We were always a Ford family. Our family car when I was a child was a 1956 Customline. My father drove a 1955 Mainline 100 miles for his daily commute. So as a child, that image of a car, that specific 1955/56 Ford shape, is what was instilled into my psyche - THAT is what a car looks like.
My next younger brother and I were close in age and had a lot of similar interests. Inspired by the 1973 movie American Grafitti, we decided to fix up our grandfather's - by then abandoned - 1957 Custom. We thought all the 50's cars in the movie were so cool. (Sadly, by then the '55 and '56 were gone.) With help from our father we got the engine rebuilt. We spent $300.00 of our hard earned cash from jobs at the local grocery store on body work and a black paint job. Adding chrome slot wheels, shackles, air shocks, and some 60 series tires to the back and we were pretty sure we had "the bitchin'-est car in the valley."
I soon decided to pursue a profession outside the retail grocery industry so went off to Iowa State University in fall of 1976 - initially the '57 was my college car. Before I finished school in 1980 with an engineering degree a lack of funds meant selling the car to yet another brother.
Fast forward to 1986 and the original brother finally found his dream car; a first generation Mustang 2+2. Pretty soon I caught the Mustang bug and obtained a '65 Mustang convertible. Education and a steady job had its perks!
By Charles Poulter, Stanley, WI
I have had the pleasure of owning two 56 Sunliners over the years. The first one I bought when I was in college just before graduating in the mid sixty's. A friend needed money and I paid $250.00 for it. It was what I call "orange" and white and I really did not like the orange. At the time I worked at a Ford dealership and had access to the body shop. It soon became red and white with new seat covers to match. I drove it for a while and then planned to get married so I sold it for $500.00. I thought I made a fortune. The "kid" who bought it wrapped it around a tree very shortly and so ends the tale of the first Sunliner.
Several years later I started to realize that selling the Sun liner may not have been the best deal ever made. I found another one stored in a shed that gave new meaning to the words basket case. And believe it or not I paid $250.00 for it. Long shackles had been added to the back with big chrome reverse wheels. About everything that was not absolutely necessary under the hood had been removed. So began about a ten-year search for things like a heater core and the like. It had a floor shift that worked upside down. Flipping the arms on the transmission solved that problem which was one of the easier fixes in this whole project. Two big bucket seats graced the front so began the search for a front seat. Not just any front seat but the Fairlane seat with the notch in the middle. And a 55 or a 56 will work but there is a little difference.
I bought this very 1954 Ford Sept. 23, 1954 when I was 19 years old for $2,169 from Carson Motor Co., Gibson City, II. I traded in a 1950 2-door Ford for a difference of $1,250. I trusted my future wife to take a carload of Female classmates on their senior trip to Wisconsin Dells before it was a year old. She made it home safely without a scratch. My wife and I dated in this car, went on our honeymoon to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. We brought our new born daughter home from the hospital in 1957, two years later a son and five years later another son.
The last license tag on the car when I parked it 1965 with 95,000 miles on the odometer. No major work was done on the car, just oil changes, tune ups and brakes. It sat for almost forty years. Fast forward to 2004 and I had retired and needed something to do, so the restoration began. After two days of removing rusty parts and bolts I thought, do I really want to do this? It was too late to turn back by then. The first project was to weld in the new rocker panels, floor pans and new floor braces. I then removed the body and had it sand blasted before taking it to a local body shop to have the finishing work done. The body man painted the interior, firewall, door frames and inside of trunk.
While the body man was working on the body, I stripped the chassis down to the bare frame, had it sand blasted and powder coated. The assembly began by installing new brakes, wheel cylinders, stainless steel brake lines, new wheel bearings and rebuilding the differential. The front suspension was all bushed as well as the rear springs with new anti squeak pads. The next thing was to rebuild the engine. Being a mechanic by trade, this came easy. I stripped the engine down, had the cylinders bored to .030 oversize and the crankshaft ground to .010 undersize. Installed new pistons, rings, bearings, camshaft and rocker arms. The cylinder heads were taken to a machine shop to have the valve guides redone and new valve seats installed. After the engine was finished, I rebuilt the transmission and steering gear box.
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.