OP­TIONS AND MORE OP­TIONS: THE 1954 FORDS

New Zealand Classic Car - - Feature -

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)

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