January 2017 - A “Sunny” Story
For some time now whenever I encounter a classic car, I can’t help but wonder, “what if these cars could talk”. The knowledge of their past would not only be invaluable but entertaining as well. That is certainly the case with my 1955 Ford Sunliner. You see even though the car can’t talk, I know its previous owner of 48 years, Mr. Bob Nolan of Elyria, Ohio.
In 1968 this car had reached the point of no longer being useful to its owners. The car had followed the path from being a beautiful, new convertible with its first owners to resting beside an outbuilding waiting to be scrapped. Also in 1968 Bob Nolan was looking to buy a 1955 Ford Sunliner Convertible. As fate would have it, while attending a party at a friend’s house Bob saw this car. It was setting beside that outbuilding under a security light. The front fenders, hood, grill assembly and radiator were gone, leaving the engine exposed. The top had been badly damaged due to someone thinking they could put the top down while driving the car at speed. The original front seat had been replaced with bucket seats and the engine and Fordomatic transmission were both badly in need of repair; essentially a “totaled vehicle”. Upon asking about the car, Bob was told that the “junk man” was coming the next day to take the car away.
I can imagine that to most people the sight of this car at that moment in 1968 would not have warranted a second look. Possibly the sentimental portion of Bob and the fact he has always been a “Ford man” caused him to want to rescue the abused hulk. After finding that the owners really didn’t care what was to happen to the car as long as the sum of $25 was paid and the car was disposed of, Bob decided the car was to be his. So instead of going to the junkyard the following day, Bob loaded the car onto a borrowed trailer to be rescued from the scrap heap.
It took a considerable amount of effort for Bob to repair this car to its current condition. Much time was spent acquiring missing parts to correct the abuse the car had suffered. But as Bob spent spare time in the garage, this car was resurrected from junk to a once again beautiful Sunliner convertible. To use Bob’s words, “the car isn’t a 100 point frame off restoration, but it looks very good,” is an understatement. The car is really a time capsule because the repair that was done to bring the car back from the brink of extinction was completed around 1970. Since then the car has been sparingly driven. The odometer to date shows 65,300 miles.
Again it can be said that fate has led this car to me. It was by chance that a number of years ago Bob Nolan and I met. At that time the car was not for sale. But Bob is not only a self-taught car repair expert, but a reasonable man as well. And as we all know, as time passes, things change. My acquisition of this car was partially due to the fact that I too share affection for Ford automobiles. Bob and I still own our very first cars, and those cars are both 1955 Ford two-door Victoria’s. So after much discussion and preparation a trip to Ohio to get the car was planned. With some good friends, Ross and Barbara Whitney, my wife Martha and I were on our way to Ohio to get the car. As we all know, it’s hard sometimes to let go of cars we really like and I have a feeling that by including Barbara and Martha in this adventure, their presence might have made it easier for Bob to relinquish ownership of the Sunliner that had been his for so long. Additionally Ross & Barbara’s assistance was invaluable in getting the Sunliner for which I will always be grateful and we all had a really good time. I know Ross and I will always treasure the memories of having our brides with us to assist in facilitating and navigating this adventure.
As you might guess by now this 1955 Ford Sunliner was not just sold to me, but given another good home to live in. Since acquiring the car my efforts have focused on maintenance of the car. Tires, new parts, hoses, belts, fluids, cleaning, etc. have raised the existing level of the Sunliner and many people comment on how pretty the car is. Also, my bride of 45 years, Martha looks good when she is behind the wheel as she too enjoys riding with the top down on warm summer evenings. Martha also thinks the Sunliner is prettiest with the top down and she and Barbara have the named the car “Sunny”.
Finally, those of us who own classic cars should thank Bob and all those who care for classic cars. Had he turned away from this 1955 Ford Sunliner in 1968 another piece of automotive history would have been lost. Our plan is to continue caring for the car as we do for the other cars we have and plans have already been made for the future well-being of all of them. As those of us know who have old cars part of the reason we care for them is because the sight of them brings back warm memories. So it is with our 1955 Ford Sunliner as it continues to make memories for us, that the forecast for its future will be warm and “Sunny”.
Jim and Martha Dillenschneider
Lake Lotawana, MO