By Charles Justus
The mid-fifties was a tough time for a sandy land farm family to live in North Texas. Our income depended on a good crop of peanuts, and that always depended on the amount of rain we got that season. A successful crop meant more food on the table and new clothes for school. I graduated from high school in 1957 and went on to become the first sibling in our family of 4 kids to graduate from college, North Texas State University.
During the late ‘40’s our mode of transportation for our family of 6 was a Chevrolet 1/2 ton farm truck. Back then we kids were small, but it sure got crowded with all of us sitting in the cab of that truck! As my brother and I got older, we were delegated to the back of the truck which was not much fun when it rained or snowed! I also had to use a farm truck for the few dates I went on back in the mid ‘50’s. I had no money or time, for more serious dating.
I began my college experience two years after graduating from high school. I used those two years to grow up some, help my dad on the farm, and decide if I really wanted to be a farmer the rest of my life. Two more years of farming was enough to let me know I wanted to go another direction in life, so I enrolled in college. That meant I needed a car real fast! My dad did not want me to buy a car with dual exhaust, so I found a 1955 Ford Fairlane, four-door Sedan with a 272 V8 engine. It had a Fordamatic transmission and the speedometer showed 43,000 (143,000) miles. The cost for my wonderful car was $1,000 in 1959. It became a “fix or repair daily”! I added another 100,000 miles on the car going back and forth to college in Denton, and then to my first teaching job as high school shop teacher in Frisco, Texas. When I had made enough money to purchase another more reliable car, I gave the ’55 to my sister. She drove it to work in Dallas for two years driving 100 miles each day. She sold my first car for $50.00 as the reverse was out on the car.
Now let’s fast forward to 1977, and I found myself visiting my wife’s folks on a farm in Central Texas. One day I pass an adjoining farm to the west and peeping out from among the farm implements, I barely recognize a 1955 Ford Fairlane because the top, a pine tree green, was rusty; and the body, Neptune green, was faded out. Inspecting the car closer, I discover it is a 4-door with 272 V Fordamatic, with 91,000 miles. The car would not run because the rear main bearing had turned in cap. It had set among the dairy farmer’s farm equipment for five years. The farmer was willing to sell the car to me for $55.00. It was then brought 200 miles north to Frisco.
The engine was professionally machined in 1980. The cylinders were bored to 0.030 over, turned shaft to 0 .010 for the rods, and turned mains to 0.020. A valve job and cam shaft bearings, etc. were professionally done by Bull Machine in McKinney. I also assembled the engine to specs.
As far back as I can remember I was fascinated by everything mechanical, especially cars. As a preteen I would gaze from the back seat at just about every car we passed, dreaming of one day owning one.
Dad gave me my first driving lesson at age 12 in his 47 Studebaker, on a dirt road in New Hampshire. Also, that year I began a paper route and during my first month I spotted an old car parked under a tarp in the rear of a customer’s house. It was a 31 Chevy sedan and he said I could have it for $5.00! I was thrilled and more so when Dad said I could buy it. We towed it one-mile home with a rope hitched to Dad's car and I did get it running.
The following year dad bought a 53 Ford and I received more driving lessons, on the same dirt road in New Hampshire.
Time passed, I acquired a 41 Plymouth and a 48 Chevy to play around with but neither stayed around until my 16th birthday. So I had to shop around and found a 55 Ford Mainline within my price range ($400.) Dad let me buy it since I had saved enough to pay for it plus one year’s worth of insurance.
It seems everyone has a story about their ownership of a Ford so here is mine. In 1955 my father’s precision machine shop in Inglewood Ca. was doing well and he purchased a 1955 Ford Mountain Green Sunliner for my mother. He was a “ragtop man” and soon after the 56’s came out my dad purchased a new black Victoria for her and took back the Sunliner; I was 12 years old at that time. As time went on, I learned to drive in the Victoria and use it on dates. My normal way to school was hitching rides or driving a ‘49 pickup that dad had acquired for the shop and I could use for school and my job.
Dad had some pretty strict rules that I followed as I remember all his life. The first was “I was to never ever touch a car window” and the second, when I wanted to borrow moms car on a Saturday night I had to wash his first. This usually meant 2 cars on Saturday afternoon after I got off work; his and moms, as I couldn’t be seen in a dirty car. During my senior year of high school mom sold the Victoria and bought an Oldsmobile and the ‘55 Sunliner stayed in the family until 1964. I told myself someday I’d have a ‘56 Victoria.
Major things change our families lives and in late 1963 my dad past away in an accident. He had acquired many things which I could not keep but what I did I have cherished all my life. The main item for me was his 1939 Indian Sport Scout motorcycle which he had purchased in 1943.
Over the years I watched over my mother who never remarried; she lived to the wonderful age of 95 and died in June of 2011. During this time I married, had 2 children, and 5 grandchildren to boot and very understanding wife of so far 49 years. She tolerated me being a “car guy/gear head” as I could fix just about anything. She watch me drag race and pushed me off on the Bonneville Salt Flats until our son took over. She is in the infield to watch our son’s ½ mile dirt Super Stock car at Perris Auto Speedway scraping mud after wheel packing. Everyone should be so lucky.
The story begins. The doctor’s wife said - get that old car out of the garage so I can put my new car in the garage. The doctor had the old car towed over to Top Line Performance in Huntington Beach California, because the fuel pump was not working. My friend Mario called me and said, “I have a car at my shop that you may be interested in, and it is for sale.” I called the doctor and after checking with the wife, he bought the car. (Cash only) I paid for the fuel and have been driving the car for the last 10 years with no problems.
I was made aware of the Crown Victoria Association by a friend, Lon Argent, from Australia who visits our shop in Huntington Beach, CA. The 55 ford convertible is a daily driver. I go to Dukes restaurant on the pier every Thursday with my friends Ed and Morie. We have been doing this for 10 years. The top works great, but has only been up twice, as in sunny California we don't need to put the top up. I have changed it to 12 volt, added power brakes, and power steering. The chrome is not perfect and has some chips and fading in the paint, but it still goes to the local car shows. Everybody loves the color and styling, as it reminds them of the good old days in the 50's. I won my first award on April 25th, 2015 at the 28th Annual Seal Beach car show, for Best Original Tri Five.
You can't be anything but Happy, when you are driving a 55 Ford Convertible in California
Submitted by: Troy Stephens
About 1-1/2 years ago, a friends of mine took me to a dealer in Huntington Maryland. He knew I was looking for a 1955 Crown Victoria. The car was from Mount Jullet, Tennessee.
The car looked really nice. I took the dealers word that the car was in perfect condition. When he brought the car to my house on a roll back that is when I started out to check out the car and got a big surprise. I took about $5,000 to get the car in perfect shape, like I wanted.
In 2008 the car was completely restored off of the frame.
John & Shirley Mayola
It was 1961 and was just out of high school and I was ready to enter college which meant that I should start looking for my first car. My brother found a 56 Ford he thought I should go drive on a dealer lot just nine miles away in Sturgis, KY. What a find it was, 1956 Victoria two door hard top in Sunset coral and Black, 292 CI, water cooled automatic.
I was driving it when I met Kay in college. Kay and I were married in the spring of 1965 and in 2015 we celebrated our 50th anniversary That Vicky served me well until I traded if for a new car the day John Kennedy was killed.
Twenty years later, we still talked about how nice it would be to have another one. It was a real hot day in August of 1985 when I put an ad in the Prairie Farmer Magazine (Indiana Publication) looking for a 1956 Ford Victoria. We were living in Valparaiso, IN at the time. A truck driver from Ladoga IN called and said his 56 matched what I was looking for. Three days later, I drove it home and started the restoration process. I found a body shop owner operator that was willing to work on the Vicky in the evenings when I had time to work with him. He told me he was a crash rebuilder, but he was sure he could make the Vicky straight and fit properly and give it a paint job that would stand out for years and I was welcome to work with him even though I had very little knowledge of body work at the time. Over a four month period he and I were able to rebuild the body and he was able to paint it just a month before John Deere Company (my employer for 31 years) transferred me to PA.
When I was 16, my Dad bought me my first car, a 1955 Ford Custom Line Tudor for $200. I believe the year was 1963. The body needed work done to it, especially the rocker panels. So my Dad and I started working on it. Since we had to paint the car anyway, I took off the hood ornaments and scripts (Dad didn't object) and then broke out the J C Whitney catalog. From the catalog I purchased a tube grill, fender mirrors, full moon hub-caps, and adapter kit to put Oldsmobile bullet tail lights on the car (Dad didn't object).
Then one day I came home from school told my Dad someone at school is willing to trade his manual transmission for my automatic transmission, then I would have a three speed on the floor. (Dad objected I) Dad sat me down and explained, "When he started driving he shifted on the floor. Then they made It easier by shifting on the column. Then came the Cat's Nuts (Dad's way of saying really good I). You shift the pointer to R and go backwards, then shift the pointer to D and goes forward. And you dumb SOB you are going right back to the beginning." So I explained NO ONE wants a slush box, and a floor shift Is COOLI Well it worked, and Dad had let me use the garage. Some of my high school buddies came up to help me switch the transmissions. My Dad had a good friend that was a Ford mechanic and asked him to help us, and he did.
Truth be told, I never even got under the car during the switch. When they were finished I was one happy camper! Shortly after the switch, there was a problem. When trying to shift sometimes the transmission would lock up in first gear. I would then have to crawl under the car to pry the linkage to unlock (rain, sleet, snow and hail).
My best friend's Dad had a gas station/garage. I dropped my car off for state inspection while I was In school. When his Dad took it for a test drive it stuck for him too. He bent and adjusted the linkage and the problem was solved.
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.
I first saw this 1955 6 cyl. Fire Chief car in the parking lot at the 1990 CVA Convention in Dearborn. I fell in love with it. My son David had been on the local fire department for only a few months and my brother C.W., who was born the same day and my wife Shirley back on January 9, 1938, was on the same fire department. It was owned by Warren Fetzer.
I like what I saw, so I asked Warren if it was for sale. The answer was no. I was having a lot of health problems at that time and didn’t really need it. About a year and a half later I made a call to Warren. Still the answer was no. So, I started calling Warren every six months to check on him and the 1955 Fire Chief car. Then came the 1996 CVA Convention at Dearborn Inn. Now mind you this was 6 long years that I had bugged Warren. Shirley had drove two card to Dearborn. So we walk in to the doors there was a group of CVA members greeting us as usual the first day (or every day) of the Convention. Warren was in that group. He looked me in the eye and said yes. I guess he was tired of me calling him every six months. True, I had a garage full Because I had just bought a 19,5000 mile, all original, 1955 4 door Fairlane and a 1957 Red and White 2 door hardtop. But my answer was yes with one catch the car on soil at 11 McClardy Road. The deal was finished.
Our trip to Dayton OH started out quite normal – about 100 miles out the engine seems to be losing power. Hot weather, right? Also hard starting as I stopped for fuel every couple hundred miles, but ….. hot weather, right? Got a little worse the further we drove. Too late to turn around as we are now over half way, almost thru Illinois. We had decided to spend the night in Danville. As we parked at the motel, the engine died, and two couples were standing close by and they came over and pushed us into a parking spot by the grass. As I walked around the car I found we were sitting by sprinkler heads so they helped us push the car out of that spot and under the canopy of the motel where the clerk said we could park our car. We got out our CVA roster to see if a local member might know of a mechanic/shop who might be able to look at it. Larry Cox was quite close and had time to check it out after 10:00 AM, but I wanted to be there by then. We found the name for Danny Calton, who knew of nobody in the area that he could recommend. So after some small talk and he knew where we were staying, he and his girlfriend (Emily) insisted on coming out and taking us out to dinner at the “Beef House” and what a treat it was. Had a very nice evening with them and when they dropped us back at the motel, we met a fellow standing close to our car who had heard of our woes from the desk clerk and wondered if he could be of assistance as he was a retired mechanic. Gene Prokop from Omaha came to our rescue. I explained what was happening with my limited knowledge as I don’t claim to be a mechanic but I have been around these cars all my life so I have enough knowledge to make me dangerous. I told him I was convinced it was a vacuum problem. He said perhaps but let’s look at your points first as it sounded to him like they were probably not opening properly. AND HE WAS RIGHT. So after adjusting them the engine fired right up and seemed to have some power back. What a great bunch of people we have met, but wait…. There is more. At breakfast Gene came over to me and any told me he had set my points at .0030 and it should have been .0016, but shouldn’t give us a problem for the rest of trip.
The 1956 Ford was basically a carryover of the ’55 model with different trim, but inside it was all-new. Included was a completely restyled dashboard available with optional safety padding along with padded sunvisors and seat belts as part of a safety promotion. Instead of a flat steering wheel the Ford used a new wheel with a 2.5-inch recessed center hub said to lessen injury to the driver in the event of a collision. Increased power was available from the 292 cubic inch Thunderbird Y-Block V8. Thanks to higher compression and improved camshaft lift it broke the 200 horsepower mark, while a new 312 cubic inch Thunderbird Special V8 was added at mid-year for an additional 15 horsepower over the 292. For ’56 Ford also upgraded to a new 12-volt electrical system, following Chevrolet’s lead in 1955. Solidly built with clean, colourful styling and good performance the ’56 Ford sold well including its Fairlane convertible model with 58,147 built. Today the ’56 Ford Victoria hardtops, Skyliners and Sunliner convertibles are solid collectable vehicles and while there are a good many still around their popularity has soared in the past decade.