Mike Novak-Smith's 1956 Ford Sunliner

Submitted by Mike Novak-Smith

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My long term interest in mid-1950’s Fords stems from growing up with these cars as my parents liked Ford products. My dad was in sales for the Johnson Wax Company and was supplied a steady stream of company cars which he was allowed to select, and were mostly Fords.

My parents purchased a 1956 Sunliner convertible from Hertz Rental Cars in 1958 when I was 1 year old. They had owned several British sports cars such a MG TD and a Triumph TR2, but decided that they needed a bigger car for a family. The Sunliner was purchased to have a fun car that would carry more passengers than the small sports cars.

The car that my parents had a 312 V8, automatic transmission, power steering, and a radio.

The car was used by my parents daily until the late 60’s and finally in 1971 it was sold for $125.00! This was a California car with no rust, everything worked, and had about 60,000 miles. It was just an old car at the time with not much value to it. Compare the 1971 sales price to the current cost to re-chrome the front turn signal housings at a cost of $800.00. Prices have gone up.

My interest in the cars continued and finally in 2008 I decided to take the time and money to purchase a Sunliner myself.

Even though I am located in Southern California, often referred the car capital, finding a Sunliner to buy locally proved to be difficult. Finally I found a car in Hemmings that was located in Boston. I hired a car inspector and then made the purchase and had the car shipped to my home in Riverside, California. The car came with a 292 V8, automatic transmission, power steering, and a radio and heater. The car was the same colors as the one I grew up with which was Fiesta Red and Colonial white.

Read more: Mike Novak-Smith's 1956 Ford Sunliner
 

Ron & Patti's "PRTILDY" From a Little Rag Doll to a Queen

 Submitted by: Ron & Patti Lokay, Northampton, PA

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Back in 1996 my wife Patti and I decided to purchase a classic car. We had a difference of opinion about what we wanted to buy. I, myself, wanted a 1955 Ford Crown Victoria while Patti was looking forward to buying a '55 Ford Sunliner. Saturday evening came and we decided to go to Macungie, PA. where The Wheels of Time Car Club was holding their monthly cruise. Strolling along we didn't see any Crowns for sale but Patti spotted a red and white Sunliner and on the front seat laid a sign, ' For Sale '. To be honest I did not pay much attention to that car because I wanted a Crown but that wasn't what was going on in Patti's head. We left the park and went home.

Monday morning came and I called a friend of mine, Tommy, who owned a motorcycle shop and he told me about a customer of his that not only had a Crown Glass top but also a Sunliner and one of them was for sale, but he didn't know which. He gave me the man's phone number, I called and made an appointment to see the cars. Well Tommy was right but the man was in no way interested in selling the Crown but the Sunliner was up for grabs. To my amazement, it was the Macungie '55. I brought my friend Bill, a very knowledgeable car guy with me, to access the vehicle. We looked it over, I took it for a test drive and found some problems with the car. We left and on the drive home Bill and I discussed the car and what we had found wrong, Bill suggested I bypass this Sunliner but I thought I owed it to Patti to at least let her look at the car. I should have taken Bill's advice, Tuesday morning came and with Patti in tow, we went to Rich's house to see the Sunliner. To my wife, it was instant love, to me, it was a nightmare about to happen. We could not come to terms on the money and as we were leaving I asked Patti what did she want to do. She asked if I still wanted a Crown and I replied that I would wait it out if this was the car that she really wanted. Well, unfortunately for me, that was the wrong question and answer for she turned around, went back into the house and plunked down the money and we were now the owners of a 1955 Torch Red/Snowshoe White Fairlane Sunliner convertible. 

The following Saturday evening after getting a friend to put an inspection sticker and tags on her, we attended a car show and PRTLDY, as she would get to be known, won her first trophy. The Sunliner's paint was not bad, Torch Red & Snowshoe White in color she looked decent. Her interior was another story however. It was custom made and didn't have any arm rests, not too bad. It would have to do because she had mechanical problems that needed attention first. The suspension, ball joints and other stuff had to be replaced. The steering wheel bearing was rusted fast and had to be redone etc. Rather than go through the entire 20 year rebuild of PRTILDY, by year, I'll just tell you all that has been done.

Read more: Ron & Patti's "PRTILDY" From a Little Rag Doll to a Queen
 

A “Sunny” Story

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For some time now whenever I encounter a classic car, I can’t help but wonder, “what if these cars could talk”. The knowledge of their past would not only be invaluable but entertaining as well. That is certainly the case with my 1955 Ford Sunliner. You see even though the car can’t talk, I know its previous owner of 48 years, Mr. Bob Nolan of Elyria, Ohio.

In 1968 this car had reached the point of no longer being useful to its owners. The car had followed the path from being a beautiful, new convertible with its first owners to resting beside an outbuilding waiting to be scrapped. Also in 1968 Bob Nolan was looking to buy a 1955 Ford Sunliner Convertible. As fate would have it, while attending a party at a friend’s house Bob saw this car. It was setting beside that outbuilding under a security light. The front fenders, hood, grill assembly and radiator were gone, leaving the engine exposed. The top had been badly damaged due to someone thinking they could put the top down while driving the car at speed. The original front seat had been replaced with bucket seats and the engine and Fordomatic transmission were both badly in need of repair; essentially a “totaled vehicle”. Upon asking about the car, Bob was told that the “junk man” was coming the next day to take the car away. Read more: A “Sunny” Story

 

Dad's Fifty-Five

Submitted by: Steven Sobotta

Growing up in Wisconsin I don’t remember a time when dad didn’t talk about his Fifty-Five. I knew the story, from an early age, of how he’d come to own it, how he’d spent the entirety of his savings account in 1963 to buy it, and how grandma had pitched a fit.

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It was part of my upbringing to be able to identify any old Ford (actually any old car, but of course Fords were the priority) that we might pass on the road or at a show. The times when I’d get it wrong, dad would give me the business and I didn’t like it one bit. So when I’d come home, I’d comb through my collection of car books until I found the car in question and memorize the cosmetic markings specific to the year in question waiting for the chance to show dad what I’d learned. I never received a report card, but dad hasn’t had to correct me in quite a few years.

As the years went on I learned one indisputable fact, there has NEVER been and NEVER will be a more beautiful car than a red and white 1955 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria. You all are invited to try and change his mind.

Like many, dad’s dream of one day treating the carriage that he and mom had first dated in to a full frame-off restoration took a backseat to day-to-day life. Mom and he helped get my sister and I through our bachelor degrees, paid off the house and of course kept food on the table and saved for the future. Over the years we’d pick up NOS parts at swap meets and talk about what had become our shared, but all but dead, dream.

I don’t think my dream to one day surprise my dad with a fully restored car is unique to me, but I never thought I’d actually get the chance to actually live any part of that dream.

Read more: Dad's Fifty-Five
 

Price's 1955 Customline

by: Frank La Forge - Wichita, Ks.

Dick Price Jr. and his lovely wife Becky - (CVA#7327) have been CVA Members since December of 2006. Both Dick and Becky were born and raised right here in Wichita Kansas which is located in Lower Midwest Region of the CVA where Don Robertson is our representative.

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Dick began a 2 year build on his immaculate 1955 Customline in 2009. After a few months of work Dick had only one goal in mind and that was it must be finished by January 20th 2012 for the inaugural "Starbird-Devlin Cars for Charities" Rod and Custom show in Wichita Kansas. That mandate became a reality as this "Custom Customline's" interior was being finished literally as the car was being set up for that show as one of their 'Featured' automobiles. Dick Price Jr., who is President of Price Brothers Equipment Company here in Wichita Kansas, is on the board of the Starbird-Devlin Cars for Charities, which is a 501(c)3 charity benefitting Starkey Inc. and the ARC of Wichita, both programs designed to enrich the lives and to promote independence for individuals with intellectual disabilities. So, obviously it was imperative for this Cruiser to be in place at this "Wichita Tradition" of the newly named iconic and longest running indoor car show in the country under the new direction of Starbird-Devlin Rod & Custom Charities Car Show.

Before getting into the nuances of Dick's 'FRSTLUV' (as his specialized license plate shows) I need to give you a little background on the man who BLEEDS Ford Blue!

Dick Price Senior's father (Dick's grandfather) was an account who's failing eyesight was the beginning of 'Price Ford'. No longer able to see numbers as clearly as needed on a ledger he decided to begin selling Ford Model T's in 1916. Dick's father was an accomplished amateur golfer who had matches and held his own with the likes of Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson. Dick Price Sr. wanted to become a Pro golfer in the Forties. However, he was told by his father (Dicks Grandfather) that the game of golf was not exactly the way to raise a family and that he was going to sell cars - that was where the stable flow of money to support his family was going to come from. So, shortly after WW II 'Dick Price - Lincoln Mercury' was born and opened on the same block of South Topeka in Wichita Ks. as his father's 'Price Ford' was located. Ironically my own father purchased a brand new 1956 Custom Ranch Wagon from Price Ford in the same Diamond Blue as my '56 Sunliner.

Read more: Price's 1955 Customline
 

Thirty-Three Years in the Making: From Farm to Show

By Charles Justus

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The mid-fifties was a tough time for a sandy land farm family to live in North Texas. Our income depended on a good crop of peanuts, and that always depended on the amount of rain we got that season. A successful crop meant more food on the table and new clothes for school. I graduated from high school in 1957 and went on to become the first sibling in our family of 4 kids to graduate from college, North Texas State University.

During the late ‘40’s our mode of transportation for our family of 6 was a Chevrolet 1/2 ton farm truck. Back then we kids were small, but it sure got crowded with all of us sitting in the cab of that truck! As my brother and I got older, we were delegated to the back of the truck which was not much fun when it rained or snowed! I also had to use a farm truck for the few dates I went on back in the mid ‘50’s. I had no money or time, for more serious dating.

I began my college experience two years after graduating from high school. I used those two years to grow up some, help my dad on the farm, and decide if I really wanted to be a farmer the rest of my life. Two more years of farming was enough to let me know I wanted to go another direction in life, so I enrolled in college. That meant I needed a car real fast! My dad did not want me to buy a car with dual exhaust, so I found a 1955 Ford Fairlane, four-door Sedan with a 272 V8 engine. It had a Fordamatic transmission and the speedometer showed 43,000 (143,000) miles. The cost for my wonderful car was $1,000 in 1959. It became a “fix or repair daily”! I added another 100,000 miles on the car going back and forth to college in Denton, and then to my first teaching job as high school shop teacher in Frisco, Texas. When I had made enough money to purchase another more reliable car, I gave the ’55 to my sister. She drove it to work in Dallas for two years driving 100 miles each day. She sold my first car for $50.00 as the reverse was out on the car.

Now let’s fast forward to 1977, and I found myself visiting my wife’s folks on a farm in Central Texas. One day I pass an adjoining farm to the west and peeping out from among the farm implements, I barely recognize a 1955 Ford Fairlane because the top, a pine tree green, was rusty; and the body, Neptune green, was faded out. Inspecting the car closer, I discover it is a 4-door with 272 V Fordamatic, with 91,000 miles. The car would not run because the rear main bearing had turned in cap. It had set among the dairy farmer’s farm equipment for five years. The farmer was willing to sell the car to me for $55.00. It was then brought 200 miles north to Frisco.

The engine was professionally machined in 1980. The cylinders were bored to 0.030 over, turned shaft to 0 .010 for the rods, and turned mains to 0.020. A valve job and cam shaft bearings, etc. were professionally done by Bull Machine in McKinney. I also assembled the engine to specs.

Read more: Thirty-Three Years in the Making: From Farm to Show
 

A Work in Progress

Steve DeVito

As far back as I can remember I was fascinated by everything mechanical, especially cars. As a preteen I would gaze from the back seat at just about every car we passed, dreaming of one day owning one.

Dad gave me my first driving lesson at age 12 in his 47 Studebaker, on a dirt road in New Hampshire. Also, that year I began a paper route and during my first month I spotted an old car parked under a tarp in the rear of a customer’s house. It was a 31 Chevy sedan and he said I could have it for $5.00! I was thrilled and more so when Dad said I could buy it. We towed it one-mile home with a rope hitched to Dad's car and I did get it running.

The following year dad bought a 53 Ford and I received more driving lessons, on the same dirt road in New Hampshire.

Time passed, I acquired a 41 Plymouth and a 48 Chevy to play around with but neither stayed around until my 16th birthday. So I had to shop around and found a 55 Ford Mainline within my price range ($400.) Dad let me buy it since I had saved enough to pay for it plus one year’s worth of insurance.

I always had a gas station job until I got married but wasn't always able to work on my cars at the shop. Dad let me keep tools and car parts in his garage and in return I would keep his cars running and keep the garage clean enough to keep a car in it. I worked on quite a few cars there, including my 55 Ford. I used our old swing set and a chain hoist to change 2 engines and jacked cars up on the side of the street near the driveway, used bumper jacks, logs as jack stands. I removed and rebuilt trannys right there on the ground.

When I retired in 2004, those memories led me to buy a sedan like Dad's 53 and I still have it today. Mine however isn't a 4 door 6 banger like his. I’ve got a 2 door with a flathead V-8. Soon after buying the 53, I began to look for a 55 to replicate the first car I owned as a real legal driver. I found a few within my price range but they needed too much work. Sadly, I bought one but after getting it home found the frame rotted in 3 places. That killed my interest and I parted it out.

Finally, in 2015, I found a decent running 55 just 35 miles from me. The car was originally in Florida until the late 70s and considering it's been here in New England for over 30 years, the rot and rust weren't too bad. It is a Fairlane sedan, bit of an upgrade from my Mainline. Now it's a driver, mechanically sound and fun to drive. It is a work in progress and I may never get it completely done. That's OK cause my original 55 was never fully done either, between racing it and denting it a few times.

Now I enjoy my “new” car whenever I can at cruises and car shows. I'm slowly upgrading it to make it safer for longer trips to shows and events. It now has a small block F0RD V-8 with automatic overdrive and will soon have updated suspension and brakes to match.
Always a work in progress, I'll share the final chapter when and if I paint it Lavender top over deep (almost black) plum.

Steve DeVito

 

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