January 2013 - My 55 Ford Crown Victoria Story
It was the summer of 1976. I was 14 years old and busing tables part time to earn some money. We were on vacation driving to my Uncle’s house in Henagar, Alabama from our home in Michigan. I always remember the stories my dad told me about his first car, a ’55 Ford Fairlane and how he would punch it at the red light and the tires would just spin, back in Harriman, Tennessee. I saw old pictures of it in black and white and it was always fresh in my mind.
Driving through the countryside, we would always spot old cars and I was pretty good at nailing the year and make, but this time Dad saw it first. It was a black and white ’55 Ford Crown Victoria with raised white letter tires. He turned the ’71 Chevy Caprice around and we drove into the driveway to get a closer look. The owner came out and let us look at the car. It was mostly all original except the Crown Victoria emblems were removed and he had two sets of points installed as he raced it on the weekends. It had the original 272 Y8 engine and was in pretty good shape. My dad talked to him on the side and asked if he wanted to sell it. The next thing I knew we were taking it for a ride and bartering for the price. Mom and Dad were a little quiet but I new something was up. All Dad would say is we will see.
Little did I know that they called the Credit Union we belonged to and set up a loan for $1200 dollars so we could buy the car. The payments would be $80 per month for 16 months and Dad asked if I wanted to pay for it. I was making $40 a week so it was a no brainer. We hooked it up to a tow bar on that Caprice and pulled it to Tennessee where we visited more family. I remember meeting my Uncle Terry in a parking lot in Knoxville on the way home so he could check out the car.
My Dad was always a stickler for keeping everything original so the first thing we did after a thorough cleaning and wax job was to buy and replace all the emblems. We continued to work on the car through high school, replacing the battery, fuel pump and other adjustments. I drove it in my High School graduation parade in 1981 and then pretty much parked it in the garage when I went on to college.
Over the years, Dad stored some stuff in and on the car but we started it up once a month or so to keep it going. After school, I married my sweetheart Mary, started my career, bought a house, and we had our first two children Austin and Carly. I decided to get the Vicki out in 1995 and begin a restoration. I found out that the VIN# showed it was originally snowshoe white outside and black and white inside so that’s the way it was going to be. I had a good friend that did engine work and another that did body work so I ordered lots of new parts; wiring harness, carburetor rebuild kit, valves and rockers, new brake lines, coil springs, wide whitewall radial tires and lots more including a continental kit. It took a year or so and I finished it myself with new upholstery using those hog ring pliers and lots of muscle.
When it was done, it was beautiful and back to 100% original. I drove it to various cruise nights and around town when I got the chance. Then my work took us on a journey around the world so my Dad ended up taking care of it for me in Franklin, North Carolina where he and my Mom retired. He kept it for the next eight years, driving it when he could and keeping it in shape. He lived at the top of a mountain with winding turns so the lack of power steering made it difficult to turn the corners. If it weren’t for the suicide knob he added, it would have been really tough.
When the family and I finally returned from Europe and California back to Michigan, I had the itch to bring the Vicki home. So my youngest son Collin and I drove to visit my parents and bring my first car back home. We used a two-wheeled towing dolly from U-Haul and drove her north on I-75, the same path we took 32 years earlier with the same car when I was 14 years old. We got plenty of thumbs up and semi horns blowing at us all the way home. It was a very special trip we shared that day since I had done the same with my Dad so many years before.
It was good to have the Vicki home and we went to cruise night around town and a couple of car shows but the engine was not running quite right and I couldn’t get it adjusted. My local mechanic told me about an older gentlemen a few miles away that knew these cars like the back of his hand so I went to Bud’s Auto Repair to see what he could do. I remember meeting Bud for the first time. He had that slicked back Brylcream hair and talked with a southern accent. Turns out he was from Johnson City, Tennessee not far from where my Dad was from. When I asked him if he could take a look at my car, he saw it and said lets go for a ride. So we did and he listened to the engine as he put it to the floor. “She’s really tight and sounds like a cylinder is miss firing. Leave it with me for a few days”, so I did. When I got it back, the engine turned over easier than ever and it was like a new motor. Apparently the rockers were too tight and it needed new seals as well as a few other adjustments but when he was done it ran better than I ever remember.
Over the last few years, I drive the Vicki whenever I get the chance and attend some local shows as well as the famous Woodward Dream Cruise in August of every year. I rarely ever see another 55 Crown Vic much less one totally original so I get lots of lookers. My youngest son Collin is now almost 16 and will have his license soon but truth be told he has already driven the Vicki more than once.
It’s rare that someone 49 years old can say they still have their first car they ever owned but I can. When my dad visits, the three of us ride in that old Ford and Dad still tells the story of burning the tires off his Fairlane back in Harriman. It just doesn’t get any better than that!