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.
My passion for the ‘55 Ford goes way back. It was about the summer of 1955. We lived on a farm in southwest Minnesota. I was standing in the yard and I looked down the road, I the distance there was a car coming. As it was getting closer and closer, there it was, this beautiful brand new 1955 red convertible, come hell a kiting with stream of dust behind it, (I was about 9 ½ years old). I told myself, “I am going to own a car like that someday.” The guy that owned it drove a gravel truck at a pit near our farm all summer. Well his name was Morice Zimmer (Moose, because of his size). He married a girl from town and I never seen him again.
I am the 3rd Australian owner of the Victoria, the importer being the first; it was sold to another, then to me in a weathered but running condition. It was registered it on ‘CH’ plates & my Family drove it ‘as was’ for about a year.
It was a low mileage California USA Ford evidenced by the minimal corrosion to the body & virtually none to the chassis & running gear. The body rust was confined to 45% of one side rocker, front fender lower trailing panel areas & the rear beaver panel at both sides. Nothing else of significance was found. Also, there was minor denting of the roof panel … An easy fix.
In 1963, I was a Junior at Paxton High School in Jacksonville, Florida. My dad was the pastor of a small church and a mail carrier for the Duval County School Board and Mom was a homemaker so, needless to say, they didn’t have any extra money to throw around and us kids learned very quickly that, if we wanted it, we got out and worked for it. So, I landed a part time job on a dairy farm about a mile from where we lived. It was gut wrenching hard work but I stuck it out and worked to pay my own way through high school and saved up enough money to buy my first car. Back in those days, it was every school boys dream to have a drivable car, and, those who had to get out and work for one, like I did, parked it very close to Heavens Gate and guarded it with there life.
I fell in love with a very beautiful Florida farm girl and when I graduated in 1964, I joined the military and ask her to marry me. She said yes and, while most of our dates were just to church or on family outings, the 55 was our dream car. I drove the 55 back and forth from Fort Jackson, in Columbia, SC, to Jacksonville Florida every week end to visit her until I was deployed to Korea in 1965. While I was in Korea, I did something that I regretted for many years. I sold my beloved 55 to one of our church members.
In 1961, our first year of marriage, we purchased a 1956 Ford Sunliner Convertible. It was Torch Red with a 312 engine with standard transmission with overdrive. I believe it was the fastest car I had ever owned at that time, but it wasn't practical once the children started coming. So it had to go.
We worked hard and raised four children. In 2007 our youngest son purchased our business, and since then I have been very busy chasing and finding parts for our new project. It is a 1956 Crown Vic Skyliner, which we purchased in 2005. But I should go back to the first 1956 Ford that we restored. By coincidence, these two cars were originally owned by the same person.
It was in 1994, we bought a 1956 Ford Sunliner Convertible at a bank auction. I had the car done at two body shops, both were total disasters and the car was not that bad to start with. I heard about a body man in Pawlet Vt. named Gary Stone. I took the car to him and he did a remarkable job. It is Fiesta Red and Colonial White with a lifetime warranty on the paint job. We took it to an all Ford car show and it won best of show. Our first show and best of show - WOW! It has also taken many other trophies over the years.
It all started in the spring of 1956 when my Dad pulled into our driveway with a brand new 1956 Mandarin orange and colonial white Ford convertible. Wow, what a car... I was hooked on ‘56 Fords, then and now. The car was for my mom, Helen. Dad had special ordered it from Collingwood Motors, Findlay, Ohio, our town’s, longstanding Ford dealership. The options included power steering and brakes, a safety equipment package, which included safety belts, a special steering wheel and a padded dash. Also in the optional order was an automatic transmission and after-market Yankee, fender-mounted mirrors. And of course, the high impact Mandarin orange and colonial white paint option. The real truth was that Dad enjoyed driving the car as much as Mom. He also knew that it would be the first car that I would drive. It was the first car that I would "officially" drive, when I got my license a year later (actually Mom let me drive her 1951 Chevy out in the country prior to that!)