Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Low-Priced Luxury and Performance
Text and Photos by David W. Temple
The full-sized Fords were introduced to the public on September 29, 1961 and appeared completely different than the 1961 models thanks to new sheet metal, grille, taillights, trim, and bumpers. They were slightly shorter, narrower, lower and even quieter than their predecessors. The interior was not exempted from fresh styling either. More horsepower was offered, too. Such model year updates were the norm for the time.
Still there were more than these typical updates that made Ford’s 1962 model year even more different than the prior one. A couple of body styles were dropped with these being the Starliner noted for its thin arching rear roof pillars and matching curved backlight. It was considered aerodynamic at the time and was certainly more so than the Thunderbird-inspired boxy roofline included on all closed non-wagon models. Also lost this year was the two-door wagon. Another major alteration was the redirection of the Fairlane and Fairlane 500 nameplates which had represented the bottom and mid-range of the hierarchy in past model years. Those monikers went to a newly created mid-size or “senior compact” line to fill the void between the big Fords and the compact Falcon. The lineup went from three levels to just two with the Galaxie (or Galaxie 100 as it was referenced in some literature) and the Galaxie 500.
Also new was the Galaxie 500/XL introduced at mid-year. It was aimed at the emerging youth market composed of those who were seeking sporty attributes in their cars – a market niche clearly revealed with the success of Chevy’s Corvair Monza equipped with bucket seats.
Furthermore, additional horsepower was made available in the form of the “M-series” 390 and a pair of 406-cid V8s.
The model year began with 12 models divided among the Galaxie, Galaxie 500, and station wagon lines. In the low-priced series, Galaxie, were two body styles – the two-door Club Sedan and four-door Town Sedan. Standard equipment for the Galaxie Club Sedan (like the one shown on these pages) and Town Sedan included bright-metal body trim on the beltline, hood lip, body sides, lower C-pillars, windshield, side and back windows, and rear edge of trunk lid. The model name appeared in script on the front fenders and in block-style letters on the lower trunk lid. Other standard features were cigarette lighter, glove box lock, front and rear armrests, rear coat hooks, dome light, rayon-nylon carpeting, front seat belt anchors, two sunvisors, combination cloth and vinyl upholstery, dot-pattern cloth headliner (replaced with the Galaxie 500 style vinyl later in the year), fiber mat trunk floor covering, single-speed electric windshield wipers, 7.50x14 black sidewall tires, 3.56:1 rear axle ratio, three-speed manual transmission, and the 223 cid “Mileage-Maker” six-cylinder engine.
Buying a Galaxie 500 added more equipment – backup lights, an electric clock, and four-ply tires – as well as additional bright-metal trim. The flashy 500/XL versions had bucket seats, console, all-vinyl upholstery with soft Mylar accents, special door panels also with Mylar trim, bright-metal trimmed pedal pads, color-keyed heater housing, special horn ring, the 292 V8, Cruise-O-Matic transmission, plus special identification on the quarters, C-pillars, and fuel filler door.
A plethora of options and accessories were offered so the buyer could custom-tailor their car to their taste. SelectAire Conditioner with the combination air conditioning and heater/defroster, chrome engine dress-up kit, power brakes, power steering (except for high-performance V8s), power windows, heater delete (with credit), bumper guards, outside rear view mirrors, heavy-duty suspension, heavy-duty rear axle, “Equa-Lock” differential, rear fender shields (skirts), tinted glass, two-speed electric windshield wipers, remote trunk lid release, AM-radio, rear-mounted antenna, tissue dispenser, etc.
A total of 13 Diamond Lustre Enamels were offered for single-tone paint schemes while the two-tone option (not offered on Country Squires) provided the buyer with 21 standard choices. Single tone colors for 1962 were Raven Black, Corinthian White, Rangoon Red, Baffin Blue, Viking Blue, Peacock Blue, Oxford Blue, Castilian Gold, Silver Moss, Ming Green, Sandshell Beige, Heritage Burgundy, and Chestnut. The latter color, however, was limited to the Galaxie 500 and 500/XL series.
Upholstery for the low-priced Galaxie was basketweave-pattern nylon cloth inserts sewn to bolsters of leather-grained vinyl with chrome Mylar highlights. Six standard color schemes were offered including red and white as seen here.
The six-cylinder and well as the V8s (292, 352, 390, and 390 Police Interceptor) from 1961 were carried forward. Added to the engine choices for the full-size Fords (except wagons) were the Q-code and M-code 390s. Both were discontinued for the big Fords by about January. (The M-code 390 in detuned form became a Thunderbird option.) Both engines were similar to the 1961 high performance 390s, but had a half-point higher compression ratio – 11.1:1. As in 1961, the 401 hp V8 featured a tri-carb intake with three Holley two-barrels. Peak horsepower arrived at 6,000 rpm and the torque rating was advertised as 430 ft-lb at 3,500 rpm.
The departure of the high-performance 390s was not a loss for enthusiasts; these engines were replaced with the new “Thunderbird 406 High-Performance V-8” (code B) and the “Thunderbird 406 Super High-Performance V-8” (code G). Neither was ever officially listed as being available for station wagon models. Also, despite what the marketing lingo implied the engine was not offered for the Thunderbird either. The “High-Performance” version was equipped with a four-barrel carb while the “Super High-Performance” 406 had a 3x2-bbl. setup. Horsepower ratings were 385 and 405 respectively with both figures being reached at 5,800 rpm. An increase of .08-inch in the bore of the 390 accounted for the extra 16 cubic inches. The 406s had thicker walls, new flat-top pistons and connecting rods which were stronger, and larger exhaust valves than the 390 (1.625 inches vs. 1.560). Compression was 10.9:1 in both versions. Other features included cast aluminum intake, header type exhausts, and solid lifters. Unfortunately, cross-bolted mains were not included originally. Main bearing and crankshaft failures were common occurrences after running for 300-400 miles on the race track with the two-bolt arrangement. By spring, blocks with four-bolt mains (the center three) and higher strength main bearing webs were in production.
Another feature of the cars equipped with a 406 was the inclusion of 15-inch wheels and nylon tires. The two stainless steel wheel cover designs offered on cars with 14-inch wheels did not fit. To have a wheel cover available for the 15-inch wheels, Ford went with a retro choice – those from the 1956 Mercury were reissued, but they were slightly modified with the addition of a three-bar spinner. At mid-year another choice was added; it, too, was a reach back into the past. The 1956 Victoria and Thunderbird wheel cover became an option.
The 406 was of course the subject of much interest among those writing for the various automotive publications. Car Life reported in their March 1962 edition, “There’s a new formula around FoMoCo these days and the magic word is performance. The formula goes like this: Take one Galaxie, add the ‘500’ trim details, drop in a 405-bhp powerplant, and bolt on a 4-speed all-synchro transmission. The net result of this concoction is bound to be startling…” Their test car “would romp up to 6000 rpm in each of the 4 gears so fast that it would literally make our head swim… The ‘full-race’ engine is a little more noticeable than a ‘stocker’ – a slight bit of extra noise and rumble, a little rough on idle – but the average person getting innocently into the car for the first time wouldn’t notice anything different… Of course the engine at wide open throttle turns from a lamb into a tiger. There is a power roar that becomes nearly a scream as the revolutions approach 6000.” The writer of the report estimated top speed to be over 150 mph “under favorable circumstances and with proper gears.” The 4,210 pound test car reached 0-40 mph in 4.1 seconds; 0-60 in 7 seconds flat; 0-100 in 18.6 seconds. Standing quarter-mile result was 15.3 seconds at 93 mph. Hot Rod magazine’s drivers did even better. Their 0-60 time was a full half-second faster with a quarter-mile time of 15 seconds at 95 mph. Clearly, the 406 offered tremendous performance.
Transmissions available with the 406 were the heavy-duty three-speed column shift (standard issue) with overdrive being an option as well as the extra-cost four-speed. Another option with the three-speed was a floor-mounted shifter. An automatic was not offered for either 406 (nor had it been for the discontinued high-performance 390s). Beyond the high horsepower engine and the Borg-Warner T-10 transmission, the buyer of a 406 Galaxie, Galaxie 500, or Galaxie 500/XL received heavy-duty shocks and springs.
Despite the new 406 V8s, the year 1962 was not a good one for Ford’s factory-back racing activities. In addition to the engine failures encountered during the early part of the race season, formal roofed Pontiacs were getting 465 hp from their 421 and setting record speeds. Plymouths were downsized and powered with the 413. Chevrolet grafted the 1961 bubble top roof to the Bel Air for 1962 and ran with the 409. The additional horsepower provided by the new 406 was not enough to overcome the drag of the T-Bird roofline which was estimated to reduce top speed by three miles per hour on Galaxie 500s being raced on the super-speedways.
In all, Ford took just six super-speedway wins – the least of any other make. At least in USAC competition where the speeds were lower, Ford had ten wins which tied Pontiac’s total. A Ford driven by Curtis Turner won the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb. The following year, however, would bring much improved results in NASCAR competition.
Ford did not have any greater success on the drag racing circuit. Pontiacs and Chevys had big wins in NHRA competition. Dave Strickler driving a 409-powered Bel Air “bubbletop” eliminated the remaining Fords to reach the finals.
A total of 704,775 full-sized Fords were built for the model year which was nearly 87,000 units lower than in 1961. However, the drop was more than offset by production of the new Fairlane series as well as by the compact Falcon.
Among the over 700,000 big Fords built for 1962 was this Galaxie Club Sedan powered by the B-code 406 4-bbl. and four-speed. At the time this restored musclecar was photographed it was owned by Mike Patak, owner of Mike’s Classic Cars in Blair, Nebraska. Mike is a Ford enthusiast with a fine collection of full-sized Fords and Mustangs
(Special note: This article was excerpted from the author’s book, Full Size Fords: 1955-1970, published by S-A Design.)
1962 Ford Galaxie Club Sedan
Base Price: $2,453
Engine: 406cid V8
Bore and Stroke: 4.13x3.78 in.
Carburetion: Holley four-barrel
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Wheelbase: 119 inchesProduction: 54,930
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Text and Photography by David W. Temple
As the World War II drew to a close, poorly managed Ford Motor Company was in financial trouble which was a great concern not only to the Ford family, but to the U. S. Government as well; the government had major war contracts at stake. To rescue the company from certain oblivion, Navy Secretary Frank Knox (with President Franklin Roosevelt’s approval) ordered Henry Ford II’s early discharge from the Navy so that he could take control of the company. The board of directors instated 26 year old Henry Ford II as executive vice-president on January 23, 1944. The elder HF was reluctant to step down, but at the insistence of his wife, Clara, he resigned from the presidency on September 20, 1945, leaving the way open for his son to assume the presidency the following day.
The new president quickly found he was in over his head and knew he needed to surround himself with skilled managers and designers. With the internal corporate turmoil and the war at an end, Ford Motor Company’s stylists and engineers went to work on the design of their first completely new postwar car which became available for model year 1949. Its basic design remained in use through 1951. During this period the company’s first coil spring front suspension with parallel leaf spring rear suspension became the standard, thus replacing the archaic transverse leaf springs used front and rear in the previous years. Following archrival Chevrolet’s lead in the low-price market, Ford offered their first hardtop, dubbed Victoria, for ’51 just about one year after Chevy’s Bel Air and additionally the company’s first automatic transmission, the Ford-O-Matic, became available. There was much change for the better at FoMoCo and there was more to come.
After selling approximately three-million copies of the initial postwar offering, Ford unleashed a new lower, longer, wider body design to serve for the next three-year span. For ‘52, Ford expanded their lineup of cars from four to five. Replacing the Deluxe and Custom Deluxe six- and eight-cylinder series were the Mainline, Customline, and Crestline all of which were offered in six- and eight-cylinder tune with the exception of the latter which was available only with the flathead V8. Eleven body styles were divided among these ranks. “Ford’s first with the newest!,” Ford advertising proudly proclaimed as they introduced their first overhead-valve inline six-cylinder called “Mileage Maker;” it provided 101 horsepower at 3,500 rpm and displaced 215 cubic inches. Their ads further boasted of the Ford’s 115-inch wheelbase (up one inch from the previous version), suspended pedals (as opposed to the pedals linked through floor pan cut-outs used up until then which eventually lead to drafts and dust), and of their 110hp flathead “Strato Star” V8 which was an engine design that was actually twenty years old.
Surprisingly, the new six-cylinder proved to be almost as potent as the venerable old flathead. The Mileage Maker had a slightly higher horsepower per cubic inch ratio than the Strato Star V8 and proved notably faster in 0-60 sprints. However, Ford engineers had already designed an all-new V8, but Lincoln got it first before it trickled down to Ford two years later.
The succeeding year brought only mild revisions which included an updated grille, trunk ornamentation, tail lights, hubcaps and wheel covers, as well as side trim on the upscale models. Body style choices now numbered nine and prices for each model rose marginally, however, this was of little concern to most Americans. By this point two car households had started to become the norm and Ford made note of this trend in their ads by mentioning that 400,000 families owned two Fords. Many of these were station wagons. In fact, nearly 116,000 were built for the 1953 model year. According to Byron Olsen, author of Station Wagons, the station wagon “had become an established body type offered by most low- and medium-cost auto manufacturers. Ford remained the leader and would lead station wagon sales into the 1980s…”
With the design of the 1952-54 station wagons, Ford abandoned the use of structural wood used throughout the body type’s existence. Nearly all auto makers had switched to all-steel body station wagons by 1953. Wood remained in use as trim in conjunction Dinoc decal inserts produced by 3M to simulate the look of structural wood for the all-steel body, woody-look station wagon model through ’53; afterwards, the wood trim was replaced by the new wonder material, fiberglass.
In addition to the use of fiberglass for use as faux wood, the ‘54 model year brought other trim updates as well as new color choices (such as Highland Green, the color of our feature car), but more importantly the Y-block replaced the aging, though popular, flathead. The overhead-valve engine displacing 239 cubic inches in typical passenger car applications provided more horsepower and torque, plus improved fuel efficiency. Incidentally, Ford police cars received a 160hp 256 cid Interceptor that could provide a top speed in excess of 100mph. The “Mileage Maker” six-cylinder received an enlarged bore size that raised displacement from 215 to 223 cubic inches and upped output to 115hp @ 3,900rpm. This engine was added to the Crestline series which previously only came with a V8. Another significant enhancement was ball joint front suspension which represented a first in the low price field.
A new instrument panel with an “Astra-Dome” speedometer was yet another update given to the 1954 rendition of this body style. The speedometer’s semicircular glass dial had numerals illuminated in the daytime by light passing through the transparent hood behind it. At night the dial face received illumination from beneath by hidden light bulbs.
In addition to the above alterations, some body types were eliminated and others added. For instance the four-door, six-passenger station wagon in the Crestline series for ’54 was replaced with an eight-passenger version and the two-door club coupe was deleted from the Mainline group. Standard equipment for the latter consisted of the inline six, three-speed manual shift transmission, 3.90:1 rear axle ratio, rubber window moldings, horn button in place of the horn ring used in the upper series, one armrest, and one sun visor with the latter two being located on the driver’s side of course. The most expensive models comprised the more luxurious Crestline V8 series with the uppermost priced examples being the new two-door Skyliner with its tinted transparent roof insert, the Sunliner convertible, and the Country Squire station wagon with faux wood panels. Both the Skyliner and Sunliner were priced at $2,241 while the Country Squire required a payment of $2,415 in base form.
A partial list of optional equipment for all models included overdrive, Ford-O-Matic, power steering, power brakes, radio, rear mounted antenna, heater/defroster, turn signals, electric clock, and whitewall tires. One more option, power windows, was offered exclusively for the Customline and Crestline models. Dealer installed accessories included spotlights, outside rear view mirrors, and continental kit. All these features were said to make Ford’s station wagons “Worth more when you buy it… Worth more when you sell it.”
Despite the new V8 and instrument panel plus the myriad options and accessories Ford offered, its perennial rival, Chevrolet, managed to nudge ahead in the sales race late that year and claimed 17,453 more Chevys were sold by the end of the model year. At the time, some speculated Chevrolet had inflated its sales numbers by getting its dealers to register inventory that had not actually been sold.
The car seen here, a 1954 Ford Mainline Ranch Wagon, was owned by a Tyler, Texas resident at the time it was photographed. The owner handled nearly all of the restoration chores, but hired a professional body shop to apply the paint.
During the body-off-frame restoration, the floors were replaced with rust-free sheet metal from a Customline four-door sedan parts donor which coincidentally also had a very nice dash painted the correct color for his green station wagon. Only the dirt had to be removed from it to make it fresh again so it – instrumentation and all – was transplanted to the project car.
Today, more car collectors are restoring and preserving station wagons, thus they are definitely worth more as FoMoCo’s ads claimed about their ’54 line of wagons.
1954 Ford Mainline Ranch Wagon
Base Price: $2,106
Engine: 239 V8
Bore and Stroke: 3.50x3.10 in.
Carburetion: Single Holley 2-bbl.
Ignition System: 6-Volt
Transmission: 3-speed manual
Wheelbase: 115 inches
Weight: 3,459 lbs.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Text and Photos by David W. Temple
Ford’s truck series became much more modern with the introduction of a newly redesigned F-Series line for 1953. The F-Series which began in 1948 as the F-1, F-2, F-3, F-4, etc., were updated to become (among others) the F-100, F-250, and F-350 which were the respective designations for the ½-ton, ¾-ton, and the one ton versions in the so-called light-duty category. The F-250 actually replaced both the old F-2 and F-3 trucks. These light-duty trucks were joined by a number of heavy-duty types including cab-over engine versions. Ford’s trucks could be had with a regular bed, stake bed, or even without a bed for those needing to install a specially constructed cargo carrier. A panel truck was also offered. One other vehicle included in the truck group, was the passenger car-based Courier which was a sedan delivery vehicle having very little in common with the F-Series.
Of the 1953-56 models, the ’56 rendition was the most modern in appearance. A wraparound windshield (a styling craze originally introduced by General Motors) finally made it to Ford’s truck line, though it did appear the prior model year on their all-new passenger car line including the Thunderbird. The wraparound windshield forced a reshaping of the 1953-55 cab and doors. Ford’s truck literature boasted of the ease of entry and exit with doors “almost a yard wide.”
The new wraparound windshield was not just for the front; a desirable option for a ‘56 Ford truck was the wraparound rear window. When this feature was ordered, bright moldings were added to all windows. The standard rear window measured a bit over four feet, thus leaving wide pillars at the rear of the cab. The optional wraparound glass of 824 square inches certainly improved rearward visibility.
Other updates that freshened the styling of the F-Series for ‘56 included a new grille, “frenched” headlights, a dashboard similar to the passenger car line, and a 12-volt electrical system replaced the 6-volt system. This model year, running boards were painted to match the body instead of being painted black. Other changes improved upon handling qualities as well as aiding driver and passenger comfort. Ford’s designers concentrated on styling and comfort for the first time when designing the original F-Series and expanded on those aims with the new series; their ads expressed this approach with the marketing term, “Driverized.” This year also marked the first use of tubeless tires on all Ford light-duty trucks.
Another extra-cost option was the Custom Cab. Unless the Custom Cab was ordered, the grille, headlight and parking lamp bodies were painted Colonial White by the factory rather than being chrome plated. The Custom Cab option included the chrome-plated grille, bright metal molding around the windshield, key locks on both doors, side-mounted spare tire carrier, red or copper-tone vinyl seat bolster and facings, foam-rubber filled seat, headliner, sound deadener on the floor and rear cab panels, fiberglass insulation in the firewall, left armrest, twin sun visors, cigar lighter, and dome light.
Earlier inline six-cylinder and V8 engines continued to be offered for the 1956 F-100. The overhead valve six displaced 223 cubic inches and provided 133hp at 4,000rpm. A one-barrel carburetor fed the fuel/air mixture to the cylinders. The optional V-8 was of the Y-block family first available in Fords for the 1954 model year and in its original form it displaced 239 cubic inches – the same as the flathead it had replaced. To emphasize the new Y-block design, Ford’s truck literature called the eight-cylinder engine the “Y-8.” To keep up with the horsepower race of the times, displacement of the Y-block quickly grew to 272 cubic inches for the trucks (though passenger cars could be bought with the 292 or the 312 cid V-8s). The optional 272 gave the owner 167hp at 4,400rpm as well as increased torque. With either engine, the three-speed manual column-shifted transmission was standard. However, five transmission options were offered for the ’56 Ford pickup truck. These were comprised of three helical gear type Synchro-Silent manual three-speed versions subdivided into the standard issue type, a medium-duty version, and one with overdrive. A four-speed Synchro-Silent manual and a Fordomatic two-speed automatic were also offered.
The 1956 Ford F-100 illustrated here is owned by a resident of Westlake, Texas. The truck has been in the family since the owner’s grandfather purchased it new in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His grandfather used the truck for everyday transportation including hunting trips to Wyoming and Montana. The owner has fond memories of joining his grandfather on some of those hunting adventures.
In 1997, the truck was given as a gift and a restoration shop in West Texas was soon hired to perform a total restoration on it. Most readers are probably familiar with the occasional restoration shop horror story and this project soon became one of those. The owner who manages a business had little time to keep an eye on the process, but trusted the shop to do the job right. Unfortunately, patch panels for the cab were poorly installed, the original engine block was dropped from the engine stand, parts were lost, etc.; this was over a four-year period.
When the poor work was discovered, the pieces were packed up, taken away from the restoration facility, and a search for another restoration shop started. This search led to R&R Restoration in Longview, Texas. Over a two-year period they corrected the mistakes of the past and restored the family heirloom to better than new condition and to appear as it did almost from day one. As previously mentioned, the running boards for ’56 pickups were originally body color, but are black instead of Diamond Blue on the pictured truck. Within a week or two of purchasing the F-100, the grandfather had a minor mishap which left one of the running boards damaged. The running board was replaced and painted black; the other one was painted to match. At the time of the accident, black paint was readily available and therefore offered a quicker and less costly repair. Black was maintained for the running boards because this is the way it has appeared since his earliest days. The restoration included a replacement engine since the original block was seriously damaged when it was dropped, another cab to replace the poorly patched original unit, as well as some modifications to make it more comfortable and safer to operate for many years of fond recollections and new memories for the owner’s entire family.
Thanks to its styling and “driverized” design, the 1953-56 Ford F-Series trucks were extremely popular when new and remain so today with collectors.
1956 Ford F-100 ½-Ton
Base Price: $1,485
Bore & Stroke: 3.62x3.60 in.
Compression Ratio: 7.8:1
Carburetor: Holley 1-bbl.
Torque: 202 ft.-lb.@1,600-2,600rpm
Transmission: 3-speed manual
Wheelbase: 110 in.
Tire size: 6.70 x 15
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
Chronology of a Failure
Text and Photography by David W. Temple
|At the time this 1957 Mk. II was photographed it had traveled only 62,700 miles|
From the start, the Continental Mark II was doomed to failure by a combination of unreasonable expectations, high cost, and bad timing. This was an ignominy for such a well-crafted and beautiful car for which much effort was expended over several years. The origins of the Mark II can be found even before the final run of the original Continental which debuted as a prototype in 1939 and finally as a production car from 1940 to 1948. Its end can be seen in photographs of a clay model named Mark III Berline.
The man responsible for the prestigious Continental, Edsel Ford, died in May of 1943, which left the future of the model in doubt. Edsel’s untimely death led to the departure of a number of talented people who worked under him. Edsel’s father, Henry, had little interest in his son’s work. Furthermore, World War II had to be won before a full scale effort could once again be the focus of Ford Motor Company which was turning out B-24s, the Jeep, armored personnel carriers, etc. As the war drew to a close, poorly managed FoMoCo was in financial trouble which was a great concern not only to the Ford family, but to the U. S. Government as well; the government had major war contracts at stake. To rescue the company from certain oblivion, Navy Secretary Frank Knox (with President Franklin Roosevelt’s approval) ordered Henry Ford II’s early discharge from the Navy so that he could take control of the company. The board of directors instated 26-year old Henry Ford II as executive vice-president on January 23, 1944. The elder HF was reluctant to resign, but at the insistence of his wife, Clara, he resigned from the presidency on September 20, 1945, leaving the way open for his son to assume the presidency the following day.
The new president quickly found he was in over his head and knew he needed to surround himself with skilled managers and designers. With the internal corporate turmoil and the war at an end, a new Continental could now at least be given some serious consideration. During 1945, stylist Bill Schmidt sketched a design that resembled a mid-50s Nash in front and a ‘40s Continental in back; the proposal also featured cut down doors. Apparently, Schmidt’s Continental never got any further than the paper stage. Another attempt – a proposal for a 1949 model – reached the clay model stage, but the car was considered to awkward looking to go into production. The efforts continued, though.
One of the early hires of Henry Ford II was Ernie Breech. Breech had served as an executive at General Motors and HF II hired him to serve as executive vice president for his company. Breech realized Ford Motor Co. needed experienced design talent so he asked independent stylist George Walker and some of his key people – Joe Oros and Elwood Engle – to serve Ford as long term design consultants. Breech also managed to bring in some GM engineers as well which lead to the hiring of George Snyder. Snyder had been working on an advanced design when he left Oldsmobile which he brought with him when he came to Ford. The advanced concept became another attempt at a new Continental. Advanced is certainly the proper term for the car as time would later prove because it looked more like something from the early to mid-60s. In fact, one of its prominent features showed up on the 1965 Mustang – the indented fake scoops. The concept was regarded as spectacular, but much too advanced for the time. Nevertheless, the desire to revive the Continental stayed strong, thus another proposal followed.
|Attention to detail is abundantly evident throughout the Mk. II|
On January 10, 1952, the Continental 195X made its debut at the Chicago Auto Show. Much interest was shown in the nonfunctional vehicle by those who saw it and for a time it seemed as though the 195X would serve as the basis for the hoped for Continental Mk. II. The following year, the 195X received upgrades and a drivetrain to make it fully functional. The car which was originally named X-100 got the designation back by the time it was ready for the show circuit again. During the time the car was being made operable, a committee (dubbed the Davis Committee) recommended to Henry Ford II that a low volume luxury car be produced; in other words build the Continental. At this point, a survey of prominent people across the country was made. They were shown various drawings of proposed Continentals and the vast majority preferred something called the “modern formal” rather than the 195X. This discovery lead to that car being renamed the X-100 because it was no longer being considered for the Continental program. Finally, FoMoCo executives and designers had something to develop into the long sought prestige car.
The Davis committee’s findings lead to the creation of the Special Products Division which later became the Continental Division in 1955. (Incidentally, the committee also recommended what became the Edsel.) The independent division needed managers, stylists, and engineers. William Clay Ford occupied the top spot while John Reinhart and Harley Copp headed styling and engineering respectively. Gordon Beuhrig (of Cord 810/812 fame) was the chief body engineer. The Continental Division had all the right people in the right places. Their task was to create an American version of the Rolls Royce. Initially, the car was to be a prestige flagship which was not expected to make money, but rather embellish the image of Ford Motor Company. Along the way, the purpose changed. The division was required to make a profit almost from the start – an unreasonable goal and helped to doom the luxury marque to extinction. To make a profit, the Continental Division would have needed to have sold about 10,000 Mark IIs per year over a four year period at $10,000 each. The need to make a profit with the Mark II stemmed from the decision to go public with FoMoCo stock for 1956. Ernie Breech did not believe going to the first stockholder’s meeting with a Ford division loosing money was in the company’s best interest; this belief likely sealed the fate of the Mark II.
During the design phase, the cost is no object approach gave way to reality. Early on in the program a V-12 was considered, but rejected on budget considerations. Developing an entirely new V-12 engine would have added enormous cost to the project. The Lincoln 368 was chosen; it received only cosmetic changes to differentiate it from the lower level Lincolns. However, the 368 was a new engine, plus it was the most powerful ever offered for a Lincoln, therefore it was not a bad compromise for the Continental. Furthermore, each engine was machined to higher tolerances than those for Lincolns, dynamometer tested, and dismantled for inspection before going into a Continental.
A new chassis on a 126-inch wheelbase with a “cowbelly” frame to keep the car within a low overall height of 58 inches was designed for the “American Rolls Royce.” Other special features included extra attention to the fit and finish. Great care was taken in making certain all body panels were aligned to near perfection. The painting process involved a surface seal coat, a primer coat, water sanding by hand, another surfacer coat, another water sanding by hand, baking, followed by two lacquer color coats, oil sanding, which in turn was followed by two more color coats of lacquer which were baked, hand buffed and polished. Chrome plating exceeded SAE specifications. Even nuts and bolts received special attention. The pursuit of perfection meant the price tag expected to be around $7500-$8000 was far from accurate. The originally projected price was stratospheric for the time, but the actual price of about $10,000 was astronomical.
|A 300hp 368 cid V-8 was standard.|
The price of the two-door hardtop Mark II meant that a planned Mark II retractable was deleted from production plans. The added expense of such a model would only increase the price well beyond $10,000. The retractable program which got as far as a functional prototype cost nearly two million dollars to develop. Luckily for Ford Motor Co., the steel retractable roof proved to be adaptable to the 1957 Fords being planned at the time, thus it was transferred to that program. Amortizing the cost of the retractable program with the Mark II production would have meant even greater losses; as it was, Ford lost $1000 on every one sold. Most of the Mark IIs had to be discounted to around $8500 in order to sell them.
Despite the termination of the retractable model, Ford contracted Derham Coachworks to construct three Mark II convertibles from factory stock; the order was later trimmed to just one. The car was first displayed at the Texas State Fair in Oct. of 1956, but by then the handwriting was on the wall for the Mark II. Sales were dismal; less than 3,000 Mark IIs were built for ‘56 and ‘57, before the plug was pulled on the operation in May of 1957. The Continental Division was being absorbed by Lincoln well before that point.
Another factor in the demise of the Mark II, was the decision to build the new 1958 Lincolns as unibody cars. In early 1955, work commenced on the Mark III Berline, a chauffeur driven model. A little over a year later it was very apparent the Continental division was in trouble. However, there were last gasp efforts to save the car. Styling studio chief John Najjar asked one of the stylist to update a Mark II with stacked headlights; the car was proposed as a continuation of the Mark II for 1958. There was no interest in it. There was consideration given to building the Mark III Berline along with the new Lincoln line, but the costs associated with tooling for the two different cars was simply too high. However, Ernie Breech recognized the Mark III Berline was a better looking car than the planned Lincoln and wondered if it should become the new Lincoln for 1958 instead. He wondered too late. Much of the tooling had already been developed for the new unibody Lincolns; they had gone beyond the point of no return. These final efforts placed the final period in the saga of the classy Mark II.
The Lincoln Continental Mark III, IV, and V models that followed were not much more than badge engineered versions of the lower echelon Capri and Premiere series. The sales of the 1958-60 Lincolns were poor, as well, and the cars were forgotten by the time a true follow-on to the Mark II appeared in 1968, as a Mark III.
The Mark IIs are not forgotten, though. They are prized possessions of collectors lucky enough to own one. The 1957 model pictured here was owned by a Grand Rapids, Michigan resident and a Lincoln & Continental Owners Club member at the time it was photographed several years ago. The car was photographed at the club’s national meet in St. Louis in September 2000 shortly after it had received a total repaint. Then it had logged only 62,700 miles and retained its original upholstery. The long list of standard equipment for Mark II meant the options list was a short one; this one has the extra-cost air conditioning.
The Mark II was a failure where it counted the most as far as Ford Motor Company was concerned. Collectors have a different view – what a fabulous car this failure is. The Mark II’s timeless elegance and graceful lines is what is meaningful today.
1957 Continental Mk. II
Base price: $9,966*
Engine: 368cid V8
Bore and Stroke: 4.00 x 3.65 inches
Carburetion: Carter 4-bbl.
Transmission: Turbo-Drive two-speed automatic
Wheelbase: 126 inches
*Most had to be substantially discounted in order to sell them.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
The Sky's the Limit
Text and Photography by David W. Temple
By the late-30s, Ford Motor Company found itself with a $500 price gap between its most expensive Ford and its cheapest Lincoln. There was a medium price market to fill and Mercury was the one to do it. Pontiac, Oldsmobile, Dodge, DeSoto, Hudson, and Studebaker already had entries in this market. In Roman mythology, Mercury was the swift messenger of the gods as well as the god of commerce and travel. His powers included the ability to change anything to gold; FoMoCo hoped their new Mercury would prove to be a golden opportunity for the company. The decision was a good one; approximately 150,000 of the inaugural 1939-40 models were sold. Sales went up from there in the forties and fifties.
During the fifties, stylists were quite adventurous with their ideas; a “sky is the limit” attitude prevailed. Bubble top designs were often seen in their sketches and show cars – especially at Ford. The bubbletop idea led to two new FoMoCo models for 1954 – the Ford Crestline Skyliner and the Mercury Monterey Sun Valley. Neither model was tremendously successful in terms on production for Ford Motor Company, but they served their purpose by creating publicity and bringing traffic into the showrooms. Ford’s Skyliner brought 13,344 sales while the more expensive Mercury Sun Valley received only 9,761 orders.
The Sun Valley models are uncommon finds today which makes them a standout at car shows, but other than having a plexiglass roof insert, they are the same as other two-door hardtop models in the Mercury line-up which were sold in greater numbers. Unfortunately for restorers, many components were not shared between the Ford and Mercury of the 1952-54 period, plus further complicating matters is that the 1954s had several one year only components. Being different means getting noticed, but it also brings some extra challenges.
EXTERNAL PARTS INTERCHANGE
Most of the ‘54 Mercury body panels are not an area of great difficulty for the restorer. The front fenders are alike on ‘53 and ‘54 models. If fenders are needed, be sure to check for rust in the head light area. Many cars of the ‘50s were prone to rust formation in this region and the Mercury is no exception. (The rockers, floors, and quarter panels need to be inspected, too.) The doors and quarters interchange on like models without much alteration needed on the 52-54 Mercs. There are trim variations, thus holes may need to be drilled or filled as required. The most significant problem on the ‘54 body involves the quarter panels which incorporated unique tail lights. Should an entire panel from a ‘52 or ‘53 be used as a replacement, the rearmost portion of a 1954 panel would need to be grafted in place. (One bit of luck for the restorer is that the tail and backup light lenses are reproduced for these cars.) The hoods on the ‘52, ‘53, and ‘54 Mercs are all different in some way, so each of these is unique panels. The air deflector (the panel above the grille where the hood latch is mounted) does not interchange either. If a prospective restoration project needs body panel replacements it will make for a very expensive restoration. Cutting, welding, hammering, and stretching sheet metal is time consuming and, if farmed out to a professional, expensive. Fit and finish on the 1952-54s was not as good as on subsequent Mercurys, thus more time is needed for panel straightening and aligning panels.
The Sun Valley does not share its plexiglass panel with any of the 54-56 Ford Skyliners, or the 1955 Sun Valley. The plexiglass crazes under long term exposure to ultraviolet light, therefore, for the best appearance it must be replaced during a restoration. The problem with this is that these are not reproduced for the ‘54s and new obsolete stock must be found; if one is going for a 100 point restoration this is the only choice. At least the plexiglass inserts can still be found with some patient hunting.
Other unique exterior parts include the bumpers, some side moldings, and emblems. None of the moldings is reproduced.
The sole powerplant for the 1954 Mercurys was a the new Y-block with a displacement of 256 cubic inches; no six cylinders engines were offered. Ford’s version of the Y-block measured 239 cubic inches. (Incidentally, the Y-block name resulted from the frontal cross sectional view which has a Y shape.) The old flathead V-8 powered the 1952-53 Mercs. The change to the updated engine brought with it several other alterations including a new radiator and core support.
Also adding difficulty to a restoration is that many 256 V-8s tended to wear out a bit early. Many were replaced with a more powerful and improved 272, 292, or 312. These were bored out Y-blocks first used in Fords between from 1955 to 1957; the 292 was employed in passenger cars through 1962, and on trucks through 1964. If one locates a project car, chances are it will have one of these engines. When one looks at the situation from the perspective of the late-50s or early-60s, it makes sense that a 1954 Mercury owner would select an easier to obtain and more powerful replacement; in the case of a 312, as much as eighty extra horses could be had. If a 256 is still in place, finding overhaul parts will be more difficult than is typical for other Y-blocks. As if there is not already enough complicating matters, there is the issue of single and dual exhausts on the 256. A single exhaust was standard and the most common on these, but duals were offered at extra cost. When duals were ordered, a different mounting bracket for the neutral start switch was installed to make room for the left side exhaust manifold. (Single exhaust cars employed another type of left side manifold which presented no clearance problem.) This fact must also be considered if an engine swap is to be performed since the larger Y-blocks had larger exhaust manifolds. Even though the 256 was part of the Y-block family it did not share many components with its later variants. The most obvious external differences are the crankshaft pulley (which had no vibration damper due to its short stroke), fuel pump, thermostat housing, water pump, timing cover, and water bypass tube and hose. The lack of a vibration damper means a spacing difference for the fan pulley as compared to those later engines that have the damper; the 1954 generator and power steering brackets do not align on the newer, longer stroke Y-blocks. An upgrade to a later engine will necessitate the use of all the accessory drive components for that engine instead of those on the 256.
If the restorer is faced with the restoration of one of these Mercurys then a choice regarding the engine will likely need to be made regarding originality or practicality. Based on the above information, choosing originality will be the more difficult and, therefore, the most expensive route. Substituting a later Y-block will be simpler, but of course not quite authentic. The latter option, however, is not a bad one since only an expert will be able to detect the alteration due to the simple fact that a 256 is a Y-block, too. Only subtle differences are present and few will ever notice them. For instance, the fan will be about a half-inch closer to the radiator due to the presence of the vibration damper. Unless the restorer is a hard-core perfectionist, then do not let authenticity be a major concern if engine replacement is needed. Of course if the restorer is lucky enough to find a car with a good 256 there is no reason to do an engine swap.
If an engine switch is the route selected then another choice must be made – 272, 292, or 312. The 272 and 292 will be a little easier in terms of parts hunting and a bit less costly while the 312 offers more horsepower (the 1957 version offers the best performance). There are two problems associated with the 312 in terms of parts availability. A rope seal will need to be used for the rear seal because no one yet reproduces the original equipment rubber split-lip seal – a two-piece component. The main bearings are not the same as on the smaller Y-blocks and are much more expensive than those for the 272 and 292. Another consideration is that there were passenger car and truck versions of the Y-block. The most notable variation between the two involves the heads; compression and valve sizes differ. Truck engines had a lower compression ratio and smaller valves, thus lower horsepower. If the restorer is faced with needing heads, make sure the casting numbers on each head match. Simply put, make certain a matched pair is obtained. Matching parts is actually good advice for the entire drivetrain. For instance, if, for example, a 1955 model 272 is to be installed, use a 1955 or newer torque converter and bell housing in the case of an automatic equipped car. The ‘54 torque converter and bell housing are smaller than subsequent versions. Simply stated, the ‘54 engine has significant unique characteristics and if using the original engine, don’t mix components from newer models. The reverse is true as well; don’t use ‘54 components on a newer Y-block. This applies to the distributor, too. The 1954-56 distributors have an all vacuum advance while the ‘57 and up employed a combination vacuum/mechanical advance. The combination of a ‘57 carb and ‘54 distributor would provide for poor performance. If a 1957 model carb is used then install a ‘57-’62 distributor. (A bit of trivia that could prove useful is that the distributor from a Lincoln/Mercury 368 V-8 fits the Y-block although the drive gear does not interchange between the two.) For further information on rebuilding a Y-block engine see the resources section for publications on the subject.
An automatic transmission was an extra-cost option even on the more upscale Mercury; standard issue was the three-speed, column shifted manual. The Ford-O-Matic and Merc-O-Matic were virtually identical for the ‘54 models, but for 1955, the flywheel and torque converter were changed. Incidentally, the rear axles on the Ford and Mercury were shared components.
For ‘54, Mercury as well as Ford adopted ball joints for the front suspension. Lincoln made the switch two years earlier. Again this complicates matters for the restorer. The switch to ball joints necessitated a change to the frame from the firewall forward and forced the use of modified inner fenders which represents one more case of 1954-only pieces. The Lincoln, Mercury, and Ford parts are different from one another, too. The restorer does get a break here, though – the newer 1955-56 Ford front suspension and brakes can be adapted to fit. Using the spindles, backing plates, drums, wheel cylinders, wheel bearings, and brake shoes from the ‘55-’56 Fords is an easy switch and provides improved braking. The change is not easily seen either which is an advantage to those concerned with car show competition.
The electrical systems for the 52-54 Mercurys are not alike; therefore, instrumentation does not interchange. (Furthermore the dashes are different making instrument interchange impossible anyway.) A switch from the stock 6-volt system to a 12-volt arrangement is strongly recommended. Starting is easier and 12-volt batteries are much more common. If the change is made then it will be necessary to use a resistor on the gages to drop the voltage from twelve to six. Also, the ammeter will read backward with a 12-volt setup unless the wire is run through the metal supporting loops in the opposite direction. A new wiring harness is recommended as well since the originals used rubber for insulation; after more than four decades the rubber will very likely be rotted. Short circuits have accounted for the destruction of many cars over the years including vintage ones. Better safe than sorry. New wiring harnesses employ more durable vinyl insulation.
As already mentioned, the dash on the ‘54 Mercury is unique. The steering wheel usually cracked over time and most likely will require restoration. A do-it-yourself kit is available through Eastwood Company. The kit includes a two part PC-7 epoxy and a 20-page booklet detailing the steps involved. Professional services can be employed, too, but expect to pay plenty. Check listings in magazines such as Hemmings Motor News for information on this.
Upholstery for these cars was originally produced by U.S. Rubber (now Uniroyal). The headliner and door panel material for these cars was also used by General Motors in ‘55 and ‘56, and at least for some colors, is currently reproduced. The seat material, though, is not. The grain for the seat vinyl is different than that on the door panels. One must settle for something that is a close match, or seek NOS material.
THE FEATURE CAR
The feature car was owned by a resident of Mineral Wells, Texas at the time it was photographed by the author. As of that time, this Sun Valley had undergone two partial restorations – the first in 1983, and the latest in 1998.
The history of this Mercury is unknown up until about 1983, when a dealer in Cleburne, Texas, purchased it. The car sat in long-term, indoor storage without being driven, however, which led to some cosmetic decay of the vehicle. The paint cracked and the chrome deteriorated. However, the Merc-O-Matic transmission survived the long storage surprisingly well; no new seals were required.
Much work was still necessary, however. The car was repainted, the bumpers replated, weatherstrip around the doors was replaced, all hoses were replaced including those for the brakes, the gas tank cleaned and sealed, exhaust system replaced, new tires installed, carb, radiator, and main bearings replaced, power window motors received new gears (same as those on the Ford), and upholstery for the front seat was replaced with a close match.