The custom world may, at times, center on the almighty-chopped 1949-51 Mercury, but it by no means revolves around that particular marque. Whether by nature of affordability (or lack thereof), availability, or simply personal preference—much like the Deuce to the brethren hot rodders—many of us, including myself, initially embark upon and often continue with Ford's same-era offering, aka the Shoebox.
Though he was first introduced to customs and lowriders back during his '80s high school tenure in East L.A., it wasn't until just a few years ago that Art Quesada found himself with his very own 1950 Ford project.
"My senior year in high school, my girlfriend's dad had a clean 1950 Shoebox. After letting us drive it to the prom, I knew that was the car I had to own … a custom, of course, just the way [adolescent influence] 'Crazy Art' Fullington told me it was like back in the day," Art reflects.
Despite now being an Oklahoman transplant, Art's dream car showed its not-so-ugly face back in his home state of California. As he recalls, "After what seemed a lifetime, I was finally in the position to think about buying a car. My pop told me his neighbor, former San Diego Chargers player Zeke Moreno, had a car in his garage under a bunch of boxes that he was thinking of selling … it was a 1950 shoebox, customized in the lowrider/bomb style by J&V Auto in Chula Vista back in the '80s. It was still in very nice condition … the interior was done in navy blue and white tuck 'n' roll. It was unchopped and had glossy dark blue paint with ghost flames; had a custom visor, dummy spotlights, lakes pipes, skirts, and the original three-on-the-tree Flathead." That was just the very beginning.
"Pop negotiated a price and we bought the Ford. Shortly after, I had it shipped here to Ardmore, Oklahoma. I drove the car around a while and quickly learned how high maintenance the old Flathead was…wasn't going to work for me. The first thing on the list was to make it more driveable and dependable. In the spirit of keeping it all Ford, I purchased a used 302 and AOD.
"During the whole process, I researched shoebox threads on the HAMB, where I immediately discovered that if you needed shoebox parts, Shoebox Chris from Shoebox Central in Oklahoma City (Shoebox-Central.com) was the man. Luckily, Chris was only an hour and a half away … he eventually ended up on my speed dial!"
As Art previously mentioned, the sedan wasn't chopped during its '80s custom/lowrider makeover. That's something else that apparently wasn't going to work for him. "Via the HAMB, I also met Gregg Eighmy, who had just finished his beautiful 1951 Ford, featured in R&C. After seeing his car in person at the Lonestar Round Up, I knew I had to chop my perfectly nice car, and he recommended and introduced me to Jeff Myers of Premier Auto Body in Ark City, Kansas. Jeff agreed to take on the project, working with my 'less is more' approach on the chop. Along with getting a hand from Ian Berky cutting, setting, and tacking the roof, he totally hit it out of the park … in my mind [the chop] was perfect."
From there, Art's sedan went back to Shoebox Central, where it got "everything from suspension parts to a new front bumper to every and anything in between." And from there, it was off for final bodywork and paint, which Ardmore locals Kim Spering and Chris Frasher handled, respectively.
"A few days after paint, without interior and only front and back glass in, I bolted the front seat in and drove 300 miles down to Austin, Texas, where Mercury Charley was hosting Gene Winfield's metal fabrication class and the Hot Rod Honeys car show. It was the perfect reliability run and the perfect time to semi-reveal the car, which drove perfect down the road at 70 mph. My face hurt from smiling so much from all the thumbs up! Lo and behold, I was honored to receive Winfield's pick at the show. From there on, I know that if Gene approved of it, good things are to come."
Rod & Custom Feature Car
1950 Ford Sedan
Residing on its stock frame, the Shoebox has been treated to the following upgrades: Fatman dropped spindles with lowered coils up front; a Ford 9-inch tucked up into the frame via C-notch and 3-inch lowering blocks out back. Shoebox Central provided replacement steering and braking (drum all around) components.
As Art detailed in the feature, the old "three-on-the-tree Flathead" just wasn't cutting it for him, so with the help of B&D Hot Rods (Ardmore, OK) he upgraded the forward two-thirds of the powertrain with a small-block 302 (built by Douglas Machine) and AOD trans, keeping everything all Blue Oval, thanks to the aforementioned 9-inch rearend.
Wheels & Tires
Stock 15x5 steels wheels all around wear Firestone Deluxe Champion bias-ply whitewalls from Coker Tire; full-disc and bullet adorn the fronts, while Foxcraft skirts conceal the rear.
Body & Paint
Doesn't take much to properly customize a Shoebox Ford … that is, if you don't consider chopping the top "much" effort?! Jeff Myers (Premier Auto Body, Ark City, KS) aptly handled the lid lowering with assistance from SoCal's Ian Berky. Other notable body mods include frenched Merc headlight rings and custom taillights, shaved handles and trim, nosed hood, and decked trunk. Stock exterior items are courtesy of Shoebox Central. Final bodywork performed by Kim Spering (Ardmore, OK) and PPG Porsche Aqua Blue applied by Chris Frasher at CFDesign (Ardmore, OK).
The one area Art's left intact from the Shoebox's previous life is the blue and white tuck 'n' roll vinyl upholstery, which serves well, complementing the similarly colored exterior.