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'49 Ford lived a tough life

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Back in the mid '50s, this Ford convertible was considered a mild custom. The car was nosed and decked. That is to say that all the chrome and handles were removed from the hood and trunk lid, and all the holes were filled in to create a smooth, uncluttered appearance. The taillamps were frenched, which means the chrome rims were removed, and the lenses were slightly recessed. Bumper guards, front and back, were removed to clean up the lines.

This is me at age 21 alongside my custom Ford. I am now 71, so I guess 50 years have gone by since I had this little custom.


The stock '49 Ford grille was removed and replaced with a '53 Olds grille bar. The stock '49 grille had a notch that extended up into the hood. To get rid of the notch, J.C. Whitney offered a bit that had a patch panel to fill in the "V" in the hood and a chrome piece to fill in the top grille bar.

Another custom touch that was common at the time was the twin spotlights that were always turned down. Michigan had a law back then where you could have a right-hand spotlight, but it had to be non-functional.


A car this cool had to sound right, so dual pipes were added with Smitty steel-pack mufflers. Smittys had a sound all their own. I can still remember on hot summer nights cruising the back roads near my home in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with the top down and the pipes barking.

The rear view shows the shaved trunk lid and frenched taillamps. Also a common touch for the period was the twin rear-mounted antennae.


The car was in good mechanical condition. It was painted a powder blue with a white top. Not a bad set of wheels for a farm boy from Iron River, Mich. Now, a car that looked like this would not have been that uncommon in L.A. or even Chicago, but in Iron River, it was a real show stopper.

While I was in the Navy, I used the car to go home on the weekends from North Chicago (Great Lakes), Ill. It was more than 600 miles round trip, and the car never let me down.


One night late in 1956, I was rear-ended in the Chicago area by an inattentive driver. As the photo shows, it did a number on my car. That's my mother with a downcast look at what had happened to my convertible.

The convertible after being rear-ended in the Chicago area. My mother appears depressed by the sight of the car.


About this time, I received a set of orders from the Navy transferring me to San Francisco. Since I didn't have time to get the car repaired, I sold it to a Navy friend of mine, who was also from Iron River. He found a rear clip from a '51 Ford convertible. Although I never saw the car after he repaired it, he said it came out real nice. He was transferred to a ship out of Norfolk, Va. While he was at sea, the car was stolen from the enlisted men's parking lot. The police recovered the car, which was a completely stripped and burned-out hulk. What a sad end for such a nice little convertible.

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