In 1964, I purchased my first car, a 1954 Ford Customline 2 door sedan. The car was familiar to me because it was driven by a friend of my brother. The driver's older brother had driven it before him and modified it by replacing the original 6 cylinder engine with a younger Y-block V-8 with a 4 barrel carburetor, converted the 3 speed OD transmission to shift on the floor, and added a dual exhaust system.
While those brothers modified and drove the car, their father who had taken delivery of the new 1954 Ford on February 16, 1954 at Burnham Motors Inc. in Beloit, Wisconsin retained ownership. When I took ownership of the car, I became the second
owner, but the fourth driver.
As I drove it for the next four years, I continued to change, modify, and repair. Chrome vvheels, bucket seats, and a 4 speed transmission were among mid-60's changes. Although my style of driving mandated some mechanical repairs, there was no body work caused by accidents on my account. Recent restoration work revealed body repair from a minor accident or two prior to my ownership.
(Reprint from January, 1990 issue)
The year was 1966 and I was just married to my high school sweetheart when Uncle Sam felt he needed me more, and beckoned. Being a red blooded American boy used to watching Glenn Ford and Audie Murphy movies, I felt compelled and obligated to comply. I ended up in Colorado Springs to train in artillery, and later, a short tour of duty in Viet Nam with the First Cavalry.
When we finally acquired our first pass to town after basic training, my comrades and I enjoyed the freedom of exploring the breath taking beauty and ambience of the Colorado Springs area. Each of us, it seemed, had our own ideas of what freedom meant. Even though I could appreciate a good dancing girl as well as anyone else, being recently married, I elected to investigate less frivolous activities like seeking out the now endangered “JUNK YARD”.
I have always had an obsession for the ‘56 Ford having come from parents who, in 1955 went out and ordered a matched pair of ’56 Victorias both Fiesta red and white, painted in opposing color schemes on the cars. I had my first ’56 Victoria at age 15, and by age 16, had created a fine amateur custom to dazzle the other kids at school.
Frank La Forge of Wichita Kansas has been named a 'Meguiar's VIP Sponsored Car' for 2014.
If you DO NOT like reading about 'Resto Modded' Fords - you need to move onto another story in this month's FOMOCO times. However, if you like to read about how your fellow CVA members have taken the classic Ford's of the '54-56' era and made them into safer, more reliable and true pleasure driving experiences then please read on.
First of all I built my '56 Sunliner to be a car of the highway as well as a car show beauty. Since I purchased it in July of 2000 (a mere shell of a car with a plethora of potential to be a real head turner), I have transformed, and molded it to be 'mine' with an eye on the open road. Some of you may remember, from previous stories, of this car that I purchased it from a California man who had begun a full restoration but stopped well short of his dreams of this Sunliner, and was forced to sell it 'as is' (and you all know what that generally means).
Perhaps part of the reason those of us who enjoy owning old automobiles are that we can relate history to them. Ford, Chrysler, Buick, Oldsmobile, Studebaker, Tucker to name a few were people who lived in our great country of the USA, and like each of us, had a personal history during their time. The following story encompasses some good times and some rough times. The motivation for writing this was provided by people who after hearing the history of this car would enthusiastically ask me to share the story with others. As I initially penned this article, I realized that the amount of material written could be lengthy. Hopefully, I’ve condensed this story to an acceptable length. I hope this is as enjoyable for you to read, as it was for me to write. Enjoy!
I was 8 years old when my mother took delivery of a new 1955 Ford, 2-door Victoria from Southtown Ford in Kansas City, MO. It was her first brand new car. The car became an essential part of our family for the following decade plus years, and when I turned 16 in1963, it became my first car. Years and miles passed, in-town driving turned into out-of-town travel; to and from college as the car continued to provide transportation.
Then in the fall of 1969 on a cold rain slick road the car was involved in a “rollover” into a roadside ditch. In 1969, 14 year old cars weren’t worth a lot of money, but if they were wrecked, the term “total loss” was commonly used. Remember, however, this was my first car and I wasn’t going to put it in the junk yard; so I proceeded for the next 30+ years to find places to keep my wrecked car so that one day I could repair it. It rested hidden behind buildings, barns and in garages waiting to be repaired.
Our dream come true is ‘Beauty’, a 1955 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria Fordomatic, 272 horsepower and a V8 engine. To us she is the most beautiful car we have ever owned. We are so proud of her! We still stare at her in awe every time we open the garage door.
My father bought me a 1940 Buick when I was 16. The next car I owned was a 1955 Ford, 2 door Sedan. I bought it for $450.00 when I came out of the Navy. It was reliable and got me to work and cruising around.
I met Mary Ann, my wife of 33 years, in Parents without Partners (PWP). I was 42 and she was 40. We have five children between us. We had the 2 youngest. After our children left, we were somewhat free to start our new life together. We were very active in our community and loved original classic and antique vehicles. We live in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio near Cleveland Hopkins Airport. I was raised on the east side and she grew up on the southwest side.
Mary Ann owned a 1957 Chevrolet Convertible from 1958 to 1962, but her heart was set on a 1955 Ford that her girlfriend’s brother bought in 1955 when she was 15. The girls decided to take it for a joy ride. They snuck out in the middle of the night, only to get caught by her brother when they came back. It was nice…getting caught wasn’t. Lesson learned! We hope nobody would ever take our ’55. It would break our hearts.
In the early days Packard Auto used a slogan “Ask The Man Who Owns One.” I now own five 1955-56 Crowns.
My love of 1954-56 Fords began when a man in my area bought a 1954 glasstop (he also bought a 1955 and 1956 glasstop new.) My friend and I would spend almost every Saturday morning at the local Ford Dealership. We would admire and look at the new arrivals and watch who in our area was buying what.
My lifelong friend Ross Winklers’ brother bought a new red and white Crown. We would help him go wash and clean it up just to ride in it.
He took us to many NASCAR Races and other events. In 1956 he bought a blue and white Victoria new with the 225 H power option (this came only as automatic and he soon converted it to straight drive). This car was bought at “Schwan Motor Co.”, The home of the Curtis Turner and Joe Weatherly NASCAR dealer -sponsored Purple Wild Hog.
I drove from Nashville Auto College in Nashville, Tennessee to Hopkinsville, Kentucky. There I traded in a 1949 Mercury Coupe that had a new battery in it (of which I removed before I got there and replaced it with an old one) for a 1955 Ford Fairlane with radio, skirts, and overdrive transmission at Barnes Motor Company. After going back to my parent’s house, I headed back to Nashville at breakneck speeds. This was in March of 1955. I went on my first date with Shirley in April of 1955 to her junior class play. We were married on March 29, 1956 (just two months before her graduation) at Little West Fork Baptist in the Ringgold community of Montgomery County, Tennessee. From there we went on our honeymoon to Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee on old 41 which was the crookedness road that I had ever drove on. The car was always reliable and good looking.
It hauled many baseball players all around middle Tennessee and Southern Kentucky as my father, brothers, and I played in men's league (as many men did in the 1950s and 60s). I played until I was 33 years old. The car also took trips to the beaches of Florida only to get stuck in the sand. We also went to Darlington Raceway and St. Louis to baseball games.
One day last winter, I sat in my basement fiddling with the seemingly 70000 scraps of balsa wood that were supposed to look like an RC airplane when I was finished. My automobile tools were lying idle on the garage floor; somewhere near the last place I used them. The "Boss" decided it was time to inform me that I would be accompanying her to a sheep-herding seminar in Ohio over the Memorial Day weekend.
Well sheepherding ranks right up there on my priority list, somewhere near cleaning up the garage, a situation about which the "Boss" has oft chided me.
"If you would put your tools away when you're done with them you would save a lot of time" she says.
"I venture to say that the time finding them is totally offset by the time it takes to put them away" I reply.
"I venture to say you're full of --it!!!" she fires back
At that point the conversation is usually over.... There is no sense in beating a dead horse. "Ohio" I thought...I was pretty sure you fell off the end of the earth at the West Virginia border, however I was willing to take the risk for matrimony's sake. "What can I do in Ohio while she is sheep herding", I mused? Mike Beckwith, one of our clubs 1955 tech advisers, he lives in Ohio! I've wanted to meet him for years, since he saved my butt so many times on my ‘55 Crown project.
In 1969 I had been looking for an old car to restore. I found one in Charlotte, Tennessee for $250. It was a Model “A”. The fenders were ripped in half with no running boards and it was in real bad shape. I started working on it in 1970. It took five years to complete. I joined a club and drove it every week in rain or snow or what over. During that time I was looking for a 1952 Ford truck. I found one for $400 and drove it home.
I always wanted in 1956 Ford 2-door hardtop. I found one in Wheels & Deals Magazine that was only 35 miles from home. I went and looked at it and I like it so much that I brought it. That was in 1993. I played with it for two years. In September of 1995 I started taking it apart. I move the car into the garage and took off the hood and the front of the grill and radiator. I borrowed a motor puller from a cousin. I pulled the engine and was moving it using the puller to the other side of the garage. The wheel broke off. I went one way and the engine went together. I spent three months getting over a hernia.
My Ford story begins in 1964, when I purchased a 1956 Sunliner for $350. It had the “Thunderbird V-8”. At the time I didn’t know, it could have been a 292 or a 312. I told everyone it was a 312. It ran hard and I used it that way. I started dating my wife that same year. We spent my happy days in it. I still have her but the Sunliner is long gone.
Fast forward to 2006, I managed to convince a farmer to sell me the “old ford in his yard”. It looked good and I discovered it was a “P” code car. As most of you know that means a Thunderbird Special V-8 with 312 cu. In. After two years of considerable restoration, we began cruzin’ in our Red / White 1956 2 door sedan. Basically stock, in the beginning. However the “old hot rodder in me made me do it. I began with a complete 312 block bored +.60 with a very special Isky Cam. Ported and polished 113 casting heads. Ford “E” code dual quad manifold. Electronic ignition and a 57 distributor. I used Edelbrock 500 cfm carbs. I did all of the mechanical work with some assistance from my buddy Fred. Now it would really run. But the Ford-o-matic was not to stay. I replaced it with a Ford top loader 4 speed that my buddy “ Freddy the Wrench” rebuilt. Then I installed a Ford 9” rear with 3:50 gears. What a rubber burning rod this is.
Here is a brief story on my 54 Ford Skyliner (Canadian flathead). It has 255 cubic inches and was 1 of 480 produced in Canada.
My Skyliner was bought new in Point du Chene New Brunswick on May 22nd 1954 by Mrs. Lapraik from Alex E. Ross, Limited Sales and Service in Moncton, New Brunswick. The sticker price was $3426. The car is Killarney green over Sandstone white. The Skyliner remained in her family until approximately 1990 when it went up for sale.
The car was bought by a Ford collector in Moncton and he kept the car for 10 yrs. The paint was dull when he bought it so he had it painted at the Lamb Ford dealer in Sussex, New Brunswick.
I have owned the car for almost 6 years now. It has several factory ‘54 accessories including power steering, rocker panel mouldings, Coronado deck, rear fender shields, fender skirts, spotlights with mirrors attached, back-up lights, amber fog lamps, bumper wing guards (front and rear). The car is driven to many car shows throughout Nova Scotia and is quite popular.