Rod & Custom Feature Car
1951 Ford Victoria
It's not too often—more like, hardly ever—that "high performance" and "customs" go hand-in-hand. And when I say performance, I'm not just referring to a Holley double-pumper or a set of Flowmasters; I'm talking "burn the treads off horsepower", which is precisely what led me to Manny Figueroa's nasty '51 Vicky this past summer.
After returning from the Ventura Nationals, I somehow found myself socially active (aka, Instagram'n) looking at pics of everything I'd just seen—that is, everything I'd thought I'd seen. Not long into my IG session, I come across this video: Manny Figueroa laying down the meanest burnout I'd ever seen … in a custom! Not but a few seconds later—after viewing the video clip more than once, of course—I was on the horn to my ace shooter, Tim Sutton, with a simple request: "Get that Shoebox!"
Manny's Vicky is more than just a 500hp Windsor-driven custom. Manny recounts not only how/why the '51 came about, but how it almost came to be a … thing of the past.
"The [Ford] was a trade that was originally made by my father, Angel, about 30 years ago. Some guy in a neighboring town was in need of a backhoe bucket or some tractor parts, but didn't have any funds, except for this project car that was sitting on the side of his house, the Vicky. As a kid I could see her potential, but didn't have the patience.
"Later, I had a '55 F-100 that had a 351 Cleveland with a C-6 transmission that I thought was fast. Then came a '66 Mustang, which started out as a street car but eventually became a championship car that ran in the Pacific Street Car Association. After racing for about seven years straight and winning a couple of championships, and the economy affecting our family business, I decided that I better do something that didn't require thousands of dollars every year just to try and keep up with the competition. So, in 2007, I decided to bring the Victoria back from the dead.
"The '51 had been sitting out in the high desert on our property, along with a collection of other old Fords that my father had gathered up over the years. Someone had started cutting up the Vicky by attempting to put a Y-block in her; they cut all the steering arms to go under the oil pan and had hacked up the inner fenderwells. So, my first major purchase was a Fatman front stub and an air-ride kit, along with a ShockWave-equipped four-link (something Manny intends to swap out for standard 'bags later on). Originally, I had 205/75R15 radials on the rear because they drive and ride much better than bias-plies. Problem was, I couldn't stand the way they looked. The 2 1/2-inch whitewalls are too ‘millennium'; nothing can take the place of a 4.25-inch Goodyear—the biggest 670-15 there is. After I finally got the stance the way I wanted, I started changing other things I wasn't happy with.
"The stock 351 Windsor, built by Eddings Engine Rebuilding in San Fernando [California], backed with a performance AOD, never had any problems—hence the word ‘stock'. After driving her around for a few years, racking up around 10,000 miles, I felt it was time for some power. In 2011, I built a 414 Windsor, which has more torque, that I copied from another combo that makes 500 hp. Once I got the engine and torque converter figured out, it was ready for body and paint, which I originally did trade for candy brandywine and black with a heavy red pearl. As soon as it was color-sanded and buffed, it went straight to upholstery, which took about two months.
"The Vicky finally together—fresh paint, slick interior, laid pipe, and hauled ass. So, on the way home from the upholstery shop, I took the long way home … you know, to show her off. I hit a little traffic on the 101 freeway going through Newbury Park, so I decided to get off and take the frontage road—which is when things took a turn for the worse, literally. An unlicensed driver made a left, cutting across stopped traffic, ultimately totaling the front end of the '51. The first thought that went through my head was, ‘Why couldn't I have been driving my Ford F-250?!' Thankfully, I had good insurance; I had the Vicky towed to Mike's Autobody, where damages totaled $20,000. Unfortunately, no matter what you do in a case like this, things are never going to be the same, except for the labor itself. Mike's made sure I was happy with the finished product.
"All in all, I built the Vicky to drive her, and if that means another accident occurs, I will fix her again … if it's physically possible, that is. I don't consider her a show car, but merely a presentable piece of history brought back to life in my style. She's also a continual work in progress—next stop, Noble Fabrication this winter for a 3-inch chop!"