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Cover Stories

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We are Lorraine and Russell Karnik from Fort Atkinson and this is our life story of our cars. We have been very happily married for 43 years and we have 4 grown children and 10 grandchildren.

It all started with my first car that was a 56 Ford two-door sedan. Lorraine was my girlfriend at the time and later she became my wife. When we were going together I worked at a Shell gas station. I had this car for 2 years and then I had a bad accident with the car and it was totaled, so there went my car. My second 56 Ford was a 2 door Victoria hardtop. I painted this car and put a 312 engine in it that I built up, bored 90 over 11 & V2 to 1 piston, high performance cam, 3 deuces, 3-speed on the floor and 4:11 gears in the rear end. It was a very fast car. I had this car for 2 years and sold it. I had found a 56 Ford Glass Top but by the time I got there the guy had already sold it. In the meantime, I got married to Lorraine and we raised our family of 4 children and had built our home. I put my dream on hold, but in the back of my mind I was always thinking that some day I would find my dream car. I wanted to find and own a 56 Ford Glass Top. They were so hard to find in our area.

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I was a junior in high school, 16 years old, when my Dad got me a job with the Ford dealer. The dealer was moving from downtown to “Auto Row”. My job was grunt work, moving the parts department and assembling shelving. The job lasted until I turned 17. They wanted to keep me on, but I needed to be 18.

Since I couldn’t work, I saved parts books from the late 40’s to the 60’s. Since there was no recycling back then, they would have went to the garbage. Little did I know these would be a resource later in life. I did get to know the parts guys at the Ford Dealer pretty well. At the time I was driving a 55 Sunliner. It was cool to get a “discount” on Parts, so I was in and out of the dealer often.

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When I began to think about retirement in the fall of 2007, I decided that I needed a project to keep busy until I firmed up a plan for the future. Fords were the cars of choice in my family while growing up in northern Illinois. Further, my wife, Ronna, and I owned several Fords during the 1960s through 1984. The 1955 and 1956 Ford hardtops were two of my favorite cars of the 1950s. During my search of the Internet during the spring of 2008 I found a red and white 1956 Ford two-door hardtop in a dealership located on the Oregon coast.

In May 2005 I purchased a 1955 Crown Victoria, which was already here in Australia but needed a complete rebuild. With the help of my good mate Frank and my son Jayden we were off to pick her up. When I got her home my wife said, “you paid how much for that” as she was looking through the front window. Anne did not even come out the door to look at it. I’m sure there is a lot of you guys who can relate to that comment as I read in an article in the November 2011 issue called “The Road To The Party” that was by Ray Idleman Jr, If anyone hasn’t read his story make sure you go back to this issue and have a read. What a character Ray must be.

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It had long been a dream of mine to own a Crown Victoria. On the other hand, my wife Karen, long had a dream of owning a ’57 Chevy Bel Air. Ahhh…a Ford and Chevy lover in the same family – what to do? It took a bit of convincing, but Karen eventually ended up seeing things the Ford way but she had one request – she wanted a seafoam green and white Crown Vic. The search was on in the spring of 2008. When I came across a beautiful tropical rose and snowshoe white Crown Vic on the Indianapolis, IN Craigslist I knew I’d have to convince her that this was the car for us. Luckily, she agreed. I had some long phone conversations with the owner as to its condition as I had previously towed a trailer to North Carolina to buy one of those “great condition,” “no disappointments” Crowns that was a junker in every respect. After I was sure this car was worth a look, we borrowed a trailer and headed for Indiana. I was aware that the body and interior had been restored while leaving the underneath totally un-restored. After a thorough inspection, I could see that the car needed inner quarter & rocker panels as well as repairs to some of the floor supports. Considering the great condition of the paint, chrome and interior, I decided it warranted repairing the undercarriage and we loaded our “new” ’55 Crown Vic on the trailer for its ride to its new home in Pittsburgh, PA.

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Like many CVA members, I was the proud owner of a new Fairlane in 1956. I was a college student, working during the summer as a parts driver for Crenshaw Motors Ford in Los Angeles. It was a good job because I got to drive a new Ford pick-up, and when I wasn’t making deliveries, I worked in the shop, sweeping and cleaning. I literally fell in love with the 1956 Fords and was particularly impressed by the Fairlane with the 312 engine.

The summer job ended and I returned to school. With a loan from my dad and the trade in of my 1951 Ford 2-door sedan, I purchased a black and red 2-door Fairlane V8. I enjoyed driving this trouble free car for five years. While it only had 35,000 miles, my folks were so pleased that I was a college graduate that they bought me a 1961 Thunderbird. Unfortunately, I let the 1956 2-door go and have regretted it ever since.

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My wife and I enjoy our Fords and wanted to replacement for a 1948 F1 so we could take our grandkids with us when we went to shows. Featured in the enclosed pictures you will find my 1954 Ford Mainline 2-door sedan, this fits the bill. The car was a solid North Caroline car with very little rust. The previous owner had replaced the floor pans and the front clip with a Fat Man clip and then basically stashed it in a trailer for about 10 years. He called it “my car in a box”, as it and many parts that came with it, were all in boxes.

The restoration, customization and paint took me over four years at home in my two-car garage. The only time off from my garage was when it was moved to another two-car garage where the painter worked on it for 16 months! It is painted with PPG paint in “Perfect Purple” with a little pearl and also Chrysler Pearl White with a little pearl. As it is powered by a 1995 Lincoln MK VIII 4.6 V8 with an EAOD transmission, I call it my “Ford-O-Linc.” The rear end is a Currie housing with a Ford 9” 3:40 gear. Though it takes HY-TEST gas, we manage to get better than 24 MPG. It is great for cruising! The grill is stock, my wife and I both think it is the best grill Ford had in the ‘50s. The bumpers are stock and smoothed, my wife and I both think it is the best grill Ford had in the ‘50s. The lake pipes are not functional, but look good and the exhaust is a single 3” pipe, it flows better than the duals. It has PS with title centers. The front seats are Pontiac SSE1 full power and the back seat is Lincoln Town Car back with the original bottom. The car was built to drive, among upcoming shows, we hope to make it to our CVA Regional Meet.

It was finished in March 2011 and in the past year my wife Mary and I have put a little over 3,000 miles on it. She says it’s a far cry from the one she drove as a kid. Since it completion it has won nine awards, of which two were “best paint” and four were “Best of Show”, a couple of ladies choice are in there as well, it seems they love the purple paint!

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Retiring after 42 years in banking, I spent most of my time enjoying my antique car hobby. I restore old Fords most of the time and enjoy many of the big car events across the country. I love seeing all the old cars and meeting so many “car people”. There is always great camaraderie among car lovers.

I just completed the restoration of my 1955 Victoria. I did not realize what a different car it is from the Crown Victoria. The roof has a higher top than the 1955 Crown and the 1956 Victoria. Many of the parts relating to glass and doors and rubber seals do not interchange. Some of the parts are difficult to find. I have found that the 1955 Victorias are fairly rare compared to the 1956 Victorias and 1955 and 1956 Crown Victorias.

I bought the car still in pieces from a guy who decided not to do the restoration. Almost all the parts were included with the car. A few missing parts were purchased from Don Stickler.

I finished the car in blue and white. It has a 292 Y-block engine with a 3-speed manual transmission. All the drive train was rebuilt. The body was frame off with all parts repaired or replaced. The car had been undercoated and there was almost no rust.

The car was fitted with a new LeBaron Bonney factory correct interior. It has new Coker wide white Firestone tires. The only deviations from factory are an upgrade to 12 volt with alternator and the radio is converted to modern AM/FM with its original case.

 

LaRue and I were engaged to be married in December, 1956. In November, we decided we would need to purchase a better car to jumpstart our married life. So, we asked our local Ford dealer, Crouse Ford in Taneytown, MD, to let us know when a good, previously-owned car became available.

They notified us that a 1955 Crown Victoria, in excellent condition, had come in. On our way to view the car, I mentioned to LaRue that it was “pink”. Her response was: “Oh my gosh, PINK!!” It was actually Tropical Rose and Snowshoe White. When we saw it, and took it for a test drive, we fell in love with it.

We were married December 14, 1956. Nine months later, I was drafted into the Army, after basic training, I was ordered to duty in Germany. LaRue planned to join me there. This meant that I would have to sell my Model T, Model A, 1941 Nash, and LaRue’s 1951 Nash Rambler. Luckily, my parents agreed to store our 1955 Crown Victoria in their garage until we returned.

We purchased a previously-owned Mercedes while in Germany. After visiting nine European countries, we sold it before returning to the States.

Thirty months later we took our Crown Vic out of storage. Our daughters were born in 1962 and 1964 and we continued to drive our “pink” car until 1972. We kept the car, but it deteriorated considerably because it sat outside.

In 1994 the Crown Vic was restored to its former glory. So, this December 14th on our 55th Wedding Anniversary, we will take our 1955 Crown Vic “wedding car” for a celebratory spin. We’re so glad that we and our car can celebrate this wonderful day together.

John & LaRue Sipes
New Windsor, MD

The Crown was originally sold by Jones Motor Co. of Clovis, New Mexico. Tom says: “Lois and I have met a lot of nice people in CVA, and we have made many close friendships. Joining CVA was one of the best moves we have made.”

Here are Lois and Tom in 1993, with the Crown body off the frame. Lois helped Tom drop the body on the redone frame and helped with the block sanding. All of the work was done by them in their own one-car garage.

The Witkowski sons, (left to right) Robert, Steven, and Michael. Steven was married in 1996 and the Crown carried him and his beautiful bride Jean. Now Tom and Lois have two granddaughters, Kathryn and Nina ages 10 and 7.

There she sits,” Vicky” at her coming out party; as beautiful and regal as I always knew she would be. Her siblings surround her admiringly, taking their place at her side. But the road to this party has been a long and winding one.

The story starts about five years ago when my brother, Larry, called me from West Virginia excitedly yelling into the phone, “I found a Crown Vic for you. Listen to this.” He proceded,”1955 Ford Crown Victoria, straight, rust free body, original 272 motor, extra 302 motor and transmission, extra chassis, extra hood, fenders, trunk lid, there’s more, should I go on?”

“No.” I said. “Where’s it located?”

“Down in the middle of Virginia somewhere.” He said. “$8000 is not a bad price for a rust free car and all that extra stuff is it?”

Now the term “rust free” has been bandied about by car enthusiasts for years. I’ve never been able to figure out exactly what it means; but it usually means, I get the rust for free! So I took this ad with a huge grain of salt.

As luck would have it my wife, Charlotte, and I were scheduled to visit her brother, John, in Rocky Mount, VA that following week; so, I said to my brother, ”Give me the number and if she is still there I’ll ride over and take a look at her.”

“You’ve been looking for a” Crown” for a long time haven’t you?” my brother asked, feeling quite satisfied that he had found me the treasure of a lifetime.

She was still there when we went to visit John; so, he and I rode over to take a look, about an hour out of Rocky Mt. She was still there alright, sitting in a pile, fenders, trunk lids, chrome and stainless strips, and miscellaneous debris sprouting from her every orifice.