Customline Victoria brings back fond memories
Forty-five years ago Lawrence Berry was driving a used red-and-white 1956 Ford Customline Victoria hardtop while dating Nina Martin.
The Ford didn’t survive the courtship, but Miss Martin became Mrs. Berry in 1965 and remains so to this day.
From the day he let his 1956 Ford go Mr. Berry regretted his decision. Since then, he says, “I’ve been hoping I would get another one.”
His patience was rewarded in 2002. The semiretired truck driver over the decades on the road had always kept an eye out for 1956 Ford Customline Victorias. It had been years since he had seen one on the highways.
In the autumn of 2002 he followed up on a tip and telephoned a man in rural Virginia to inquire about a 1956 Ford. The man confirmed that he, indeed, had a blue-and-white Customline Victoria like the one Mr. Berry sought. He suggested that Mr. Berry drive to Manassas the next weekend when he would have the car there at a cruise-in night.
“Guess what I think I found?” he asked his wife. She knew. Mr. Berry anxiously awaited the weekend. When it arrived and the weather was good, he rejoiced.
As he and his wife headed out for the rendezvous he admonished her not to let her true emotions show when she saw the car. He explained there was no reason to tip their hand and weaken their bargaining position.
Later that evening, as they drove into the cruise-in parking lot, he spotted the Ford, slammed on the brakes and came to a screeching halt. So much for not tipping your hand. “She didn’t,” he concedes. “It
A deal was struck that October evening and, Mr. Berry says, “A week later I went back to get it.”
He happily drove the 3,202-pound Ford on its 115.5-inch wheelbase home to Springfield.
During the 1956 model year Ford produced 33,130 of the middle- of-theline Customline Victorias. Each one had a base price of $1,985.
Because there is no power-assisted anything on the car, he says, “It’s like driving a tree.”
His car, however, does have an AM radio and a heater as well as backup lights.
On the Ford Mr. Berry had 40 years ago were a set of the coveted Oldsmobile three-flipper wheel covers, almost a necessity at the time.
Naturally, he had to locate and install a set of Oldsmobile wheel covers on his latest Ford. “The fender skirts are what make the body complete,” Mr. Berry says.
The wraparound windshield curves around the dashboard, which still has remnants of what appears to have been a padded dash, part of a Ford safety campaign. The deep- dish safety steering wheel also was part of that package.
Mr. Berry was so thrilled about finding a car almost like his first one that he was willing to overlook a few imperfections. The front fl oor covering should be rubber, not carpeting. And even though he likes having two outside mirrors, he knows the car didn’t leave the factory with them in 1956.
“There’s not a lot of ’56 Ford here except for the body,” he says. Even the original 272- cubic- inch, 173- horsepower V-8 has been replaced by a 289-cubic-inch, 200-horsepower V-8 that once powered a 1966 Mustang.
However, for him it’s all about reliving fond memories and with all the windows rolled down to create an open-air environment, he enjoys cruising by his old haunts.
When Mr. Berry goes cruising with his wife by his side, he says, “It’s just like old times, but this time with both hands on the wheel.”
The deep-dish steering wheel is one of Ford’s early safety features.