1904 Ford Model 'AC' 10hp Four Seater Rear Entrance Tonneau
Engine no. 982
Henry Ford developed his first gasoline buggy in the closing years of the 19th century; like others of its generation, it was a primitive quadricycle powered by a twin-cylinder engine. Commercial motorcar production did not however get underway until 1903 when the Ford Motor Co. was founded. The first commercial offering was the twin-cylinder-engined Model A. As evidenced by this example it was a well-designed and up-to-the-minute car with the engine positioned under the passenger seating, driving to the rear axle by chain, and unlike the contemporary mass-produced Oldsmobile, the Model A featured wheel steering with full-elliptic suspension giving the car a comfortable ride. Production was established in a disused wagon works in Mack Avenue, Detroit, and Henry Ford's dream was underway.
Between 1903 and 1904, Ford produced a not inconsiderable 1500 of these voiturettes. Early on in production, the bore size was increased to provide 10hp. The timeline for these more potent versions is acknowledged to be after engine number 300, making this one of these more desirable versions.
Of that production run the survival rate is extremely modest, something in the order of 30 cars being listed by the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain and around 60 with the Horseless Carriage Club of America. Allowing for duplications in both lists that's still only 4% of the known production, making these early examples of one of the few brands that have survived to the modern day extremely rare.
The Cox Ford Model 'AC' has been in the collection for more than 60 years. In researching its history with early Ford expert Carlton O. Pate III, his analysis is that the car conforms closely to the 1904 specification of these cars, having the larger 6 by 3 bar radiator and open rear axle chain drive. Its bodywork conforms to supplying coachbuilder Murray's Tonneau body and, seeming to endorse the fact that this is how the car was built new, there is an additional transverse spring at the rear of the car to compensate for the additional weight of bodywork and passengers.
According to a plate on the car, it was used by Cox on the Antique Automobile Club of America "Cape May Run" in 1954. To judge from its present condition, we theorize that it would have been restored in the years running up to this and that it may well have been the debut outing for the car. Certainly it was in use at this time and it is thought that by the early 1960s it would have been laid up in the middle of that decade. The car has remained in that same slumber for the best part of 40 plus years.
Aesthetically, the coachwork today appears solid and sound. The engine turns and has some compression, and in most general respects the car is complete. The upholstery shows age, but little wear, although the carpets have suffered over time. It may be best surmised that this represents a straightforward "tidy up and mechanical refurbishment", or alternatively a very sound basis for a restoration.
Unquestionably this is an important early Ford which by definition is eligible for a wide range of events for early or Veteran automobiles. Expert Mr. Pate regards its official dating as a formality and so upon acceptance by the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain the car would be able to compete on the world famous Bonhams London to Brighton Veteran Car Run.
- Bonhams specialists have found the engine frame number to be #311, which is stamped in acknowledged locations for these cars and is consistent with its flywheel number of 982. Further, please note that this vehicle is titled as a 1903 and its title is in transit.