Back in the very early ’90s (yeah, ancient history, I know …) I had what was in essence my first real custom: VWs, more specifically Cal-look Bugs; ’60s Chevys with wire wheels and a lowered ’76 Datsun pickup with Porsche 356 hubcaps don’t count. And though I’d end up parting with it too quickly and for the wrong reasons, I would never have imagined that chopped ’49 Ford sedan turning out to be such a pivotal part of my life at the time. Despite being unfinished and powered by a Flathead that barely got me to WCK’s old Los Banos show (13-plus hours each way from SoCal), that little shoebox that could did. Among numerous things, most importantly it landed me this job, but also, it united me with a group of like-minded custom guys in Orange County—the Lonely Kings, a small but dedicated club with a unique variety of members ranging from musicians to tattoo artists. At that time, unlike today, you didn’t need a pocket reference guide to identify all the younger-based clubs through a sea of wool fingertip coats and freshly cast plaques. Even though they’ve been defunct for quite some time now, you’ll still see a car or two wearing a Lonely Kings plaque every once in a while—and if it wasn’t mine, chances are, it was one of Robert Lomas’, whose chopped ’34 coupe you may recall gracing the cover of R&C not so long ago. Stunning as it was, that car didn’t bring back all the good club memories like his latest does—and not just because it’s a shoebox, though it does help. Robert’s ’51 Vicky embodies the sole type of car that you’d have seen 20 years ago rolling into Johnnies Broiler with a Lonely Kings plaque perched in the package tray or dangling off the rear bumper. Well, as you can see, some things never change, and for Robert, that would be his true passion for mild customs.
“In 2003, my friend called me to find out if I was interested in purchasing a car that he had inherited. He knew it was a ’51 Ford but didn’t know what type of body style it was. I thought to myself that I didn’t want another shoebox Ford since I’ve owned several of those in the past. Persuading myself to look at the car, I thought that maybe it could be an old custom, so I decided to go look at it. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a Victoria hardtop, which I have never owned before. When I first looked inside the car, it was as if time had stopped. Blue chip stamps were still on the seat, cigarette butts were still in the ashtray, and bobby pins were on the floor. I purchased the car, took it home, and began to read through the car’s paperwork history. I found out that I was the car’s third owner and that the car had been parked and unregistered since 1967. The car’s second owner was a woman who purchased it in 1955 for $250. She owned the car until she died in 2003.
“Once I got it home I thought I could get it running, lower it, and drive it as is, but once I started on the engine I found out it had a hole in a piston. From this point I figured I would put a 302 in it and continue with what I originally planned to get it running and drive it as is. I began to clean up the inside of the car and upholstery, but it was just tearing and too brittle. The outside was another problem—I pressure washed it and layers of cheap paintjobs started peeling off revealing all the different colors that lay beneath. The chrome was all bad and the wiring was poor. After making attempts to repair multiple problems and removing the front clip, the entire project got pushed aside for four years. I attempted to sell it a few times, but it was too large of a project for those potential buyers.
“I have owned several custom shoebox Fords in the past, but I had a different look in mind for this one. I wanted a mild custom consisting of a bull-nosed hood, Appleton 552 spotlights, tuck ’n’ roll upholstery, and lowered with skirts. Really loving the body style, I committed myself to finishing it. I gave myself a deadline of one year to complete it. I don’t like working with deadlines, but that was the only way I would complete it. I knew I wanted to update the running gear, so I installed a small-block Ford 302 with a C4 transmission by fabricating my own engine and transmission mounts. I retained the original radiator and had Gonzalo at Guzman Radiators re-core it and block off two water outlets.
“I took care of all the body repairs and did all the painting. I color-matched the factory paint, which was a single-stage metallic, but this time around I applied DuPont two-stage, and that enhanced the metallic that much more. For the interior I knew I wanted a real ’50s touch with the pleated upholstery. I decided to match the car’s dark forest green dash and the cream white top.
“Once the car was completed, I entered it in the Grand National Roadster Show in 2010 and took First Place in its class. Winning that award was very rewarding, but the most rewarding was bringing back to life another old Ford that would have otherwise continued rotting in that same yard where it had sat for 40 years.”
Rolling Down Memory Lane In Robert Lomas’ ’51 Ford