While I was growing up in the Pacific Northwest, my family always had Fords and my dad was a real fan of the Indy 500 race. The year 1953 was important in our home for two reasons: it was Ford's 50th anniversary and Billy Vukovich won the Indy 500! Life was good.
Ford had been given the honor of providing the Official Pace Car for the Indy 500 as part of their advertising program for the 50th anniversary celebration. Ford chose its top-of-the-line Crestline convertible as the Pace Car. The car was painted Pace Car White with a white top, wide whitewall tires on special wire wheels, and special interior paint and fabrics.
Ford produced 2,000 Pace Car replicas for display in dealerships during the May race season. My dad and I saw one of the replicas at our local Ford dealer and for several months thereafter this visit and car were the car topic of discussion.
Many years later as a seasoned corporate gypsy, I bought my first convertible while living in Phoenix, then another convertible after moving to Southern California, and then a third when my wife and I moved to San Jose. Each purchase reminded me of the Ford Pace Car my dad and I saw in the showroom in 1953.
Then while reading the classified section in the San Jose newspaper early in 2002, I noticed a 1953 Ford convertible for sale. The owner was dealing with some health issues and was selling off a few of his cars. The only way he'd sell me the convertible was if I purchased the '53 four-door to go with it. The convertible had been parked without a cover in the seller's backyard. There was no engine or trans. The holes in the top allowed leaves and other droppings to get inside, causing some rust in the floors and lower body panels, but the stainless and chrome pieces were all there. The price was still fair for the two cars so, with $3,000 in hand and a trailer hooked to the truck, I went and completed the deal.
I bought the car because my dad really wanted to buy one in 1953 but in our home, Pacific Northwest weather and convertibles didn't mix well. I had already started working on the car while living in San Jose when my wife and I decided to move back to the Pacific Northwest in early 2003. I left the convertible with Ron Wright and Bob Brink at Campbell Ford Performance so that the basic body modifications and repairs could be done and the new drivetrain installed. When these things were completed I brought the Ford up to Gig Harbor, Washington, so the paint and initial interior could be done.
It didn't take too many years before my wife and I grew homesick for California, so we decided to move back to SoCal in 2007. The convertible made the trip with us and we soon completed the suspension and final interior after Thanksgiving in 2007.
It's been a long time coming but I'm positive my dad would have enjoyed this bright red convertible with the wide whites and wires.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Owner contact info: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gerry & Gail Gamet
1953 Ford Crestline Convertible
No Limit Engineering in San Bernardino, California, took the original frame and updated it with a Mustang II-style IFS with QA1 coilovers and Baer disc brakes. At the rear they added a 3.73:1-geared Ford 9-inch with Baer discs hanging from Posies' Super Slide leaf springs.
It may look mildly stock on the outside but raise the hood and you'll find a '99 Ford 4.6L GT engine looking back. Campbell Ford Performance went through the engine and AOD trans and rebuilt them back to stock specs. The engine cover came off an '02 Explorer and was painted to match its surroundings with silver/gray stripes added for a little extra punch. A custom Mattson brass radiator keeps it running cool.
Wheels & Tires
Thunderbird 15x5 wires have been accented with tri-bar spinners with custom Ford crest emblems and are wrapped in Coker 2 1/2-inch whitewall 215/75R15 radials.
Body & Paint
Gerry was dreaming about a '53 Ford for years, so when it came time to clean up the body he kept it simple and turned it over to Lundy Adkins at Quality Restorations & Street Rods with instructions to highlight Ford's design. The hood, decklid, and doors were nosed, decked, and shaved. The bumpers were smoothed and rechromed along with the stock grille and other trim. The halogen headlights and LED taillights were frenched. Once the body was ready Lundy covered it in PPG Porsche Guards Red.
The interior carries on the mostly-stock-but-modified theme. The original dash still retains the stock gauges (refurbished by Classic Instruments) but has been enhanced with So-Cal Speed Shop knobs, Vintage Air vents, and an enlarged glovebox door (used two doors and it hides the Panasonic stereo head unit and Vintage Air controls). The stock seats were rebuilt with new springs and foam and covered in new vinyl by Armando's Custom Upholstery in San Jacinto, California. A Flaming River tilt column was installed and topped with the original steering wheel which was restored and painted to match the seats.