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Cover Stories

 

LaRue and I were engaged to be married in December, 1956. In November, we decided we would need to purchase a better car to jumpstart our married life. So, we asked our local Ford dealer, Crouse Ford in Taneytown, MD, to let us know when a good, previously-owned car became available.

They notified us that a 1955 Crown Victoria, in excellent condition, had come in. On our way to view the car, I mentioned to LaRue that it was “pink”. Her response was: “Oh my gosh, PINK!!” It was actually Tropical Rose and Snowshoe White. When we saw it, and took it for a test drive, we fell in love with it.

We were married December 14, 1956. Nine months later, I was drafted into the Army, after basic training, I was ordered to duty in Germany. LaRue planned to join me there. This meant that I would have to sell my Model T, Model A, 1941 Nash, and LaRue’s 1951 Nash Rambler. Luckily, my parents agreed to store our 1955 Crown Victoria in their garage until we returned.

We purchased a previously-owned Mercedes while in Germany. After visiting nine European countries, we sold it before returning to the States.

Thirty months later we took our Crown Vic out of storage. Our daughters were born in 1962 and 1964 and we continued to drive our “pink” car until 1972. We kept the car, but it deteriorated considerably because it sat outside.

In 1994 the Crown Vic was restored to its former glory. So, this December 14th on our 55th Wedding Anniversary, we will take our 1955 Crown Vic “wedding car” for a celebratory spin. We’re so glad that we and our car can celebrate this wonderful day together.

John & LaRue Sipes
New Windsor, MD

The Crown was originally sold by Jones Motor Co. of Clovis, New Mexico. Tom says: “Lois and I have met a lot of nice people in CVA, and we have made many close friendships. Joining CVA was one of the best moves we have made.”

Here are Lois and Tom in 1993, with the Crown body off the frame. Lois helped Tom drop the body on the redone frame and helped with the block sanding. All of the work was done by them in their own one-car garage.

The Witkowski sons, (left to right) Robert, Steven, and Michael. Steven was married in 1996 and the Crown carried him and his beautiful bride Jean. Now Tom and Lois have two granddaughters, Kathryn and Nina ages 10 and 7.

There she sits,” Vicky” at her coming out party; as beautiful and regal as I always knew she would be. Her siblings surround her admiringly, taking their place at her side. But the road to this party has been a long and winding one.

The story starts about five years ago when my brother, Larry, called me from West Virginia excitedly yelling into the phone, “I found a Crown Vic for you. Listen to this.” He proceded,”1955 Ford Crown Victoria, straight, rust free body, original 272 motor, extra 302 motor and transmission, extra chassis, extra hood, fenders, trunk lid, there’s more, should I go on?”

“No.” I said. “Where’s it located?”

“Down in the middle of Virginia somewhere.” He said. “$8000 is not a bad price for a rust free car and all that extra stuff is it?”

Now the term “rust free” has been bandied about by car enthusiasts for years. I’ve never been able to figure out exactly what it means; but it usually means, I get the rust for free! So I took this ad with a huge grain of salt.

As luck would have it my wife, Charlotte, and I were scheduled to visit her brother, John, in Rocky Mount, VA that following week; so, I said to my brother, ”Give me the number and if she is still there I’ll ride over and take a look at her.”

“You’ve been looking for a” Crown” for a long time haven’t you?” my brother asked, feeling quite satisfied that he had found me the treasure of a lifetime.

She was still there when we went to visit John; so, he and I rode over to take a look, about an hour out of Rocky Mt. She was still there alright, sitting in a pile, fenders, trunk lids, chrome and stainless strips, and miscellaneous debris sprouting from her every orifice.

In 1956 when I was 14 years old, a couple of very notable things happened to me. My parents sold our farm and bought another one about ten miles away. This move made it necessary for me to change schools. The first notable thing happened on the first day at my new school. I met the most beautiful girl I had ever seen and fell for her instantly. The second notable occurrence was discovering that a neighbor down the road had the most beautiful car I’d ever seen (ever have seen since). It was a pink and white 56 Crown and had a fantastic sounding set of pipes. I lusted after that girl and that car for 40 or so years, but never managed to connect with either until circumstances brought us together in 2001. Paula and I have been together since then and later that year we pulled a rusty pile of junk out of a pasture where it had been sitting for 30 plus years. It had no drivetrain in it and was a complete rust bucket. It took us about 5 years to get it back into shape. There are many hundreds of hours of work, a 4X8 sheet of 18 gauge metal, a gallon of Bondo, 3 parts cars and several dollars in what we now proudly drive around in. It’s not pink and white and it’s not a Crown, but we love it anyway. The drivetrain is what I think all mid-fifties Ford should have. A slightly warmed up good old Y-block with a set of Smittys. We completely redid all the mechanics on the car, did all the work with the exception of the interior. We made a few modern concessions, including a Vintage air setup, dual master cylinder and power brakes. With radial tires, modern gas shocks and upgraded sway bars and springs it drives and handles about as good as a much newer car. This is a car that’s done the way we central Illinois farm boys would have done it if we had the money, which of course we didn’t. Shaved hood, trunk and door handles, lakes pipes, skirts and Olds Fiesta wheel covers make this what we all wanted back in the late 50’s.

In the early sixties I became interested in old cars. I built a 1933 Ford three-window coupe, but like most young men I wanted something else. I met my wife soon after that time. My main car then was a 1953 Ford four-door. She could hear me coming half a mile away with the rear end humming so loud. After we were married I traded it for a 1962 Ford. Down through the years I sold the three-window coupe. I told my wife that if I could find a 1953 Ford I would buy it and restore it. I looked for one for several years, but to no avail.

In January 1994, I was rabbit hunting in the northern part of North Carolina and walked up on a 1954 Ford two-door hardtop. I was so excited, I could not believe my eyes! I then began the process of finding out who owned it and when I did find out I could not believe what I was hearing. The car was in the middle of a divorce. The lady won the car as part of a divorce settlement. I talked to her to see how much she wanted for it and almost fainted when she said “just get it off my property!”

I saw your request in the last newsletter wanting pictures and articles, thought I might send a few and tell you about my ’56. I spotted the car in ’81 sitting at a house in Austin, looking like it hadn’t been driven in some time. Turns out that it had been sitting there for 9 years, his boss had given him the car in ’72. The heads were off the engine and had been for a lot of years. His boss was a doctor that he worked for a long time. He showed me the car, I gave him my card and told him if he changed his mind and wanted to sell, call me. The car had most all of the factory options except a continental kit and glasstop. About 2 or 3 months later he called and said he would sell the car. About the same time that I bought the car from him I bought property in Lytton Springs, so I towed the car out here and stored it in the barn where it stayed safe and dry for another 25 years.

 

I had been looking for a 1956 Sunliner for a few years when I saw an ad in Hemmings in 1983. A man in Dallas, Texas was selling a Fiesta Red and Colonial White 1956 Sunliner. It turned out that it was Amos Minter, of Thunderbird fame. Well maybe not so much then, but very much so a legend now. the car was going to auction if he didn’t sell it soon. We talked on the phone a few times and decided on a price, based on what he said the condition of car was. My son Frank, who was 12 at the time, and I got on a plane and flew to Dallas. I had money stuck in my socks and hoped we wouldn’t need a plane ticket back. Amos picked us up at the airport with the Sunliner. As soon as I saw it i knew we would be driving home to Downers Drove, Illinois in the car I had wanted since I was 11 years old.

I purchased my 1956 Ford Crown Victoria in 1959 from Ron Shuttleworth, a salesman at Essex Farmers Ltd, Car Division. I was employed there in the Tractor Division, working toward my mechanics license. The car was red and white and I was the second owner.

I have enclosed some photos of the early years standing on the roof of the car seemed like a good idea at the time, but I was young and not so wise and did not realize the value of my pride and joy. The young lady leaning on the car in one of the enclosed photos was my girlfriend who later became my wife. These days, no one, wife included, leans on the car. In late 1962 my brother hit a tractor while driving my car and caused extensive damage to the front end. The damage was repaired and I had the car painted, opting to go with one colour-Honduras Maroon. I have enclosed a photo of the car just after the work was done, complete with bug screen to protect my new paint job. In 1966 my car went into storage for several years. Damp barns and garages with dirt floors were not ideal conditions, but they were my only options at the time.

Here is a brief synopsis of my Vicky since I purchased it in 1982 at an auction in Del Ray Beach, Florida. Something just made me bid on the car. I was bidding against two other people. I do not buy on impulse, but I just had to have this car. It was going to be just a driver at the time. With 3 on the tree and a 272, I never planned on doing any more on the car but to drive around in it. I had a black and white Vicky in 1955 and always wished I had never sold it.

Then along comes my neighbor who had a 1967 Vette. He kept begging me to go to local car shows, so I finally acquiesced and went. Low and behold, I won Best Ford! At this point Fairlane Fever takes over and I start the process of improving the car, step by step. Then another friend talks me into join- ing the AACA and I continued to refine her as best I could. Finally in 1988 she won her Senior Award and many preservation awards thereafter. In 1994 comes the divorce and cars are no longer at the top of the list.

In 1999 I moved to Boynton Beach, Florida on a private airstrip with a 3,200 foot hanger. Vicky was banished to the dark recesses of the hanger only to be taken out for a drive around the airport on occasion.

Over the next 10 years I pondered as to what to do with her: should I sell her as is or try to find someone to do the necessary work after years of neglect. I found a local guy to do some paint work on my airplane. It turned out very well, so I asked Joe Earl if he might be interested in working on my Vicky. He said he was slow at the time and agreed to do the work. And so the resurrection of Vicky began in earnest. Fairlane Fever was once again in full mode. Two months later, after new paint, some new chrome work and many thousands of dollars, here Vicky stands, once more, in all her glory. I have already forgotten about the money! I just love to stare at her after all of these years. I am sure you feel the same about your cars. Hope you enjoy the photos.

Sincerely,

A Ford Fanatic

Ronald Stuke

I was born in the late ‘40’s and lucky enough to grow up in one of the greatest, if not THE greatest era of automobiles ever. I was raised on a farm in eastern South Dakota. My father was a car nut so every fall when the dealers released the new models we would spend the day in town viewing all of the new cars. That was nothing new for our era, but I believe that excitement is what made car nuts out of many of us forever.

Growing up on a farm allowed me to learn how to drive tractors, trucks, all types of machinery and cars. By the age of 10 I was operating everything including my grandfather’s 1956 Victoria, whenever I could convince him to let me drive it from one farm to the other to run an errand. His two-tone light green dark green Victoria was the fastest vehicle on the farm and was really fun on the gravel roads with curves! This is how the Victoria became my first favorite car. When I saw a Crown Victoria I thought wow, even better!

I was 15 years old when the 1956 Ford Hardtop came out. Later on I started working in an AMOCO service station on the north side of Pittsburgh where I filled their tanks and cleaned their windshields. I really liked the open look with the windows down. I was too young and also a lot of dollars shy to buy one, but I knew at some point in my life I would own one. Well that point took a little longer than I expected, 50 years to be exact.

I have owned my Vick for about 10 years and it was a 20, 20 car--20 miles an hour at 20 feet it looked okay, but I was not happy with it and decided to take her down to the first bolt and bring her back up. That was 4 years ago. As we started tearing her down it became evident that this car was originally a sky blue and white two tone that had been re-painted dark blue. With this in mind I decided to bring her back to the original colors and also equip her with every accessory made for the ’56. Little did I know what I was getting myself in to. She now sports 52 Ford accessories from U.S. and Canadian accessories books and 22 after market accessories.