As surely as September nights turn chilly in Michigan, I’ll start combing the classifieds for Model A’s when the “gathering swallows twitter in the skies.” The urge lasts for about two weeks and moves on as the daylight fades, but it always coincides with the annual “Old Car Festival” at Greenfield Village, which is billed as America’s “longest running antique car show.” This past year, my gaze turned upon an uncommon variant of a common antique car, the Model A Sport Coupe.
The Model A itch began early this year, in August, at the Michigan Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee, MI. The Upper Peninsula is a popular vacation getaway in the summer months, much to the chagrin of residents who, begrudgingly, welcome the tourist dollars such proclivities bring.
Because of Henry Ford’s widespread footprint in the UP (much of his iron and timber originated there), a donated Model A is displayed at this state museum.
I don’t know if it was the color (a light green), or the simplicity, or the hat on the seat, or the vacation high, or the fact that I had never known about the Sport Coupe as a separate model, but the urge to own a Model A began in earnest – again – that day.
Upon our return home, I rushed to the reference library and began thumbing through my copy of Model A Ford Restoration Handbook, an old Floyd Clymer book that I picked up online during one of my Model A phases. I found that sedans and standard roadsters significantly outsold both Sport Coupes and Cabriolets. I also learned that Sport Coupes and Cabriolets look very similar when the top is up, but there is an easy way to tell them apart.
This is a Model A Cabriolet. At the top of the door, a Sport Coupe has a body color door frame where the Cabriolet has none; additionally, the smaller arrow points to a body line where the door actually opens on the Cabriolet. On a Sport Coupe, the whole door frame opens with the door.
As an aside, this Cabriolet is owned by a young man who goes by the handle of “Tebo Barn” on social media. He became internet famous recently for driving a Model A Tudor across the country with his dog; he loves Model T and A Fords and drives them everywhere. This car was fresh from a New Hampshire-to-Michigan road trip for the Old Car Festival last year.
This is a Sport Coupe; notice the top of the door and the subtle differences between it and the door of the Cabriolet. I haven’t decided if you get the best of both worlds with the Sport Coupe or the worst: it has the looks of a convertible but the top doesn’t go down. On the other hand, the top doesn’t look much more snug than that of a Cabriolet.
Another note: Ford also produced a Business Coupe that was similar to the Sport Coupe, but missing the large faux landau irons.
This is the roof structure of one of the Sport Coupes I was ogling; you can see a Cabriolet directly through the driver’s window.
Both Sport Coupes and Cabriolets used rumble seats for passengers who were good sports, according to the Clymer book. People were certainly willing to endure a little more discomfort in their transportation during those heady times.
From a modern perspective, a Model A Tudor makes more rational sense, as it did back then. They sold by the hundreds of thousands and are currently cheaper and easier to find. Back seat passengers are not buffeted by the elements, nor are they required to scale a fender to board their cabin.
But I can’t help it – I love the way a Sport Coupe looks, and passion is a primary reason for buying any old car. Needless to say, after about two weeks, my lust for a Model A typically abates, and I forget about them until the next September rolls around. After all, I’m hopelessly infatuated with 1960s-era everything, and living with something year-round is a basic requirement of car collecting. Try to remind me of that when I start combing the classifieds in six months.
Postscript: I am in no way an expert in the Model A; I’ve never even owned one! If I’ve made any factual errors, please feel free to gently correct me in the comment section.