The 1928-1931 Ford Model A is significant for many reasons. Preceding it was the Model T, a car that revolutionized mass manufacturing and made it possible for the average person to put a new car in their garage. The Model A represented a big step up from the T in styling and comfort and came in several different body styles. Of course, when the hot rodding scene took off in the mid-1940s and the Model A, as well as the ’32 Model B, became the anchor of that movement, since there were literally millions of them on the road.
Model A owners are divided into two distinct camps; the hot rodders who strip them down and heavily modify them, and the people who lovingly restore them back to factory fresh. If you go to a parade in any town in the U.S., you’ll no doubt see at least one carefully restored Model A in the procession.
It was this latter group of enthusiasts who gathered together for a week this summer in Ishpeming, Mich., for the Model A Ford Club of America’s (MAFCA) national convention, bringing close to 1,000 people and over 300 cars from all over the country, and even a few from New Zealand. At least one person drove his Model A, slowly but surely, all the way from California. Marquette County and the Superior A’s chapter of the MAFCA were the hosts.
Leading the parade and drawing the most attention during the festivities was the Model A owned by Rod Liimatainen of Chassel, Mich. His all-black, 4-door sedan was the 20 millionth Ford to roll off the assembly line. And that was back in 1931!
The car has been in Rod’s family for 70 years, and the last time Rod drove it was 50 years ago, when he was only 18. It has been fully restored and is leased to The Henry Ford Museum. The valuable, historic car was taken to Marquette on a trailer, but Rod fired it up to lead the parade, complete with a “20,000,000” Michigan license plate presented to him by Ishpeming Mayor Pat Scanlon. Normally held in large cities, the MAFCA’s convention seemed even bigger this year as it took over the entire town of Ishpeming, the smallest town yet to have hosted the convention.
Edsel Ford II, the great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford, grandson of Model A-designer Edsel B. Ford, and board member of The Ford Motor Company, said, “The summer weekends, as you can well imagine, are chock full of things to do, races to attend, weddings to go to, so this was an open weekend and I said to my wife, ‘I’m going to Marquette. I’m going to go look at some Model As.’ So it worked out beautiful.”
Of his grandfather’s influence on the car, Edsel II said, “My grandfather Edsel was really the chief designer of the Model A, and so his design input is really why the Model As look the way they look,” Ford said. “Henry was obviously the head of the company at the time, but my grandfather Edsel had a lot to do with the design. Now, that being said, if they both could be here today, I think both of them would be thrilled to see how nicely their cars are being maintained.”
Established in 1957, the MAFCA is dedicated to the restoration and preservation of Model As. The organization is currently building a Model A-specific museum at the Gilmore Car Museum in Hickory Corners, Mich. For more information on the MAFCA, check out their website at mafca.com.