World's Oldest Ford Vehicle Back in the Hands of the Ford Family

World's Oldest Ford Vehicle Back in the Hands of the Ford Family

Just the Facts:
  • Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford, Jr., has purchased the company's oldest known surviving vehicle, a 1903 Model A, at auction for $264,000.
  • The Model A, launched on July 28, 1903, would become Ford's first commercial success, with about 1,800 units sold during its production run.
  • The historic vehicle will play a significant role in the year-long celebration of the 150th anniversary of the birth of company founder Henry Ford and then become part of the company's permanent collection.

DEARBORN, Michigan — A 1903 Ford Model A Rear Entry Tonneau, believed to be the oldest Ford vehicle still in existence, was purchased for $264,000 at RM Auctions in Hershey, Pennsylvania, in October, 2012, by Bill Ford, Jr., executive chairman of the Ford Motor Co.

The acquisition was announced at an employee event on Tuesday kicking off the company's year-long celebration of the 150th birthday of its founder, Henry Ford.

"The timing was perfect to bring this key part of Ford heritage back to the family as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of my great-grandfather's birth and his vision to improve people's lives by making cars affordable for the average family," said Bill Ford, Jr. "His vision to build cars that are reasonably priced, reliable and efficient still resonates and defines our vision today as well."

The Model A was the first production vehicle sold by the fledging Ford Motor Company. Early in 1903, Henry Ford found himself in a precarious position. He had spent several years trying unsuccessfully to build a car that would be a commercial success, and by the middle of the year his bank balance was less than $250.

But he believed in his latest design, which sported a two-cylinder engine displacing 100 cubic inches and developing 8 horsepower. This power plant was mated to a two-speed gearbox and fitted into a chassis with a wheelbase of only 72 inches. The total package weighed just 1,250 pounds, depending on the body style, and could reach speeds up to 30 mph.

On July 28, 1903, the first three Model As were shipped from Ford's plant on Mack Avenue in Detroit. Car No. 1 went to Dr. E. Pfennig of Chicago. The others were purchased by the Indiana Automobile Co. and Herbert L. McNary of Britt, Iowa. The whereabouts of the first two vehicles are unknown, but McNary's car — vehicle No. 3, chassis No. 30 — is the one that is now once again in the possession of the Ford family.

The car had changed hands only a few times since the McNary family sold it in 1953 for $400 and has had just five registered owners since new. It underwent a complete restoration in the mid-1950s and was sold in 1961 for $6,500 to a Ford dealer in Switzerland, after which it went on display at Ford's European headquarters in Cologne, Germany.

In 2001, the car was sold again and brought back to the United States. It went on the block in 2007 at an RM auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, where it sold for $630,000 to Houston attorney John O'Quinn. After O'Quinn's death, it was put up for auction in 2010 by his estate, but the high bid of $325,000 failed to meet the reserve price.

Edmunds says: It is hard to overstate the importance of this 1903 Ford Model A. As the oldest documented vehicle produced by the Ford Motor Co., it play an important role in the history of the company, the automobile industry, and, ultimately, the country itself.

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