1903: A Chicago Dentist Becomes the First Owner of the Trailblazing Ford Model A

July 23, 1903

The Ford Motor Company – just a little over a month after being incorporated — delivered its first-ever automobile to be purchased to Dr. Ernst Pfenning, a dentist in Chicago. Pfenning paid $850 for a Ford Model A with a backseat.

The Model A, which became the forerunner of the many types of vehicles that the Ford Motor Company has since produced and sold, was manufactured at the company’s first facility for assembling automobiles. This facility was a rented wood-frame building on Mack Avenue in the East Side of Detroit.

The Model A was designed in large part by C. Harold Wills, an accomplished draftsman who served as the Ford Motor Company’s chief engineer. This automobile did not have a top, and it was built to accommodate both the driver and a passenger side-by-side on a bench in the front-seat section. (The above image was included in an advertisement for the Model A that appeared in a December 1903 issue of the journal Automobile Review and Automobile News.)

The biggest competitive advantage of this new automobile was its two-cylinder, eight-horsepower (six-kilowatt) engine. This engine was the most powerful to be found in any passenger car at that time and it enabled the driver to reach what was then the comparatively high speed of 30 miles (48.3 kilometers) per hour.

Pfenning’s pioneering purchase and acquisition of the Model A was quickly followed by a steady stream of similar orders nationwide. Within a couple of months after the Model A was delivered to that dentist, a total of 215 of those automobiles had been sold. Over the course of a year, this number mushroomed to approximately 1,750 altogether.

With some sales overlap, the Model A was replaced by the Ford Model C in 1904. The now-legendary Ford Model T was introduced four years later. This universally popular and influential model was replaced in1927 by a type that was likewise named the Ford Model A. This model was decidedly different from its namesake. Among other things, it was built in a variety of styles that included standard and deluxe coupes; convertible sedans; and station wagons. The second version of the Ford Model A remained in production until 1932.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

Additional information on the first purchase of a Ford Model A in 1903 is available at http://theblueroute.org/fords-first-model-a-is-ordered/ and https://www.mafca.com/ref_history.html

For more information on the Ford Motor Company’s pioneering plant at Mack Avenue in Detroit, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ford_Mack_Avenue_Plant

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