Fifty years ago, while one segment of society was building and driving hot rods and custom cars, a whole 'nother segment was enjoying its cars in a different way. Gas was cheap, babies were booming, the interstate highway system was brand-new, and for a lot of people, family vacations meant piling into a spacious new station wagon and hitting the road.
Ray and Judy Brown have been using their '57 Ford wagon to blend both of those automotive traditions. Since recently completing the two-year build on this mild custom, the Browns have driven the owner-built car on a 5,000-mile trip across the country and back. We ran into them in the middle of their first big outing, at the Goodguys Nationals in Columbus, Ohio. They'd left Bend, Oregon, with 700 miles on the wagon and driven to Des Moines, Iowa, and continued on to the Nationals in Ohio. A few days later, they'd be back on the road.
Ray started playing with cars when he was in high school. Now that he's retired, he has more time to spend working on them and driving them, and this mild custom was pretty much a one-man project. He said he's always liked the body style of the '57 two-door wagon and had been searching for one for a while, when a friend told him about one only 35 miles away. Not only was it nearby, it was a complete car, minus the engine and transmission. Better yet, it was in pretty good condition and rust-free, so instead of having to spend a lot of time repairing bad stuff, Ray could get busy building good stuff.
He wanted the wagon to look mostly original, but low and long, with a few modifications to set it apart. A front clip from a '69 Camaro contributed to lowering the stance without having to add dropped spindles or cut coils. The only exterior change--replacing the sliding quarter windows with one-piece glass--was an easy way to give the car a longer-looking profile. When he bought the car, it was wearing monochrome black paint with a red interior--a cool color combination maybe, but not right for the resto custom theme Ray had in mind. He remembered that most of the '57 wagons he'd seen were two-toned, so he changed the paint and upholstery to a more nostalgic combination. Since he and Judy would be spending a lot of time in the car, Ray wanted some creature comforts such as air and audio, but he didn't want to fight the character of the car and was careful to keep the modifications low-key. He used the same strategy in the engine compartment, keeping it simple. His goal was to keep it "no frills" and to make it look like the Chevy small-block and underhood accessories belonged there.
It's been a few months since we met the Browns in Ohio, and we suspect they have been accumulating some miles in the '57 Ford. Another show season is right around the corner, so who knows where they'll turn up next.
Rod & Custom Feature Car
Owner contact info: email@example.com
Ray & Judy Brown Bend, Oregon
1957 Ford Two-Door Ranch Wagon
From the firewall forward, the stock Ford frontend was replaced with a '69 Camaro clip including spindles, springs, antiroll bar, steering box, and drum brakes. The stock 9-inch rearend with 3.50:1 gears was retained, along with stock springs and brakes, plus Monroe air shocks. The original fuel tank was replaced with a new stock 20-gallon tank.
Some paint on the finned air cleaner cover and valve covers are about as flashy as it gets under the hood. Ray bought the car minus an engine and transmission and filled the empty engine compartment with a Chevy 350 right out of the crate from GM. The small-block is fed by an Edelbrock 600-cfm carb on an Edelbrock Performer intake. Stock Chevy ram horn exhaust manifolds and 2-inch exhaust pipes are quieted by a pair of 22-inch Smithy's mufflers. The 700-R4 AOD gearbox was put together at Swan's Automotive in Bend.
Wheels & Tires
The tires are BFGoodrich Premier Touring radials, P205/65R15 and P215/70R15. The rims are from Wheel Vintiques' 62 Series of OE-style steelies, 15x6 in front and 15x7 in back. They've been painted to match the green body color and dressed up with rings and stock '57 Ford hubcaps.
Body & Paint
Ray wasn't about to make any cuts to the body style he has liked for so long. Except for the stance, the solid rear quarter glass (which replaces the factory sliding windows), and a pair of outside mirrors from a '55 Chevy, the body remains unmodified. After straightening all that sheetmetal, Ray delivered the car to Gary Tandy in Bend, who covered it with DuPont SpectraMaster green and white--protected by a clearcoat.
In keeping with the overall look of the wagon, Ray chose to keep the interior looking close to stock, with a few updated accessories. Red Hot Interiors in Bend covered the seats in green and white vinyl using a LeBaron Bonney kit to replicate the original look. Juliano's seatbelts, an Old Air Products air conditioning system, and a JVC stereo were installed before hitting the road. Controls for the A/C are underneath the dash, along with a Stewart Warner Wings oil pressure gauge and voltmeter. The pedals are from Lokar, and the Billet Specialties Classic steering wheel turns a Chevy tilt steering column.