The hunt for a 1950s Crown Victoria pays off for city man
By: Larry D’Argis
In 1949, the introduction of the first new Ford model following the Second World War created a firestorm in the automobile industry.
The slab-sided, shoebox Ford was a radical departure from previous models and helped Ford regain much-needed market share.
From ’49 to ’51 they sold millions of vehicles including a new Victoria hardtop model making its debut in 1951. For 1952 Ford would be on the cutting edge with another all-new design, incorporating modern style, one-piece front windshields and power options never seen on low-priced cars. 1955 saw another total redesign, that continued with the longer, lower and wider theme, but also the introduction of the new Fairlane line.
The top-of-the-line Fairlane came in six models, including the new Crown Victoria model. A two-door coupe, it featured a swept back, rakish roofline and stainless-steel mouldings that flow over the roof both inside and out. Inspired by styling cues from previous Ford show cars, the tiara basket handle gave the car a look like no other on the road. Also available on the Crown Victoria was the Skyliner option. A green Plexiglas panel turned the forward portion of the roof into a panoramic view of the sky above. All very forward-thinking and in keeping with the jet age, it showed Ford’s commitment to bringing leading edge design to the masses.
For David Denby of Winnipeg, Fords have always been his vehicle of choice. From his early stock-car racing days, to his now collectible phase, the blue oval is a product he truly believes in. While he owns a rare vintage ’57 Ford Skyliner retractable hardtop and a 2007 Mustang, it’s his quest for an early Crown Victoria in 2010, that literally had him seeing double.
“I was dealing with a car collector in Lake Havasu, Nevada, on a turquoise and white 1955 Crown Victoria,” says Denby. An original rust-free Nevada car, Denby waited for the vehicle photos to arrive in the mail and after looking them over, he contacted the owner to complete the deal, only to find the car had already been sold.
“The hunt was on again and I found a real nice black and white, original Dallas, Texas, Crown Victoria a widow had for sale in St. Louis, Missouri,” says Denby. After completing the deal Denby waited patiently for the car to arrive. A week later, while the car from Missouri was still in transit, he received a call from the seller of the first car in Nevada, explaining that the deal fell through and the car was back up for sale.
“I didn’t really know what to do, but my wife, Susan, who’s always been supportive of my car hobby, said, “buy them both and figure out which one you want to keep and sell the other,” says Denby. With that, Crown Victoria number 2 was purchased and on its way to Fargo, N.D.
Shipping from Nevada to Fargo instead of direct to Winnipeg saved $800 and gave Denby a chance to drive the car to Winnipeg. The trip was uneventful, as the Crown Victoria drove like a new car. Once home, and with the other Crown Victoria delivered, Denby found he was very happy with his first choice and decided on keeping the turquoise-and-white car he had driven from Fargo and offered the other car for sale locally.
An original rust-free Nevada car that has only received one repaint, is equipped with a rebuilt 292-cubic-inch V-8, dual exhaust and three-speed manual overdrive transmission.
The overdrive feature allows for sprightly performance in city driving situations and reduced engine wear and improved fuel economy on the highway. Factory options include tinted glass, windshield washers, back-up lamps, stainless rocker mouldings, four-way power seat and a push-button AM radio.
Since acquiring the car, Denby has touched up the paint and modified the original AM radio to accept a modern FM digital unit. For the rolling stock, the original fender skirts and wheelcovers have been replaced with new five-spoke aluminum wheels with tri-bar spinners and Goodyear radial tires.
Denby, a member of the Manitoba Street Rod Association since 2003, intends to keep his Crown Victoria as a summer driver and for taking in the occasional show.
The 1955 Crown Victoria proved to be a popular model, with 33,165 built, along with an additional 1,999 equipped with the Skyliner transparent-roof option.
Today the Crown Victoria models produced from 1955-56 rate highly as collector vehicles, and because of their popularity they often command premium values. With reproduction parts in good supply a restoration is possible, but finding a rust-free, collision-free vehicle to start with will be a challenge.