Dad’s ’50 Ford, Part One
My Dad had many profound effects on me, and one of them remains as a physical entity in my garage. And what with the Woodward Dream Cruise happening this week, it just seemed the right time to look at the dream cars that inspire us.
LET’S START AT THE BEGINNING
My parents graduated from Grossmont High School in San Diego in 1962, smack dab in what I consider the hot rodding mecca in the golden age of hot rodding. I have pictures of many of his high school cars, almost all of which happened to be ’49 through ’51 Fords. A few coupes, several Fordors, a smattering of Tudors. He’d buy ’em cheap, fix them up, drive them for a little while and sell them, then start again. He bought and sold one car six times and made a profit each time.
My early years were consumed with following my dad around the garage fetching wrenches and riding to car shows with him. Of course, I developed a love for the Shoebox Ford.
Man, he had so many stories. One of blowing an engine drag racing at Miramar and being towed by a friend in a hopped-up Merc back to San Diego at 2 AM doing 95 MPH. He stood on the brakes until they glazed over and gave out. He’d never tell me what happened when the Merc finally stopped. I suspect an ass-whoopin’ was given.
Another story was cutting a few pieces of 2×4 with notches in the end to raise the back end up a little after heating the front springs with a torch. Fitted over the axle and wedged into the frame, it rode like hell but looked cool and with no suspension movement on either end he could make a right turn and burn the right rear tire for blocks. Of course the 2×4’s would eventually work their way out and bounce down the road prompting a U-turn to reinstall the lumber.
DEAR AUNT GLADYS AND THE MERC
My dear Aunt Gladys had a ’50 Merc. I don’t remember the circumstances why, but she gave my dad the engine if he’d do a few household chores and run some errands for her. Merc engine out, heads off, mill a few thousandths and in a shoebox it went. Yep, this was the golden era of hot rodding folks.
Being an awesome dad probably wasn’t his goal, but he nailed it. We never had a shoebox growing up but our family cars were always hot rodded a little bit: wheels, tires, minor suspension tricks, carb tuning, headers, exhaust, etc. My sweet mom probably never owned a “stock” car but never complained.
ENTER “THE” SHOEBOX
Fast forward to 1995. My dad called and said he had found a V8 Shoebox for sale in the newspaper (remember those days?) for $3500 about 80 miles away in Kanab, Utah. He and my mom went for a drive that weekend to check it out. The owner had bought it about a year earlier from the original owner, a little old lady in Sheridan, Wyoming. It was a 54,000 mile car with a touch of rust in all the usual spots. Amazingly straight, amazingly nice, original paint still shiny in most spots.
My dad made a deal on the spot.
The owner asked, “Don’t you want to drive it?”
My dad replied “It runs!?”
A week later it was in my dad’s driveway. He drove it a little here and there for a few years while we worked on little stuff like brakes, but we could never get it to run cool. Hey, it’s a flathead! We ran the whole gamut of flathead cooling tricks, nothing worked.
Eventually we pulled the engine and tore it down. Then it sat for years. Finally something clicked and he decided to get working on it again. With our friend Stewart doing the machine work and assisting with reassembly the old flatty finally started to go back together. And then it sat again for several more years.
A NEW BEGINNING FOR DAD’S SHOEBOX
I won’t get into details, but my dad was diagnosed with cancer and passed seven months later. Minus my wife, my dad has always been my best friend. We did everything together. We went everywhere together. we built cars, we raised hell, laughed and had fun. You can probably see where my affection for shoebox Fords – and this one in particular – comes from.
I knew every detail of how he intended to finish this car. Every. Single. Detail.
- Hopped-up flathead with aluminum heads, two Strombergs, aluminum flywheel, adjustable lifters, hot cam, headers and straight pipes.
- Overdrive, if he could find one.
- The rust and very few small body issues would be fixed and leaded, but topped with a grey sealer, never painted, just like he would have done in ’62.
- Slammed with a little rake.
- White vinyl with pleats, orange accents.
- Bias ply white walls.
- Rebuilt drum brakes.
After he passed I helped my mom sell several of his cars including a ’32 roadster and a ’55 Bel-Air. The shoebox and a ’31 A Sport Coupe body would remain mine. Thanks dad!
I brought the ‘box home sometime after that and finished the engine build in my spare time.
Stay tuned for the continuation of this series… In the meantime, what family project or dream car resides in your garage? Let us know in the comments below!