I built my '55 Crown Vic Glasstop Bumble Bee "my way", as Frank Sinatra would sing. Like many other CVA cars, it is comprised of the best parts I could assemble from quite a number of other cars, including a two-door post Mainline Sedan, two rusty Crowns, a 1971 Ranchero and a '55 Glasstop. The drive train is all-Ford with rebuilt 351 Cleveland and C-4 automatic from the 1971 Ranchero, but is installed such that an original 272/Fordomatic will drop right in. My builder used lots of good old American ingenuity and creativity, and the final product is something I am proud of. I have wanted a Bumble Bee since 1991, when I saw one at the National CVA Convention in Fredericksburg, VA. Finished in 2014, it was four years in construction.
My love for '55 Fords began in 1963 when I was a senior at Seminole High School in Sanford, Florida. My first car, a'53 Plymouth Cranbrook, had been rear-ended by a Greyhound bus, and even though my driver's door said "CAUTION: BLIND MAN DRIVING", I won $200 in court. Add $225 to that and in 1963 I bought my schoolteacher driven four-door '55 Customline 6-cylinder automatic with 40,000 miles. I had saved all that money working for 25 cents an hour at my parents' A & W Root Beer Drive-In. As a senior at Florida State University (FSU), four years later, my '55 had 140,000 miles on it, and I sold it to another FSU student in 1967. Like some of you, I lost my cherry in a '55 Ford. It would be the late 1980's before I started getting back into '55-'56 Fords, with a series of 25 project and parts cars. My sweet wife of 37 years, Becky, was always tolerant of "that crusty old junk". We both worked paycheck-to-paycheck until 15 years ago, when I bought a solid '55 Sedan, which had had a Crown roof, welded on. Crown doors hung, and rear Crown windows bolted in. That project car 15 years ago cost $1,500 and it had a smoky 6-cylinder automatic. It killed every mosquito within miles whenever it huffed and puffed. Then in 2009,1 found Jack Evans in Annapolis. He assured me that with plenty of money and my accumulated parts, he could make my parts into a nice car. He had done two Crowns before, and he made mine stunning, after four years of part-time work.
Some time ago, in fact a long time ago, I purchased a 56 Crown, then I started to buy, repair, and sell 50’ Fords. Along with my brothers we set up a shop, paint booth and all – which was in one of my brothers garage.
We did a lot of cards to different stages, we never called ourselves professionals, but the bottom line is we were darn good at what we were doing. We would do cars to different stages of repair. Some cars we would remove stainless, doors, hoods, trunks, etc. for a more complete job without actually restoring the complete car. I guess in some cases the true meaning would be, it don’t go but it sure does shine, would have applied. Bottom line, what you got to spend is what you get. That is still true today. Working on cars was our hobby by trade. Myself and three brothers own our own construction company.
This car started out in life belonging to a doctor in Santa Fe, New Mexico and he had given it to his son to use while in university. The doctor had removed all the side trim and painted the car white.
After that the doctor sold it to someone in Albuquerque, New Mexico who picked up a set of side trim for a 1955 Mercury. He sold it to the man in Chama that I bought it from. Dick Snyder went to Missouri and got me a wagon with the correct trim on it, which we restored and used.
I purchased the 1956 Mercury Wagon in Chama, New Mexico. I had recruited fellow club members Craig and Sharon Seyfried of Cannon City, Colorado to go and look at it for me. With Craig's approval I made the purchase. Craig and Sharon were good enough to go back and pick up the wagon and bring it to a regional meet at Yates Centre, Kansas that fall. Gerald Upshall and Dick Snyder went with me to pick it up. We had a short visit with many club members at that meet in that interesting little town.
We got the car back home OK and a couple weeks later started working on the wagon. We did not do a frame off restoration on it - as is was going to be a good driver quality car. Our body and paint guy could not believe how clean and solid the body was. The motor and the transmission were completely rebuilt.
Sold - $45000. That’s the last words I wanted to hear. I got back into my car and headed home - back to Wisconsin - from a long drive to Lancaster Ohio. Okay, here’s the deal. Growing up in Berwick Pennsylvania, I had a car that I had purchased with the help of my uncle, a 1956 Mercury Montclair Convertible. Now you know, being 17 in 1961 with a convertible, you kind of had it made, especially with the chicks. It seemed almost every night there was a dance somewhere that I went to. Well, one night a Friday night, my friend Larry and I were heading to a dance somewhere near Shickshinny, and of course, I was in a hurry to get there. We never made it to the dance. We were traveling on old country roads, a d of course I was showing off as to what the old Merc could do. I hit a bad curve doing nearly 90 and lost control and flipped the car over into a field. God had to be looking down on this idiot and neither my friend nor I was badly hurt. Larry was thrown out of the car as it flipped and I had a death grip on the steering wheel as it went over. Larry was fine but somehow my arm got messed up and swelled up almost as big as my leg. The police showed up. I lied like hell saying I was run off the road by another car. I never got a ticket, but my car was totaled. That’s what showing off and being a smart a__ got me. Now I was paying the bank for something I no longer had. I remember buying that car from a car dealer called Remco Mercury in Berwick for $600.00 Okay, lets fast forward to the $45,000 sold part of the story.
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.