One of the oldest surviving cars sold by Ford Motor Co. is back in the hands of the Ford family.

Bill Ford Jr., executive chairman of the Dearborn automaker, was the winning bidder — spending $264,000 — in an auction earlier this fall for an original 1903 Ford Model A Rear Entry Tonneau.

"The timing was perfect to bring this key part of Ford heritage back to the family as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of my great-grandfather's birth and his vision to improve people's lives by making cars affordable for the average family," Bill Ford said in a statement Tuesday.

"His vision to build cars that are reasonably priced, reliable and efficient still resonates and defines our vision today as well."

Previously, the winning bidder of the October auction in Hershey, Pa., had not been revealed by RM Auctions, an automobile auction house.

The car is now in Dearborn, where it will help kick off a yearlong celebration of the 150th anniversary of Henry Ford's birth. Henry Ford was founder of Ford Motor Co.

A series of events will take place next year as part of the commemoration. Ford has started a website — www.henryford150.com — as part of the celebration.

The Model A Rear Entry Tonneau sold for less than half of its 2007 closing bid of $630,000, according to RM Auctions. It had last gone to auction in 2010, receiving a high bid of $325,000, but that amount did not meet the auction reserve.

The eight-horsepower cars, sold by Ford from July 1903 to March 1904, originally retailed for $850, according to an archived ad on the website EarlyFordRegistry.com.

"With its provenance, and it's an early one, it's a great little car," Carlton Pate III, a collector of antique cars and author of "Pate's Early Ford Automobile Encyclopedia," said after the auction. "It's also got a little history behind it."

Pate said Ford records show this Model A is not the oldest car Ford sold, because there was at least one other car shipped the same day. He said automobiles at the time were stamped with as many as four separate serial numbers in different places, which makes it difficult to determine exactly which surviving car is the oldest.

The Model A has had five owners during its 11-decade lifespan, the most recent being John O'Quinn, a Houston trial lawyer who died in a 2009 auto accident. The Model A was one of about 1,200 automobiles in O'Quinn's vintage collection.

The car comes with extensive documentation which details its history and condition. RM said the car has performed "flawlessly," including during the famous London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in 2003, the same year the car turned 100 years old.

The engine underwent a complete and professional rebuild prior to O'Quinn's acquisition in 2007.

RM has said the car retains all of its original early features, including the rare Kingston carburetor and the original coil box stamped No. 30.

An RM vehicle description said Henry Ford and an associate originally placed part orders for the 1903 Model A which included car bodies with C.R. Wilson Carriage Co. at a cost of $68 each; wheels from W.K. Pruden Wheel Co. at $26 per set; and tires from Hartford Rubber Co. at $40 per set.

The Dodge Brothers supplied Ford's chassis and running gear at $250 each.

EarlyFordRegistry.com said 677 of the original closed-rear Model A cars were produced; an additional 1,131 updated open-rear Model A with a 10-horsepower engine and improved cooling were also produced.

photo credit: 2012 The Detroit News
text credit: Karl Henke via 2012 detnews.com