The Model A of 1903
The first Ford Motor Company product was called, not surprisingly, the Model A. It was powered by an opposed two-cylinder engine that displaced 100 cubic inches and was stated to develop eight horsepower. Built on a wheelbase of only 72 inches, it weighed roughly 1,250 pounds, depending upon the body fitted. Its light weight made the most of the engine’s eight horsepower, and importantly, an ordinary man could cover more ground in a day with a Model A Ford than with a horse and buggy. More importantly, the Ford didn’t need to be fed on days it wasn’t being used nor have its stall mucked out!
Ford filled his manufacturing pipeline with product in early-1903, making more than a few running changes in the Model A’s design along the way, a pattern that would be repeated many times. Yet, while cash was going out to pay vendors and employees, shipments hadn’t started and income wasn’t coming in to replenish the coffers. In early July of 1903, Ford’s cash balance was just $223.65 and it was doubtful if payroll could be fulfilled long enough to complete the existing works-in-progress. Henry Ford and James Couzens had bet the company on having product ready and customers signed up at exactly the moment the cash ran out. That day was Monday, July 13th, 1903, when the first three orders were received by the Ford Motor Company for Model A Fords.
Dr. E. Pfennig sent his full payment, Indiana Automobile Company sent a $300 deposit, and on July 13, 1903, Herbert L. McNary sent a $170 deposit against an $880 order for a Model A with a tonneau body and $30 of options. Those three buyers’ $1,320 kept the Ford Motor Company in business. They were the core of a commercial snowball that began rolling that day. In the next fifteen months, 1,700 Model A Fords would roll out of the Mack Avenue plant. It was the start of the Ford success that would change the history of the automobile and, with it, the history and makeup of our world, more comprehensively and quickly than any single invention before or since.
Ford Motor Company, no doubt with Henry Ford and James Couzens physically lending a hand, loaded up those three cars. There was, apparently, no sequence to the numbers of the cars on the Mack Avenue plant floor. Ford’s cars were built in batches in one large assembly room. Parts were attached to the different chassis, and as they were finished in no particular order, the cars were test driven before inevitably being brought in for improvements and fine-tuning. The cars were, therefore, not built in sequential order by chassis number but, for all intents and purposes, together. Based on this construction pattern, The Henry Ford Curator Bob Casey has confirmed that there is no way of knowing precisely which of the three cars was completed first.
What is known is that Dr. Pfennig got #11, Indiana Automobile got #9, …