February 2016 - From Wild Custom to Stock: Placek's 1955 Sunliner
The golf cart shown with our redone 1955 Sunliner was built in 1990 by Bob Haas in 1995. He sold it to a gent in Florida, and I traded my 1955 Ford with two front ends to the gent for the Club Car 1955 golf cart. It looks cool in the front of the 1955 Fairlane Sunliner that we just restored from a wild custom to stock.
This story really began in 1962, when at age 17, I bought a 1955 four-door Customline for $450. I worked off part of the money for 25 cent an hour at my family’s A & W Root Beer Drive-in in Sanford, FL. That car carried me 100,000 miles to Seminole High School, Orland Junior College, and Florida State University. Sold in 1968 for $165, I still miss it.
Over the years, I owned parts and cheap project cars. Then in 1999, I bought a rough-running, highly-customized 1955 Sunliner with a fair on a Sunliner was $2,224 and 49,966 were produced (far more than 1,999 Glasstops made in 1955). In 2000, another $2,500 worth of work for new intake, carb, exhaust, and wiring, and the car ran well. In January 2003, it was a Fomoco Times cover story. Yeah! It ran well until 2014. Then I undertook a cosmetic restoration to stock. It has a good-running Y-block 292 and 3-speed stick with overdrive, so little mechanical work was needed.Fortunately, the Sunliner had been heavily customized in 1958. I say “fortunately” for three reasons. First, the car would be driven very little, mainly to shows. The 85,570 odometer miles might be original. Second, the car would be kept inside, protecting it from the elements. Third, the car would be driven at least a couple of hundred miles per year, keeping the gas fresh and brake lines clean.
The old style goofy customizing was radical, but I drove it that way from year 2000 to year 2014. The truth is that the wild customizing grew on me, so I could live with the amateur white paint job over poor quality body work over the metallic green custom paint over the VIN # original all-red paint. In 2014, here was the customizing
that was to be UNDONE:
- White paint job (entire car painted red, per the original VIN tag).
- No bumper guards (all four bumper guards added).
- White dash with pin striping (to be repainted red).
- 1962 Thunderbird seats, front and rear (replaced with correct 1955 Sunliner seats).
- The front door panels and rear side panels has been trimmed out in green metallic plastic (so correct red and white Sunliner door panels were installed).
- The wide chrome pot metal “V” with Ford crest above the back seat has been discarded (now replaced by a replated “V” with Ford crest).
- Wrong inside visors (replaced with correct style visors).
- Metallic green and chrome steering wheel (replaced with correct 1955 steering wheel and horn ring).
- Hood lip removed, no Ford Crest, no airplane hood ornament (correct hood lip, Ford crest, and replated hood ornament installed).
- On front fenders, Customline headlight buckets were frenched on with no eyebrow, no stainless, and no V-8 emblem on the fender (headlight buckets were ground off and discarded, correct buckets with chromed eyebrow installed, side stainless and V-8 installed).
- Radio antenna frenched into right fender (new antenna installed top of rear quarters).
- Tube grill (correct 1955 turn signal buckets and eggshell grill installed).
- Stone guard under grill head been molded to radiator supports and fenders and painted white (welds cut, modified stone guard discarded, correct metal stone guard installed and painted silver).
- Door “check mark” stainless and was gone (replaced with correct “Sunliner” insignia and Ford crest and stainless “check mark”).
- Dechromed quarter panel (correct 83” long stainless installed).
- Dechromed trunk (Ford crest installed).
- Rear tail had 1955 Mercury wagon tail lights sloppily welded on (these were cut off, and rear sheet metal frames from a 1955 Ford were welded on with correct 1955 Ford tail lights).
- The rear bumper had been removed and lots of bondo was used to roll the pan, and a nerf bar replaced the bumper (the bondo was ground off, original metal exposed, and correct bumper installed - after adding a rear continental kit).
- Stainless trim at top of rear fenders had been removed (correct stainless installed).
- White paint over bad bodywork - UGH! (The finish body work with red paint job was done on Kent Island).
I again turned to Jack Evans of Annapolis to do the demolition and disassembly prior to body work and painting. Local body shops wanted no part of it since they are “in and out” collision shops. Two guys in my local car club who sometimes do cars were busy for the next year. Fortunately, I found Mark Rousseau and Albert Casey on Kent Island. Two months and $10,000 later, I had a straight car and a stunning, all-red car. Then the car went back to Jack Evans in Annapolis for assembly. A & K Upholstery in Grasonville covered the stock seat springs. In the process, Jack Evans acquired a lovely wife, Kitty, who also helped with the assembly. He also had help from Gary Dunn from the Philippines. They all did the job right, with no bugs.
The original VIN plate was for an all-red Sunliner, stick shift, red and white interior, and Y-block V-8. Now it is!
Admittedly, I left a few chores undone. I honestly like the shaved door handles, Eldorado dual antennae, stick shift on the floor rather than on the column, and vintage American Racing Wheels with spinners, and a bit of chrome inside the engine compartment.
Besides a total freshening up the wrong, tired interior and poor quality body and paint, there should be insurance and registration benefits. Modified vehicles in Maryland are tagged as “street rods” and they cost more to insure. Also, stock 60-year old cars in Maryland can get a “forever” license tag for a one-time fee of $50. However, the car needs to be totally inspected and the MD inspector needs to be convinced that the car is stock, to be reclassifed as “Historic” (not “Street Rod). Do you thing that I have done enough to change the 1955 from “Street Rod” to Historic?
Paul and Beck Placek,