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1980 Shay Model A Replica news, pictures, specifications, and information

In 1978 Harry J. Shay founded the Model A and Model T Motor Car Reproduction Corporation. In November of 1980 the name was changed to Shay Motors. The original name embodied the initial goal of the company, to reproduce some of the early model Fords for acquisition in modern times. However, as time progressed and the company grew so did their focus and their goals. Other Ford nameplates were added to the list of potential vehicles to be reproduced, sadly their dreams were only partly realized.

A deal was struck between Ford and Shay that allowed Shay to reproduce the Model A of the early 1900's. Shay was given the opportunity to recreate a name-plate while Ford reaped the benefits of publicity, marketing, and hype. At least one car was to make their way into the Ford dealership throughout the United States with the intent of stimulating sales. The cars received national attention from TV stations, magazines, journals, and other publications.

Produced in limited number and sold through Ford dealerships, the vehicles were backed by a Ford Motor Company warranty. Ford provided the platform and Shay manufactured the cars. With an intended production level of 10,000, the Model A Replica was able to avoid some of the strict U.S. Federal standards and regulations. Shay did not have to be burdened with the modern design and safety restrictions, such as windshield defrosting, reflectors, side door intrusion, and more. The result was a design that was true to its heritage but lacked modern amenities and safety features.

Shay intended to build the Model A replica in various body styles including the 500 Super Deluxe Roadster, Standard Roadsters, and Deluxe Roadsters. There were to be various special series models of the A that would be produced in very low quantities such as a pick-up truck, College Classic, Golden Oldie, Polar Bear, and a panel truck. It was intended that the majority of body-styles to be built would be Standard Roadsters but when production began, the Super Deluxe proved to be the most popular with the buyers.

Shay had plans to build other replica's after the initial 10,000 Model A's were produced. All would be built in batches of 10,000 and would include the 1955 Thunderbird, 1965 Mustang, 1924 Model T, 1940 Lincoln Continental, 1936 and 1932 Roadster, and 1937 Ford Street Rod. The Thunderbird was to be produced at the conclusion of production for the Model A.

In October of 1978 Shay began taking deposits for the Model A Replica. Unfortunately, it was not until April of 1979 when Shay would select the location for his main assembly plant. By this time, he had $12 million in orders for the roadster. The location selected was Battle Creek Michigan. Other problems arose such as only having 12 employees and two prototypes had been built. Orders were continuing to be placed for the Model A Replica, reaching in excess of $20 million.

The initial goal was to complete the production of the 10,000 units by August of 1980. At that time, the Thunderbird Replica would then be produced. By August of 1979, Shay had reached the 10,000-order limit. By then, the first vehicles were being delivered to their owners, some had waited more than a year. In June of 1980 only two-thousand roadsters had been produced. September brought with it an increase in the price due to inflation and the need to comply with new government regulations that had been imposed on the vehicles. For example the vehicle now had tail lights and side marker lights to enhance the overall safety of the vehicle.

Teams of six men were assembled and given the task of working on a single car at a time. This was an uncommon practice in modern-day factories, since most of the production was done in assembly line form. It was estimated that each team would be able to produce two vehicles in one day. To help maintain quality and to instill pride within the employees, the name of each team member was to be inscribed on a brass plate that would be placed on each car. However, the initial goal of two-vehicles-a-day all the while producing a high quality product proved to be a challenge. There were complaints that the doors would not close properly or would leak. There was excessive rattling due to improperly fitting or assembled parts. Some of the wheels were poorly made and created a lot of vibration at speeds. The workers were inexperienced and there were many steps involved in producing the vehicle, increasing the overall teaching time for each employee. During the early part of 1980, the factories switched to assembly lines.

Near the end of 1980, Shay had begun trying to expand his distribution network. He began by focusing on the larger manufacturers such as GM, Chrysler, and Volkswagen. He promised more traffic into their dealerships plus media attention.

Shay had done what many had attempted in the past but had been unsuccessful in execution. He had convinced a major Manufacturer to allow him the rights to build a replica of one of their vehicles. This was his first major accomplishments. His second was to become the sixth-largest manufacturer in the United States. It is true that many had tried but few had succeeded at producing vehicles in the United States. Strict government laws, safety regulations, emission standards, start-up costs, and development capital are just a few of the hurtles a new manufacturer in the United States is faced with overcoming. Shay had created his line of vehicles by avoiding most of these issues. He avoided the regulations by producing in low numbers. He built replica's so he did not have to design and create a new product but rather reproduce another manufacturers name-plate. He did not have to set up his own dealer-network, he used Fords. Even with all these major accomplishments it still was not enough. By March of 1982 Shay was feeling the strain of financial difficulties and other problems. 125 lawsuits had been filed against the company. He was forced to lay-off his staff of 310 workers and close his plants while he filed for reorganization or sale under Chapter 11.

To his credit he had created 5,000 Model A Roadsters and 200 Thunderbird Replicas. He had also accumulated nearly $10 million in debt, minus 8 million in assets. On July 6, 1982, Shay Motors filed for liquidation of its assets. By April of 1983, Camelot Motors Inc. was given approval by a Federal Bankruptcy judge to purchase the patents, equipments and tools of Shay Motor Corporation for $2.4 million.

Camelot Motors Inc. picked up where Shay left off. They began producing the Model A Replica in various body-styles along with the Thunderbird.

It is rare to see a new automobile manufacturer in the United States. Through Shay's vision, genius, and intellect, he was able to live out a dream, if only for a while. He recreated a masterpiece and allowed many to relive their glory days through purchasing and owning the Model A Replica. It is unfortunate he was only able to produce these vehicles for a short while.

By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2006


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