OPTIONS AND MORE OPTIONS: THE 1954 FORDS
Ford created a big impression in the US motor industry in 1954 when it launched a new Y-block overheadvalve V8 engine of 238ci (3.9 litres) and 130hp (97kw). At the time, it was the hottest performing engine available in the lower-priced car market segment. It was something of a revelation after Ford’s perseverance since 1932 with its side-valve ‘flathead’ V8s. The distinctive round lines of the 1949–1951 cars had gone. Ford introduced a totally new shape for the 1952–1953 model year, with large glass areas and one-piece curved windscreens. For 1954, Ford used largely the same conservative body style, but with upgraded trim, and the grille featured the now-familiar central bullet and round side-lights. Many of the styling features turned up on numerous Ford models worldwide through to the 1970s. There was also a larger version of Ford’s ‘Mileage Maker’ overheadvalve six-cylinder engine offered at 233ci (3.8 litres) and 115hp (86kw). Noted for its good fuel economy, the six was not far behind the V8 for performance and was a popular choice. A new ball-joint front suspension was also added with this model, along with optional power-assisted drum brakes, and fourway adjustable power seats and powered windows. The 1954 range of Ford models was comprehensive and came in three main choices: Mainline; Customline; and the top model, Crestline, with options of a coupe (Business or Club versions), four-door sedan, Ranch Wagon two-door, and Country Squire four-door wagon. There were also convertible models. The new design for the 1954 Crestline in Skyliner and Victoria guises also offered the distinctive option of a blue-green transparent Plexiglas roof insert above the front seats. Just 13,344 examples were sold with this option, as, with it, the interior became too hot, even with its clipon fabric shade, although the green glow did produce an eerie effect. Customizing your Ford is nothing new; it was possible in 1954 to order a vast array of options to put a very personal touch on your Ford. Luxury trim items were something that hadn’t been seen on base model cars before. Ford made sure there were plenty of choices, not just with mechanical options but also in the other vehicular realms — heaters were options, for instance, and how about an optional horn button?! There were also 156 possible exterior colour combinations and 23 upholstery patterns on offer. The model was popular in Australia, too, with assembly ending in 1959 following the introduction of the new Australian-assembled Fairlane 500, Custom 300, and Ranch Wagon models. Initially, the Australian models soldiered on with the flathead V8 engines. Bodies were made in Australia and used imported chassis and running gear, along with US front sheet metal. It’s estimated that 18,000 of the 1955–’59 sedans were assembled in Australia, and there was also the Australian-developed and -produced Mainline Coupe Utility. In the US, the most popular of all the body types was the Customline two-door sedan, of which 293,375 were made, followed by the Customline four-door sedan, with 262,499 of those produced. At the other extreme, just 12,797 of the Crestline Country Squire four-door wagons were made, and 10,665 of the Mainline two-door Business Coupes (source: theclassicford.com). If you are thinking of restoring one of these rugged and reliable Fords, parts supply out of the US seems to be good.
Opposite page (clockwise from far left): Contrast — whitewalls: discrete badges compliment Ford’s use of spinners; nice lines — Ford’s 1950s designs were conservative and functional; comfort — the detailed interior has been brightened up considerably...
Right: It’s a project — complete, but in need of a lot of work (photo: Wayne Holmes)