Submitted by Bernard and Jo-Eane McKay, Prince George, BC
My career as a car guy goes back to my high school years. In 1962, at age 15, my grade ten class took a trip from our school in New Westminster BC to Seattle Washington along the newly competed Interstate 5. Some of my classmates were pointing at the new Chevy II s and a few Corvettes. I was looking for Ford and Oldsmobiles. My Dad had owned a 1951 Olds Rocket 88 when I was 13 years old and that car and its V-8 motor impressed me. Around that time, I saw my first 1956 Crown Victoria and that would be my favorite car from that point on.
I was one of the few guys at our school to not only have a driver's license but also a car to drive. By 1965 I was illegally drag racing on my local 'drag strip' most Friday and Saturday nights. In the course of 18 months I went through 5 cars. The rear ends (side gears) would break on the '55 and '56 Fords. I was at the stage of life, 18 years old, when I 'thought 'I knew everything but actually knew nothing. That usually points to a career in politics.
I was getting good at working on Y blocks and re-built a 272 complete with¾ race cam. The best Y block I ever owned was out of a 1957 Monarch Turnpike Cruiser. By 1957 the 312 was improved enough that the rear seal didn't leak and even the automatic transmission real seal didn't leak. The 312 had the most horsepower and really spun the wheels of my '55 two door post.
In 1967 I met the love of my life Jo-Eane and we got married in June of 1968. Our honeymoon car was my 1956 Meteor Crown Victoria. I had reversed the rims and put on the typical (for the times) baby moon hubcaps. Of course, a floor shifter had to be installed. This was a rare car with only about 600 Crown Victoria Meteors built in Canada. I wish I still had that car today.
I met Bill in the summer of 2017. I was acquainted with Kenny Frye and he knew I was looking to replace a ‘56 Crown I owned for over 30 years but had to sell it in 2007.
Kenny knew of Bill’s car and that it was NOT for sale but he got Bill’s phone number for me anyway. I called Bill and he invited me to come and see the car. I told him about the car I had and he said he had also owned his car for over 30 years. That first visit lasted over two hours and was not the last. We became friends, I visited Bill several times along with my two brothers, Rex and Robert.
We would go out for lunch and he would always have a side trip planned of places of interest around where he lived near Asheboro, North Carolina. In 2018 Bill was bitten by a tick and never fully recovered from the side effects. Bill told me if his health didn’t improve and the Crown was sold he wanted to sell it to me because having owned one he knew I would drive it, show it and take care of it, the same as he had. He sold the car to me in the Fall of 2018. My brothers and I continued to visit Bill for day trips into 2019. Then I got a call from Kenny telling me that Bill had died. News I did not want to hear.
Bill showed this car extensively and had seventy or more trophies, mostly from AACA sanctioned shows. Many of them were First Place Awards. The car has several AACA Badges, one being an “AACA Seniors National First Prize Winner”. Bill also attended two CVA conventions. One was in 1993 in Charlotte, North Carolina where he got a First Place in the ‘56 Steeltop Display Class. He also got a Third Place at the 2002 Convention in Roanoke, Virginia. I competed in an AACA Event after I purchased the car and got a First Place Award. When I called Bill and told him about it, his comment was “... that car is used to First Place”. I treasure this car and will always treasure the memories of the good times shared with Bill Wright.
Sanford, North Carolina
My story, I believe, is different than most of you. My father didn’t have a 1956 Ford; in fact, neither he nor my mom even had drivers’ licenses. They lived most of their lives in New York City. I didn’t have a 1956 Ford in high school or grew up wanting one. Truth is I was actually a fan of Chevy’s growing up. I graduated high school in 1975, so these Fords weren’t really popular with the people I knew. My love for this car came many years later and 3000 miles away.
In 1956 a young man by the name of Leroy Johnson bought this Pine Ridge/ Meadowmist Green Sunliner in Salinas, Ca. He got married in 1960 to Wanda and they had Lisa in 1961 and Chuck in 1964. He told me once that in the 60’s, he went to trade the Sunliner in for a new Galaxie and the salesman at the dealership told him he would give him $100 to take it home. They didn’t want it. So…… that’s what he did. The car was kept and after a while was just parked in the garage. In 1972, when they moved into their new house in the Prunedale area of Monterey County, California the car came too. It was parked in that garage, where it sat for years.
My journey to California went like this. My brother, John, married a girl from the Monterey Peninsula, Jeanne, while in the Air Force, and then settled there after getting out. I moved there in 1978, at age 21. Early in 1979 I got a job with Ma Bell in Monterey, then, early in 1980 I got a transfer to Salinas. I actually worked with my future mother-in-law; who also worked for the phone company. Not long after that I met my future wife Lisa, who, you guessed it, worked for the phone company too.
The first time she took me to her house is where I first saw the 56.
It was in 1981, when I went to the house and the car was in the garage. I don’t remember ever seeing a Sunliner. I fell in love with it right away; I believe that this body style is one of the most beautiful cars ever built. There were some modifications done. The hood ornament had been removed and the hole filled. The trunk lock and badges removed and the holes filled with a “popper” installed to open the trunk. The car was lowered by blocks and there were several other small modifications made to the interior as well. All of these things were done in the late 50’s and early 60’s. The engine had been rebuilt and bored .30 over sometime then also. Of course it was dirty, the top was down and the whole inside of the car was filled with boxes. It was a mess.
On July 17th 1986 my wife Susan and I had the pleasure of purchasing a 1956 Customline Victoria that we discovered in a local newspaper ad. Our collector car journey began with seeking a car from my wife’s year of birth (1955) and were in hope of finding a Crown Victoria in our price range. Along the way I found a ’55 Chevy Bel Air 2 door hardtop which Susan nixed immediately as it burped antifreeze in our driveway when I brought it home to show her. After I missed a nice ’55 Fairlane 2dr sedan in a car corral at a local car show I was starting to get discouraged until that fateful ad appeared. At that time I had never realized that Ford had made a Customline 2dr hardtop having seen many 2dr and 4dr sedans. I was about to get an education when I went to see the car which was parked in a gas station lot in North Andover, MA about 20 minutes from our Atkinson NH home.
Not only was it a Customline Victoria, it was a 223 6 cylinder 3 on the tree with overdrive, manual steering and all. It had just been driven from southern California to Massachusetts the previous fall by its (at the time) current owner and spent the winter in a cozy garage for the usual long New England winter. Since it was a California car from new it had absolutely no rust on it (to this day the entire underbody is original and looks like a 3 year old car’s chassis) something not seen in New England. After a test drive and determining a few things that had to be addressed, I made an offer to purchase the Vicky. After a month of back-and-forths my offer was accepted and the red and white Vicky became ours.
I’ve been looking for an old gas pump for some time, but never found one in MY price range (cheap).
Then one day my neighbor gave me a catalog for making crafts for yard ornaments, bird houses etc. The catalog was from “The Windfield Collection”, www.windfieldcollection.com, if you’re interested.
In the catalog I found a picture of an old gas pump, to be made of wood. Since I was a cabinet maker before working in a steel mill, I thought it might be a good winter project! So, I called the company and ordered the gas pump blueprint, hose, decals, transfer paper and plexiglass. Then I waited for Winter!
When the weather turned cold, I went to the lumber yard and bought 1 x 4‘s, 1 x 8 ‘s, 2 x 4’s, 2 x 6’s, 2 x 12’s, dowels, one sheet of ¾” plywood, and one sheet ¼” plywood.
Now I am ready to start. Of course, I also needed paint, glue, and screws. The material cost me around $330. Not as cheap as I thought it would be! But it will keep me from boredom. And not being in Alice’s hair!
The year was 1952. The Ford dealer in our small town, Hiawatha, KS, got a 2-door station wagon in. Dad traded our Henry J in on it that day. We had a Frazer, Kaiser and our ’51 Henry J as Dad worked for the Kaiser/Frazer dealer in our hometown after he got out of the Army. Now we owned a Ford; maroon with cream paint around the windows, 2-door, 6-cylinder, 3 speed on the column and overdrive. It took us on our summer vacations, sometimes in the mountains of Colorado in which there were time that we weren’t too sure that we would make it to the next peak. I remember Dad driving it backwards out of campgrounds more than once to get the gears low enough.
In 1956 the folks traded the ’52, that as a kid I thought we would have forever, in on a 1956 Ford; a 2-tone green Town Sedan - V8, automatic with power steering, power breaks, air conditioning, white wall tires, full wheel covers and skirts.
I was 15 and just got my driver’s license; Dad was working two jobs as most people did at the time, and some still do. Mom was working during the day and going to secretarial school in the evening in a town 40 miles away two nights a week. Dad was busy and Mom didn’t like to drive so I drove Mom to her classes on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. While she was in class I would go to a movie. It came down to me being the only one that drove the ’56. As an added bonus, the guy my dad worked for part time had a red and white ’56 Ford Victoria that was left at our place in town every so often and I had to drop it off out at the farm.
I have been playing around and restoring 1954, 1955 and 1956 Fords since 1982. That is when I purchased my 1954 Sunliner. It is a duplicate of my car that I owned in high school. I still own this car.
Over the years I have restored many 1955 and 1956 Fords. Most of them have been convertibles. All the cars that I have worked on were rust buckets. Never have I had a chance to work on a rust-free car.
I purchased a 1956 Ford convertible at the Carlisle swap meet. Other club members that were with me could not believe that I would buy a junk car as it was.
One of the 1955 Ford convertibles that I restored was a body-off restoration.
I produced a video of it while I was working on it and have sold many of the tapes on the internet and to other club members. The video was seven hours in length. The restoration took me two years to complete as I do all my own work when restoring a car.
Submitted By Travis Sheaffer
Picture it. Seattle. Labor Day weekend 2019. Your humble mild-mannered (ha ha!) reporter lands in Seattle on a flight from Motown. I was there to attend a Regional Meet. I landed in Seattle on Friday, August 30th and picked up my rental vehicle. I found the highway driving around Seattle to be not too bad. Of course, if you have ever driven in New York City or Chicago, everywhere else is not too bad. I arrived at the hotel about dinner time and I managed to find a nice local restaurant to quench my dinner time hunger pains and then settled in to combat the jet lag.
Saturday morning, I was up and on the move in search of a story. The meet started off that day with everyone meeting at Dennis Barci’s house. Dennis and his wife are awesome people! I looked around for familiar faces and lo and behold I saw Brian Kelly there. Brian had driven his classic car all the way from British Columbia to the Lexington, Kentucky National Convention. We first met on the phone so I could guide him into Lexington from the Columbus, Ohio area. I believe I told him to get the heck out of Columbus as soon as he could, or he may get swarmed by Dirty Buckeyes (Go Blue!)
We toured Dennis’ shop and then we hopped into the vehicles for a cruise. I rode with Brian and we had an awesome conversation along the way. If you ever need to know anything about forestry or plant life, Brian is your guy!
I met my husband George in 1986 and he was passionate about 1956 Ford cars and trucks then and had been for some time. His first car as the son of a farm family was a ’56 Ford and the joy he received from owning that car fired his passion. There are stories in the farming community of when George outran the cops with his beloved car on occasion.
A motorbike accident in 1973 left George in a wheelchair, but that never did slow him down much. He still farmed, worked as an Occupational Therapist at a local Brain Injury Hospital in Ponoka AB and continued to accumulate and work on his 1956 cars…..always buying……never selling. So, as a result there are a few ’56 Fords still sitting on our farm
In 2009 we acquired this 1956 Ford Fairlane Sunliner convertible from Westward Auto Inc in Westlock AB. The previous owner had purchased it from eastern Canada. He said he drove it to Post Falls Idaho for a CVA convention putting on 750 miles and it never missed a beat. It has a 292 motor, automatic transmission, dual chrome OSRV mirrors, rear mount deck, antenna, continental kit, white wall tires.
Being in a wheelchair, George had to install hand controls in the car, which is easily done, in about 15 or 20 minutes and you are ready to go. We took the Sunliner (in trailer) to Penticton BC for the Annual CVA Meet a few years ago. What a wonderful weekend we had. We have taken it to car shows and cruises in our area and also in the Ponoka Rodeo Parade on several occasions.
Over the years, George has gained a vast knowledge of 1956 Fords and loves to share that knowledge chatting with fellow car lovers. His favourite car magazines, which he has received for many years are the Fomoco Times and Old Autos, (a Canadian Newspaper for the Enthusiast).
In the last few years George’s health has not allowed us to be as active with the association and the Sunliner has been stored in its trailer for safe keeping. But George’s love of the 1956 Fords still goes on and has prevailed for over 55 years!
Ponoka AB Canada
I have been a member of the CVA for many years. However, I haven't written a story for the newsletter in quite some time. I did contribute to the October 1995 issue and in that story told quite a bit about my passion for these cars. Also, in February of 1998 my 1955 Customline was on the cover.
It seems that all of my life I have been crazy about cars. I was born in October of 1950 so at Christmas time in 1954 I had just turned 4 years old. Even at that young age I still have clear memories of our family buying a brand new 1955 Ford Customline 4 door sedan. I remember the salesman coming to our house and taking us for a ride. I remember there being no ash tray in the center of the back of the front seat. The dealer replaced it but it was always gray and never matched the interior of the car which was green. Years later my father told me that he had originally ordered the car in tan (Buckskin Brown) with a white roof. It seems that the dealership which was Bennett Ford in Bayonne, NJ had gotten the identical car in Sea Sprite Green and offered it to us. My folks wanted a two-tone car so they accepted this car on the condition that the roof would be painted dark green (Pinetree Green). Looking back at it I really think that the green looked so much better. It’s interesting since I have noticed that the combination we had was not offered by the factory. The dark green roof only came with Neptune Green. I guess at that time it didn't make much difference as the dealer did whatever it took to make the customer happy. The car was a 6 cylinder with a three-speed stick. It had a radio, heater and a clock that was wound manually. It also had whitewall tires. It came with wheel covers but my folks wanted the standard hubcaps to they got switched out. I remember distinctly that the glove compartment door had a V8 insignia on it. I guess the V8s outnumbered the 6s by so much that it was just a matter of habit. Although they did get the callout on the front fender correct! I remember the next time I saw the car was in my grandmothers’ garage where my father kept his car. I opened the door and instead of the 50 Studebaker there was this brand-new Ford!
On August 2, 2019, Marcy and I celebrated 50 years of marriage. During that entire time, Marcy (really Marceline) gets credit for her patience while I chase parts, spend money, and get greasy in the garage. Here is the latest adventure which she supported. In February 2016, I bought our 1956 Victoria from an Arkansas seller on eBay for $28,000. Friend Butch Forte and I drove a trailer down to Gravette, Arkansas to get it, and drive straight back to North Haven, Connecticut, non-stop, to bring it home. It was done to a good standard, but I wanted better. So, a repaint, new interior, new rubber, new brakes, rebuilt motor and transmission were done, to the tune of $18,000. I also installed a new windshield, replated bumpers, Diamondback radials, and glass packs. CVA member Hal Bailey of Savona, NY sold me the missing bumper jack. I lowered the car two inches and added Dodge Lancer wheel covers. I kept one of the 10 Commandments for Car Collectors: “Thee shall not tell thy wife the cost of the latest restoration; at least, not all at one time.” I am 76 and Marcie is 72…but she looks younger than her years. Look at how neatly she fits in the trunk of our Victoria!
Much credit belongs to my expert friend, Jim Donroe, who was meticulous in doing upgrades on mechanical restorations. All was done in a little over a year. Then in 2018, I took the car to the Adirondacks Nationals with 6,000 cars competing. Our car was voted “One of the Top 50”, and it will be in the Winners Circle this year. It is always driven, never trailered. Our ’56 also took 1st Place at the Booth Memorial Show, Time Machine Car Show, and the Quinnipiac Auto Show.