on the internet! Many thanks to you all.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By David Grant Stewart, Sr. (Davidgstewartsr) on Wednesday, March 12, 2003 - 06:01 pm:

Now your question becomes simple. Practically all other cars on the road in September 1931 used a transmission very much like the Model A Ford.
No other cars on the road in 1931 used a three pedal planetary transmission like the Model T. This is an early 1900's type transmission, abandoned by about 1910 by all other makers in favor of the Model A type sliding gear transmission.
The only old Fords on the road in 1931 were Model Ts. If she so much as glanced over the front seat, she could not have confused a Dodge for a Model T. Even without looking over the front seat, it is practically impossible to confuse the unique two gear planetary drive of the Model T with any three sliding gear transmission, which essentially all other cars had. A single gear change would be unmistakable.

You don't specify whether it was an open or closed car - all cars of that era had cloth tops; I know of no exceptions till wide steel rolling mills were developed in the mid-thirties.

The flapping top fabric - the "old Ford" - the "old Dodge" are all impossibly different from a "pristine 1929 Ford."

Lumping an "old Dodge" in with an "old Ford" is testimony so sloppy as to be practically worthless. One could not be mistaken for the other if a ride were taken in each, even if the rider were blind and deaf.

The gents in the pristine 1929 could not possibly have been the ones unless they did a quick car change.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Susanne Rohner (Baybridgesue) on Wednesday, March 12, 2003 - 06:24 pm:

(1) the selective transmission (like in the A) was what was normally found in cars. One of the last holdouts for a different transmission was the T - which ended production in '27. With some distinctive exceptions (like steamers), everything was selective by the '30's.

(2) A 3 year old car is not "old". Think of vehicles that get hard use - Pickups from construction companies and delivery vans, Cop cars, taxicabs, Etc. Even they, at 3 years old, don't look that bad. This woman described an "Old car with a flapping and torn top". Sounds ragged. Even then materials were not shabby, esp. in either Fords or Dodges.

Also, think of the "old" designation. Is a 2001 Ford mustang something you would call "an old Ford"? Maybe my '85 Mustang, but not something built within the last couple years. The A was just too new a model to be called "Old". My guess was probably a 20-something T - slanted windshield, millions made, driven the wheels off of. Looks modern enough to be a Dodge (or a dozen other cars). But a 3 year old Model A? Not likely.

(3) Finally - she knew what an A looked like - she owned and drove one. Even taking into account that most women are horribly non-mechanically enclined (no cracks, please!), there's enough aesthetic differences between a T touring and an A. The dash is pretty unique to the A. The feel of one and the sounds (changing gears come to mind) are distinctive from a T to anything else. So for her not to know that the car the abductors were in was or was not the same as her car, well, just doesn't make sense to me. If she was driving, she more than likely rode at some time or the other in a T; maybe not, but unlikely.

I think the car probably was *not* a T, (being a driver, I think she'd know about the 3 pedal wonder, and hear that tranny whine if it was!), Not an A (she owned one!), so I would think the bad guys were in some other car. Not a 2 year old (new) Ford A. My guess.


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By david stannard (Stannard) on Thursday, March 13, 2003 - 03:51 am:

Thanks, you guys--especially, second time around, David and Susanne. I think I've got what I need, but I'll check back from time to time in case someone else has something to add. By the way, the book is tentatively titled "Honor Killing," and it will be published by Viking Press sometime between late spring and late fall 2004. Unless whoever runs this web site has an objection, I'll give you all (collectively) a thank you in the book's acknowledgments section. I can't help thinking that I wish this sort of cooperation and generosity ruled the world. Best, y'all--David


Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of page Link to this message  By Ken Swan (Kswan) on Thursday, March 13, 2003 - 09:06 am:

One last argument for the sleezy defense lawyer trying to get the crook off. I say if a Model A touring car came zooming by at 40mph with the top down and not too far behind it came a 27 T touring came by with the top down at about 40 and the witness for the prosecution was off the road, say standing at a gas pump. One could easly confuse or get mixed up on what one saw, especially if one remembered seeing the word 'FORD' on both cars. So members of the jury, can you honestly send this man to the big house and fry him in the hot seat on such flimsy evidence? Ken Swan


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