It's the hot rodder equivalent of marrying your high school sweetheart-30 years after the prom. How many times have we told you stories about guys who had great cars in their younger days, and then build a project many years down the road that recaptures the excitement of that earlier ride? Well, we're telling it again, and we think you'll like this version.
The "younger days" part of this story starts in the mid-'60s. The kid is 15-year-old Bill Towers. Bill saved up his money until he had $25, which back then, was just the right amount for a set of headers or a manifold, or in Bill's case, an 11- or 12-year-old '55 Ford two-door sedan with no drivetrain. By 1967, he had made the necessary body repairs, and even added a coat of Pine Tree Green paint. With a hopped-up Y-block out of one of his father's Ford race cars under the hood, Bill's '55 was a pretty fast ride for a high school kid's hot rod, "but not fast enough to outrun the new Ford LTD police cars with their 390ci engine," Bill remembers.
The "many years down the road" part of the story begins in the mid-'90s. Bill is in his 40s now, older, wiser, and with a respectable haircut-all the things that come with growing up. But he never shook his interest in cool iron. So when he started thinking about a new project car, he decided to do another '55, similar to his high school ride, but a little better, and maybe a little faster.
The first thing Bill discovered is that in the '90s, he needed a little more than $25 to buy a '55 Ford. This time around, he had to pay $200 for a relatively straight two-door stocker with no drivetrain. The first thing he did when he got the car home was invite all of his friends over to help come up with some ideas for improving the looks of the car, without departing from the traditional design, and without using any parts that couldn't have been found in 1965. The idea was not to duplicate the '55 from Bill's youth, but to build a mild custom that would have been possible in 1965.
Even the best $200 car is going to have a few freckles of rust here and there. When Ram's Rod Shop in Dover, Delaware, was done repairing the sheetmetal, Bill and his friend, Donald Clark, spent nights and weekends building the car into a mild custom. A customer at Ram's contributed a pair of bullet emergency lights from a '59 Cadillac ambulance to the project. For the front, Bill wanted to replace the pot metal extended headlight bezel "eyebrows." Donald came up with the idea of using '55 Chevy eyebrows. This modification suits the car, although Bill says his dad, a true Blue Oval man from way back, never liked the car after that.
It's been almost 40 years since Bill built his first '55, and 10 since this one has been finished, which brings us to the "recapturing the excitement of that earlier ride" part of this story. Bill has spent those 10 years adding more than 10,000 miles to the car, racking up miles all over the East Coast, and collecting awards at shows, such as the All Ford Nats in Carlisle, Lead East, Charlotte, and, most recently, Goodguys Rhinebeck. Probably Bill's two best rewards are the fact that he had a ball building his mild custom, and that whenever he hears those dual Smittys it makes him feel like it's the mid-'60s and he's 16 again.
Bill TowerMilford, Delaware1955 Ford