MotorCities National Heritage Area
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Remembering Ford's 1930s Classic Cars
By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images courtesy of Ford Motor Company
Published 12.19.2018

1932 Ford Phaeton Roadster Ford Motor Company 11932 Ford Phaeton Roadster (Ford Motor Company) 

Henry Ford was a genius when it came to making automobiles. He changed manufacturing processes used worldwide. For more than a century, the automobile has changed America's culture and lifestyle. From the horse and buggy days to the “Tin Lizzie,” Americans have always used and depended upon basic transportation to get around.

 

This story looks at the significance of Ford cars introduced during the 1930s, the time of the Great Depression which affected so many Americans. During this difficult time, Ford was manufacturing an automobile that many Americans loved and greatly appreciated. During the 1930s, the Model A was a very important car in the history of the Ford Motor Company. The car had so much power, and today, some automotive historians have said it set the tone for the V-8 era that began after World War II. The Model A Fords were great looking cars, and their styling was created under the direction of Edsel Ford and Joe Galamb. Some automotive historians have said the V-8 models looked like a scaled-down Lincoln design. During the early 1930s, Ford had sold more than five million Model As, despite competition from new Chevrolet and Plymouth models.

 

 

The 20 Millionth Ford 1931 Ford Model A Ford Motor Company 2The 20 Millionth Ford, a 1931 Ford Model A (Ford Motor Company)

 

1932 was a very important year for the Ford, when the company introduced of the famous and revolutionary new V-8 engine. During its introduction, over six million people visited Ford showrooms across the country to see the new 1932 models featuring the V-8 engine. In 1933, customers could order a brand new 1933 Ford Cabriolet model with either a trunk or rumble seat for $588.

 

Henry Ford inspects an engine Ford Motor Company RESIZED 3Henry Ford inspects an engine (Ford Motor Company)

 

The 1934 Ford models had minor styling changes, and the Ford Victoria offered trunk storage area space when traveling. By mid-year, the one millionth V-8 model rolled off assembly lines, and sales were still going strong. Many automotive historians have said that the 1934 Deluxe Phaeton and the Deluxe Roadster were both great looking classic designs.

 

1935 Ford V 8 ad Ford Motor Company Robert Tate Collection 41935 Ford V-8 ad (Ford Motor Company/Robert Tate Collection) 

The 1935-1936 Ford models offered the public still more great styling. The hood design was longer, and the grille was designed with a V-shape style. The new DeLuxe Fordor Touring sedan sold for $655. Some automotive historians have said that the 1935 and 1936 Ford models were very heavy-looking compared to previous models. Ford also celebrated in 1935, when one of their convertible sedan models became the Official Pace Car for the Indianapolis 500. One of the greatest automotive advantages for consumers in 1936, was the use of pressed steel wheels to replace the wire wheels that had been standard since 1927. For 1937, once again Ford had introduced new models which were influenced by the beautiful styling of the 1936 Lincoln Zephyr V-12 sedan models. I always thought as an automotive historian that the 1936 Lincoln models were some of Ford's best looking design models throughout its history. One design change occurred in 1937, when Ford moved their headlight design to the fender area location giving the car a better appearance.

 

 

1936 Ford 3 window Deluxe Coupe Ford Motor Company RESIZED 51936 Ford three-window Deluxe Coupe (Ford Motor Company)

 

The standard five window coupe model was the lowest priced of the line at $585. Ford continued to create and design great products with much success during the years 1938 and 1939 with the celebration of the 27 millionth Ford automobile produced. Ford also celebrated at the 1939 New York World's Fair as well.

 

 

1939 Ford ad Ford Motor Company Robert Tate Collection 61939 Ford ad (Ford Motor Company/Robert Tate Collection)

 

On a historical note, the last of the Ford convertible sedans, first introduced in 1931, was last manufactured in 1939. The 1939 Ford models were divided into Standard and DeLuxe models, which offered the consumer a more modern appearance that many customers really liked and enjoyed.

For more information on the 1930s Ford models, please contact the Early Ford V8 Club of America at www.earlyfordV8.org.

 

Bibliography

Dammann, George H. “Illustrated History of Ford.” Crestline Publishing, 1971.   

 

Sorensen, Lorin. “The American Ford” from the Fordiana series, Silverado Publishing Company.

 

Langworth, Richard M. and the editors of Consumer Guide. “Classic Car Series: Great Cars from Ford.” May, 1982.