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Ahooga's
Ford History Page

A Black Painted Ford

Why Weren't Model A's Offered in Black in 1928-29?

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Why Weren't Model A's Offered in Black in 1928-29?
"A little bit of FoMoCo history might help here"
By Marshall V. Daut

Well, maybe more than a "little" history. But first, I have to agree with one of the posters to the Ahooga Message Board who said black was a special order color, not standard, at least when the Model A was introduced. When the 1928's came out, each passenger car body style was offered in a minimum of five color combos, black not being one of them. (Yes, black could be ordered, but wasn't included in the initial releases). Often this myriad of options on a low-priced car was achieved by simply reversing the upper and lower body colors. Nevertheless, there were color COMBINATIONS offered. Why wasn't black one of these options? What happened to black?

To answer that, we need to look back a couple years in FoMoCo history before the Model A was introduced. I know most guys on this web site are Model A fans and therefore may not be up to snuff on their Model T facts. So bear with me here in this history lesson, as I dabble (or is that "dribble"?) in the Model T world, too. Black had been the only color available on Model T's from 1915 to 1925. Green, red and blue had been available on Model T's up to that time, as well as black. Why then were Fords after 1914 painted only black for the next 11 model years? There was a simple reason for this limited color availability: cranking out Model T's as fast as they could for ready buyers, any slow down in the production line cost money. The pigmented colors of the day took longer to dry than black. Until better, faster drying proxylin colors came out in the later 20's, black was chosen by Ford as the only color. A dry car body was a car body ready to mount on a chassis and sell! That meant it had to be black. Until the middle 20's when sales alarmingly slowed down, Ford couldn't make Model T's fast enough as it was to meet the demand without being saddled with slow drying colors. But by the mid-20's, sales were being lost to other makers (such as the "C"-word), who offered more advanced designs, options and COLORS. By 1925 black was almost solely identified with being a Ford, by now considered the "poor country cousin" in the automotive world. Although you'll get an argument from sidewalk know-it-alls, all Model T's were NOT black. As stated, between 1908 and 1914 and then again during the last two years of Model T production ('26-27), colors were available on Fords.

In an effort to get back into the sales race by updating a hopelessly out of date Model T design, Ford offered the new 1926 closed cars in colors: Deep Channel Green for coupes and Tudors, Windsor Maroon on Fordors. Other colors became available later, too, but that's not critical to this discussion. Letters to dealers from the Boss even stressed their need to talk customers out of wanting black on their new closed body Model T's. Open cars (the cheap ones in the line), however, continued to be black until late in the year. Possibly during the August year model change (not January, as with Model A's), open cars now became available in colors, such as Phoenix Brown and Gunmetal Blue. The point here is, Ford was trying to change the image of his cars only coming in black. By then, this was synonymous with driving an out of date car. When the Model T era ended in May, 1927, more new Model T's were wearing colors than black.

So jump ahead to the introduction of the Model A, which was to outdistance the Model T in every way. Henry considered this new car so advanced (it really wasn't; it had just "caught up" with competitors' models) that he jumped back to the letter "A" in the alphabet instead of calling it a Model X,Y,Z or whatever. When the cars were announced for public viewing on December 2, 1927, black was not one of the standard colors listed. This was yet another gambit to get away from the "any color you want as long as it's black" old saw that was hung on the Model T. The introduction of the faster drying proxylin pigmented paints made it once again possible to mass produce cars in colors. Black was retained for the fenders and splash aprons, however.
So were there black Model A's? Of course! And lots of them. It was a color that lasted a long time, had been popular for years (Model T's notwithstanding) and was easy to match in case a panel needed to be repainted. It was still cheaper, too, because pigmented paints (especially red) were more costly. One can't judge the dark color in old photographs of Model A's to always be black. Some colors such as Andalusite Blue and Deep Ford Maroon are so dark even today that they appear black when viewed in person. Imagine how they look in 70+ year old photos. Everything looks black.

Maybe the safest way to view the Model A paint world is to study the accepted paint combinations (at least what's accepted THIS year, but may be deemed different NEXT year by the experts???) and keep in mind that black was always a standby color that could be ordered. I believe in the '30-31 models black made a more official return as a standard "optional" color than found on the '28-29 models. Perhaps Ford finally remembered he could make more money spraying cars black than a pigmented color (remember: pigmented paints cost more than black)? Each black unit sold meant more profit per car x hundreds of thousands = lots a moo la for Ford. Or maybe Ford misjudged people's desire to still own black cars and therefore brought the color back after the initial '28-29 models had shown his error? 'Dunno. Supposedly the big Fordor and Town Sedans were more likely to sport black than the open cars during the '28-29 ear. With the possible exception of early '28's, I'd say black would be an acceptable choice for body color. The heading "Special Ordered" cars cuts a wide swath of deviations from the norm and makes almost anything done by modern restorers plausible, within reason. Using black is certainly more defensible than today's yellow Tudors and bright red coupes!!! Hmmm...I don't seem to note those options for these body styles in the charts, either. But, boy howdy, do you ever see 'em runnin' around today!!!

You like black on your Model A? Paint it black and don't worry about it. It's your car...

Marshall "Color Blind" Daut



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Last revised Sunday, 25-Nov-2007 18:04:26 EST.

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