June 2022 - Larry Beadles' 1955 Ford Crown Victoria Restoration
Submitted by Larry Beadles, Levelland, Texas
In 1955, my older brother, who had been out of school a few years, owned a 1950 Ford Crestline. I thought it was the ugliest car I had ever seen. It was yellow and black and had a spotlight in the center of the grill. In early 1955 he bought a beautiful 1955 Ford Victoria. It was a solid color of snowshoe white. It had a 272 engine with a 2-barrel carburetor, standard with overdrive. Of course, there was no air conditioner. I thought that it was as nice a car as there could be. Soon after he bought the car, he had dual exhausts installed with "Smitty's" Mufflers. He also had new seat covers installed over the factory upholstery. At that time, that was a local custom. I never understood that oddball idea.
Shortly after he had purchased this Victoria, he invited me to take a trip across Texas with him. We lived in Brownfield, Texas, 30 miles from the New Mexico State line. We headed 600 miles east to visit our uncles and aunts around Sulphur Springs, Texas. I was around twelve years old and thought his Victoria was the coolest car there was. Then as we went through a small Texas town, there it was in show room of a Ford dealer, A 1955 Ford Crown Victoria, black and white!!! I thought it was the prettiest car that was ever built! It was as they say in the movies “like when you saw your first Trans Am!” I never forgot that Crown Victoria and pondered on that car for the next 55 years.
In the Panhandle South Plains of West Texas, it was rare to see a ‘55 Crown Victoria. One might be seen at a car show ever now and then but not often. We never saw any for sale. In 2010, a friend of mine had attended the Pate Swap Meet in Ft Worth and gave me the name and phone number of a fellow selling a 55 Crown Victoria project car. The owner lived in Jacksonville, TX.
My wife, Barbara, and I took a fishing trip to Lake Fork, in East Texas, approximately 50 miles from Jacksonville, TX. My wife had attended Jacksonville College in the 60’s. (She had been driving a 1950 Renault at 45 – 50 mph when she made the 600-mile trip in 1964.) So, it was a nice trip for both of us. I visited with the owner and set a date to check out the 1955 Crown Victoria. He had the ‘55 and two ’56 Crown’s that were projects. We made a deal on the ‘55 car. There I was pulling a boat, trying to figure out how to get the car 600 miles home. It’s a small world. The man that I bought it from was raised about 30 miles from my home and had family there. He was wanting to visit them and hauled the car for me at a discounted price. It all worked out very well.
After he delivered the car, my learning experience began. I started a frame off restoration, but I changed direction three times, which added to the cost. My recordkeeping was poor, and I had several duplicate orders. I needed to make a plan and stay with it.
The car I purchased did not come with a title. So, in order to obtain a clear, bonded title, I went to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles and paid over $1,000 to get one. They looked in a Hemmings’s book for the price of a classic Crown Victoria (Original or fully restored). They put a price of $30,000 on my project car which cost much less than that. I thought maybe someday the project car could be worth that, but then they wanted me to pay 6% sale tax on the $30,000. After several calls to the state comptroller’s office, I finally found a person that understood what a project car was and put sale tax on what I actually paid for it. One more lesson learned.
The Crown was from San Antonio and had not been taken care of. It was like the car was coming out of a rain forest and going to the dust bowl. We live in Levelland Texas, one of the last counties to be organized in Texas, in 1921. Blowing sand is horrible here and attacks every component on a vehicle. I replaced 3 floor pans, both rocker panels and the left lower rear quarter panel. I replaced all the glass. I got a good price on a set of Crown Victoria seats from a man in New York. But freight quickly ate away my good deal. Freight today will kill a restoration project. And the shipment price when I completed this project compared to the increased shipment price now is unbelievable.
It was a three- and half-year project. If I missed an evening of working on the car project, I would feel guilty. It was like the car tried to possess me. I did two engine swaps and two transmission swaps. I tried 3 rear ends before going with the original. I installed two different electric window actuators. I did three rack and pinion steering changes. I installed a Mustang Eaton Positraction differential rear end, but it was too wide and too low geared, so I decided to go back with the original. I finally completed the Crown, (if you ever truly complete a car project) and it is a nice cruiser. I was overwhelmed with all the small parts and details of the Crown. We have taken it to several cars shows here in the West Texas South Plains. In most cases it has been the only Crown Victoria entered and it is usually the only 55 Ford.
I painted the car the same color as the first one that I saw in the show room 65 years ago, Ford colors Raven Black and Snowshoe white. The running gear is a 302 V8 with an Edelbrock intake and Edelbrock 4 barrel. I installed an MSD distributor and Ford AOD automatic transmission. The rear end is a 55 Ford 3:30 to 1 and works out really well. I put Drum brakes on the rear. I installed a Heidt’s front end suspension with Thunderbird rack and pinion, power steering and disc brakes. The radiator is by Graninger. I installed Vintage Air/ heating, an after-market Pioneer radio with Bluetooth, Siris, and all that stuff, and Steward Warner gauges. The interior is black and white roll and pleat by Gatian Custom Upholstery. I have 15” B F Goodrich wide whitewall radials tires. I have rocker panel chrome trim for the car and I’m wanting to order a set of spoke wheels for it someday.
If anyone wants to know what NOT to do on a project, call me, - I can help.