Founded by Henry Ford in 1903, the Ford Motor Company was America’s first superpower car manufacturer. In addition to pioneering assembly-line manufacturing techniques, Ford has produced more cars that collectors covet over the years—from Model Ts to Mustangs, plus a lot in between—than just about any other carmaker.
In 1903, Ford released its first run of Model A cars. It only manufactured this initial version of the Model A for two years, and these early Ford vehicles are nearly impossible for collectors to find.
The next few years were formative for the company. In 1907, Ford built its last car with the steering wheel on the right side, the Model S. A year later Ford introduced the Model T (though it was considered a 1909 model), which changed car manufacturing forever. The Model T, or "Tin Lizzie," as it was often called, is one of the most collected antique cars ever made, and is the anchor for dozens of collectors groups around the United States and the world.
It is unclear how many vintage Model Ts still exist, but estimates range from 50,000 to 150,000.
Though they were extremely popular and remain so today, some collectors do not enjoy Model Ts as much as later Model As, mainly because the Model T cannot realistically be driven on modern highways. It was built with a belt transmission that only allows the car to go 25-30 MPH, and the brakes are essentially useless.
As is the case with all vintage cars, collectors enjoy restoring Model Ts, and some even collect Model T parts such as generators and steering wheels.
The Model T was also the first car Ford built on an assembly line. Ford needed a means to streamline production to meet the high demand for the car, and the assembly line, which ...
Model Ts remained the most popular American car model for almost two decades before it fell out of favor with the public. Out of Ford’s need to adjust to a changing market, the new Model A was born.
Although the second run of Model As only lasted from 1927 to 1931, they remain one of the most highly collected vintage Ford models. The Model A possessed a regular transmission, which allowed drivers to reach speeds of 45 MPH—at 40 horses, it had double the power of the Model T.
There were various versions of Model As: two-seater coupes, roadsters with retractable tops, two-door sedans, and four-door sedans, to name a few. All are sought after today, though the Roadster, which ironically was the most modestly priced Model A, and the Cabriolet (a convertible with windows) are the most collected.
In 1932, Ford came out with the Model B and the Model 18, which is commonly referred to as the Ford V-8 because of its engine. Other than the number of cylinders under the hood, the two models are virtually identical.
Many collectors, especially those who like to drive their vintage cars, enjoy the various models of the Ford V-8. Because of the more powerful engine, vintage V-8s can reach speeds of 50 MPH or more.
Ford continued pumping out cars through the first half of the 20th century, but it was not until the 1950s that it released car lines that attracted cult followings like its earlier Model Ts and Model As.
For example, in 1955, Ford came out with its first run of Thunderbirds. T-Birds, as they are called for short, have been a collecting niche ever since. Ford produced 13 generations of Thunderbirds until it stopped producing the car in 2005.
Considered the first personal luxury car, the Thunderbird came in a number of different models, including convertible. There are hundreds of collectors in the United States who are dedicated to just T-Birds, which means that the earlier generation models are, not surprisingly, more desired.
A year after releasing its first Thunderbird, Ford debuted its initial Fairlane model, which it would continue to sell in the U.S. until 1971 and in Australia until 2007. Early Fairlanes—whose name derives from Henry Ford’s estate—were considered full-size cars, but from 1962 on they were mid-sized.
In 1960, another collectible car rolled off the Ford assembly line, the Galaxie. This was a full-size family sedan, but it was also a high-performance vehicle and is considered by many to be a predecessor of the muscle car.
While all of these cars are popular among collectors, the undisputed most collectible Ford is the Mustang, which debuted in 1964. The Mustang is the only car that trumps the collectability of the earlier Model Ts and Model As.
This “pony car,” which is still manufactured today, was designed to feature a long hood and a short rear deck.
Other carmakers such as Chevrolet and Plymouth tried to imitate the appeal of the early Mustang, with the Camaro and Barracuda respectively, but no company was able to replicate the Mustang. The car became a cultural icon, appearing in James Bond movies and on the covers of countless magazines.
Early generation Mustangs from the 1960s and ’70s are most collectible. Some Mustangs released between 1965 and 1970, known as Shelby Mustangs, are especially popular.
Other collectible Ford models include the Lotus Cortina, the Consul, and the Capri.