Australia’s oldest Ford
Australia’s oldest Ford spent the first 86 years of its life just a few miles from where it was built in Detroit, Michigan before it travelled halfway across the world to the pretty little town of Wynyard in Tasmania.
The 31st car to drive out of Henry Ford’s new factory in 1903 was a 2-cylinder, 2-seater car simply called The Ford, and later to be called the Model A. It was delivered on August 4th 1903 to Mr. F.E.Avery of Columbus, Ohio just 160 miles (256km) from Detroit, Michigan.
It is not known how long Mr. Avery kept his new little Ford but we do know that he became a Ford dealer almost at the time of purchase and probably sold the car reasonably soon after he bought it from the new Ford Motor Company. The purchase price was $600 for the basic car, however, there were several ‘extras’ such as headlights $9.60 and the tonneau (extra two seats) for $80.
The next time the little Ford surfaced was 86 years later. We know that it was still in the State of Ohio and had only moved 55 miles (90km) north to the small town of Crestline where it was now owned by Larry Porter. Mr. Porter had bought the car some 30 years before so we have a gap of around 50 years between Mr. Avery and Mr. Porter.
Enter one Francis Ransley from Tasmania. Francis was an electronics engineer who ran a very successful radio and electrical repair business in Wynyard. He had always been interested in electronics and, when TV came to Tasmania he constructed his own TV receiver – at the age of 16!
Francis had a special love for boats, especially fast boats and he built up a distinguished career as a power boat owner and driver. He was Australian Powerboat Champion from 1982 for several years and held the Australian and Tasmanian records at 144 mph before he was forced to retire because of health reasons.
Faced with the thought that he no longer had the hobby of speed boat racing to keep him happy, Francis was induced by a friend to buy a vintage car and restore it. Being a Fordophile he picked the Model T as a car to restore and found a 1913 model.
“From then on I went backwards,” Francis Ransley says. “Most people start with a Model T and then get later models but I went the other way.” Many more vintage Fords followed his first Model T and he now has the largest collection of fully restored early (pre Ford T) cars in Australia.
While he was collecting early Fords he hankered after the first model, the Model A built in 1903 and 1904 and Henry Ford’s first production car. All told there were 1,700 Model A cars built – the first 625 had the 8 horsepower engine and the remaining cars were designated AC and had a 10 horsepower engine. Very few remain intact today. Two cars came to Australia in 1904 but all trace of them has been lost.
So, it was off to America for Francis Ransley to find a Model A. He knew where there was one because he had purchased a Ford K Model some years before from Larry Porter in Crestline, Ohio. After many approaches, Larry Porter relented and sold his beloved A to Francis.
The car was, and still is, possibly the most original Model A in the world. The engine cylinders have never been bored and the pistons and rings are the original ones fitted by Ford in 1903. The wooden-framed, aluminium-skinned body is also original, as are the glass side curtains and, wait for it- the exhaust muffler! Not bad for a car that celebrates its 100th birthday in August this year. One could say that Ford really did make his cars to last!
Since obtaining the car 1n 1989, Mr. Ransley has had the hood (tonneau) relined in red velvet (just as it was when new) but has had to do little other than general maintenance to keep it on the road.
Francis Ransley sold his electrical business some time ago and has been conducting a public address hire service for major events, however, he is soon to sell that business to concentrate on looking after his magnificent 18-car collection – and, of course, look for some more old Fords to restore.