Photography and photojournalism in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest

The Ford Model A

Vintage Model A at 50 Years Under the Hood

A recent email from a Wilsonville Spokesman reader caused me to grab my camera bag and jump in the car. I headed for the Wilsonville Holiday Inn at the north end of the city hoping it wasn’t too late to catch at least some of the vintage Ford Model As gathered there for 50 Years Under the Hood, the Northwest regional gathering for Model A aficionados.

It was early in the afternoon and the sun was not necessarily acting as a good friend of photography at that point in time. Shadows were harsh and there was little to no cloud cover to diffuse the light.

Further, virtually all of the dozens of beautifully restored automobiles were out in the open. Only a few were under cover or in the shade.

With a schedule that often does not allow for outdoor photography at optimal times, including the so-called Golden Hour just after sunrise and just before sunset, I went ahead and tried to make the best of the conditions at hand. It’s probably counterintuitive to the lay person without knowledge of photography, but a bright, sunny afternoon is probably one of the last environments a photographer would willingly choose for a shoot.

I dashed on a bit of sunscreen and put together a pair of body/lens combinations and started walking around the Holiday Inn Parking lot. Being rather averse to hot, or even warm-ish, weather, I gravitated to the shady side of the lot and started sizing up the vehicles.

Ford's flying quail hood ornament

The lovingly restored Fords on display featured a wide range of glossy color, while the chrome found on the headlamps, trim, front grille and other areas provided light and colorful reflections. The hood ornaments, meanwhile, many featuring Ford’s famous flying quail (left), really stood out.

Residents of Wilsonville, Canby, Aurora and other nearby communities probably saw groups of Model A’s and their drivers enjoying a series of tours during the week of Aug. 1-6. If so, they also may have gotten a glimpse of one of the vehicles shown in this photo gallery on Flickr.

Frankly, I found the interior of these cars (shown below), some of them close to 90 years old, to be just as interesting as the brightly colored exteriors. In addition, there were several cars at a time being worked on under tents at the east end of the lot. This provided a peek at an inline engine that was considered state of the art at a time when the term “Great Depression” had not yet entered the lexicon.

It’s a simple beast by today’s standards. But the simplicity of the times means these cars, while temperamental, are relatively simple to maintain. Just take a peek inside the passenger compartment. The lack of instrumentation alone proves this point.

Model A interior

While I’m not a mechanic or auto buff, I also enjoy the artistic license given to designers of that period. The engineers at Ford did not have much knowledge of aerodynamics or ergonomics compared to modern counterparts. But at least in part because of that the cars of the 1920s and 30s still retain an undeniable attraction thanks to their style.

Here are links for the Model A Ford Club of America, Ahooga Around the World and the Model A Restorers Club for those who want to learn more about the Model A. This model was made for just five years from 1927 through 1932 before being discontinued. It replaced the older Model T, which Ford produced for 18 years. Over 4.8 million Model A’s of all types were manufactured.

Prices at the time the car was introduced to the public in July 1927 ranged from $385 for a roadster to $1,400 for a top-of-the-line Town Car edition. The successor Model B continued use of Ford’s four-cylinder engine, while the subsequent Model 18 introduced the flathead V-8 powerhouse.

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