TBT: The Story of “Bonnie”

Throughout high school I had one dream car which most people don’t typically dream about having…

It’s no secret that I have a strange taste when it comes to vehicles. In a recent post, I mentioned the infamous yet versatile Grumman LLV. While the Grumman LLV would be a great vehicle to get your hands on due to the versatility and uniqueness (it is one of the most patriotic vehicles you can buy, evidenced by the bright red and blue stripes spanning the length of the vehicle), it isn’t the vehicle which I dream about owning, nor is it as fun.

That honor goes to: the Ford Model A.

The History

To better understand the Model A and my desire to own one, let’s talk a little about the “Roaring Twenties” in terms of automobiles.

In 1908, Henry Ford and his Ford Motor Company introduced the Model T. The Model T didn’t really differentiate itself from other vehicles of the time (including Ford’s previous models) until Ford came up with a revolutionary way to produce them: the assembly line. Ford and his assembly line sped up production, allowing more cars to be cranked out to meet the growing demand, and lowering prices. By the 1920s, cars went from being “playthings for the rich” to a near necessity – replacing horse-and-buggies in most families.

However, by the mid-1920s, Ford lost much of their market share to competitors who utilized the assembly line method of production and brought their own ideas. (In relative terms, like IBM and PC clones.) The Model T started to receive fierce competition from manufacturers like Nash, General Motors, and others.

The Model T fell by the wayside quickly as it received very few upgrades since its introduction in 1908. By 1913, all Model T’s were painted black. (Giving way to the famous Ford quote: “you can have a Model T painted any color as long as it’s black.”) While Ford fixed this in 1926 by offering multiple colors and adding nickel to the radiator trim, the Model T’s days were numbered.

That is when Ford’s son, Edsel Ford, started urging his father to introduce a new car to rival General Motors and other competition. Henry dismissed his son’s advice, thinking the Model T was good as is. In reality, Edsel’s advice was right: the Model T was like a boat anchor for the company in a race.

By 1927, Henry realized that his son’s advice was right – a tough pill to swallow. In late 1927, the Ford Model A (or “New Ford”) was announced to the public. The Model A would live on until 1932 when the Model B was released, which featured the then-new V8 eight-cylinder engine that added performance.

The Model A would be a common sight throughout the Great Depression, as they were being sold cheaply and were fairly easy to maintain and repair. World War II did decrease the number of pre-War cars (Model T and Model A’s included) as unused or damaged cars were scrapped to be turned into items for war use.

After WWII, hobbyist groups such as the Model A Ford Club of America (MAFCA) popped up to maintain the cars and restore them to near-original condition. At the same time, many more Model A’s were sacrificed throughout the 1950s and 1960s to produce hot rods. While not a new idea, hot rods became more prevalent through this time period, with the Model A being the primary “go-to” vehicle to “chop.”

My History

I originally didn’t start with an interest in the Model A or Model T… instead, you could say my interest didn’t start with cars at all.

My original “vehicle of interest” was school buses. Yes, the long, yellow buses which would give you motion sickness and make you almost nauseated by the time you arrived to your destination. That was my original interest. As with many people and cars – I had a focus on one brand: buses made by Ward or “AmTran” as they were later called. My school had two of these, before one got replaced by a newer Blue-Bird. (The buses that we had at our school were from 1993 and 1998, if memory serves me right. The 1993 one was supposed to be replaced but the 1998 one had near constant problems, so it went and the ’93 – or “Ol’ Reliable” as it was dubbed – replaced it.) Since I rode a bus for about an hour to two hours each day, I guess it was a good thing that I liked riding the bus.

Whenever we moved, my interest declined. Our new school had buses that were more crowded, and it was something that annoyed me. One time I got so annoyed my father started taking me to school.

My interest waned in school buses, but I had an interest in a special type of vintage vehicles: the “first generation” (1902-1914) Rambler, made by the Thomas B. Jeffery Company of Kenosha, Wisconsin. The high school in the town where one of our buses was made had the mascot the “Ramblers”, and it got me interested. The Rambler and Thomas B. Jeffery Company has a pretty interesting history. Like other early car manufacturers, Thomas B. Jeffery went from making bicycles to cars – in fact, Thomas B. Jeffery himself is typically credited with developing the clincher-style rim found on many early cars (including the Model T) and bicycles even today.

The Thomas B. Jeffery Company produced the Rambler from 1902-1914 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. (Click for more info.)

However, Ramblers from this generation are rare. Unlike the Model T, they were produced in very limited numbers because they didn’t mass produce their cars on an assembly line.

Therefore, I switched to Model T’s. My interest in the Model T was somewhat turbulent as some of the fellow hobbyists on a Model T forum I was a member on were somewhat disapproving of me trying to participate in their hobby. I can remember being upset after being banned from the forum. However, before abandoning the Model T hobby, I did get to ride in a 1913 Model T and was able to meet some people that were friendly – some of whom I still talk to from time to time.

Me and the owner of the 1913 Model T after he took me for a ride.

After abandoning the Model T hobby, I essentially took a hiatus from vintage cars.

During my Freshman year of high school, I had long abandoned the vintage car hobby, and even the former HVAC “hobby” which I had (which is another TBT for another time – perhaps next week?). Then I came across the 1968 American-Standard/Kewanee boiler in our high school basement, which somehow reignited the vintage car hobby – specially back in the “First Generation” Ramblers (don’t worry, I’m getting to the Model A.)

After speaking to someone in the vintage car (specifically horseless carriage) hobby, I talked about wanting a car that was obtainable, easy to work on, and could be used as a daily driver. He recommended the Ford Model A to me.

It wasn’t long before I was “hooked” on the Model A. I had joined the Model A Ford Club of America (MAFCA) and befriended two high members of MAFCA – the then-president Dan Foulk, and their webmaster Rick Black. Both would be instrumental in maintaining my interest in the Model A.

I found some Model A’s which I liked, and used those to set a goal to raise funds for. The goal I came up with was $15,000 – enough to purchase a fairly decent daily-driver quality Model A, as well as some minor upgrades and maintenance items to prepare it for daily driving here in Missouri (more standardized 16″ tires, heater, etc.) I had even settled on the body style and year range I was interested in – a 1930-31 Tudor Sedan. (Tudor Sedans being one of the more common body styles.) My goal was to get a Model A, and get it ready, by the time I turned 16 – so that I could even take my drivers’ test in it.

But the tricky part was raising the money. Jobs were not only hard to come by for people my age (me being 14 at the time), but the money at those jobs wasn’t sufficient enough to buy a Model A – even if I saved up.

So, I went back to my old friend – the website design business. Me and a local business guru worked together to design a plan and took my business to a local pitching contest, where I won $250 as a fourth-place prize in the high school category.

And so “Garrett’s Websites” was somewhat officially born again – as in, our website went online and I started marketing our services. I targeted my services towards vintage car clubs, such as MAFCA and related chapters, who may want to use them to bring their club online as well as help me reach my goal.

Garrett’s Websites “existed” from 2014 until 2016, when I decided to “close” the business. I did freelance work for another year, but cease to even do freelance work.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the website business failed. I did a couple projects – one of which was a volunteer project for a local non-profit organization. I learned that my HTML/CSS skills weren’t completely “up-to-speed” in this Flash/JavaScript/PERL/PHP world. That led to me closing the business in 2016, and me ceasing even freelance website design over a year later.

So, essentially, the Model A goal failed too. I couldn’t put any money towards saving for the Model A, so the whole plan fell apart. I did get my first car, a 1989 Ford F-150 (the “Pintomobile”) shortly after I turned 16, but it was damaged in a roll-over accident in late 2016. The Pintomobile was eventually replaced with my current car – a 2000 Buick Century.

I still hope to someday purchase a Model A, and perhaps make my then-dreams a reality. But it wasn’t feasible then and is definitely not feasible now, but maybe at some point in the future it will be. Who knows what the future holds?

T42

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