Curbside Classic: 1965 Ford Custom – The End Of The Stripper Tudor Era

Let’s celebrate Two-Door Sedan Day with this 1965 Ford Custom two-door (“Tudor” in old-time Ford-speak). It’s the perfect bookend to the ground-breaking 1965 Ford LTD too; not only is it the very lowest man in the full-sized Ford totem pole, but it’s exactly the kind of American car that the LTD soon abolished from the (non-fleet) market. It was the victim of the perpetual ratcheting up of the name hierarchy, ironic since the Custom itself was once at the top of the pecking order. That’s ok; even the LTD would eventually fall by the wayside, superseded by something more grandiose. But it wasn’t just the name alone; the whole full-sized two-door sedan era was drawing to a close.

The first Ford Custom appeared in 1949, with the all new models that year. Ford had already depreciated the old regular Ford, Deluxe and Super Deluxe hierarchy, and decided to start with a clean slate: Standard and Custom. Of course, that wouldn’t last, as it never does.

By 1952, the Crestline Series pushed the Custom back into second place. That was a short run at the top. 1954′s Fairlane bucked the Crestline out altogether.  And by 1957, eight years after its arrival at the top, the Custom now slid into low-man status, as the Fairlane 500 pushed everyone down, the Mainline right off the edge.

With the Galaxie’s arrival in 1959, the plain Custom was now the next victim, being replaced by the ever-so slightly more prestigious Custom 300. In 1962, things get odder yet. With the arrival of the new mid-sized Fairlane, Ford kills the strippers, and the lowliest big Ford is a Galaxie sedan. Not exactly luxurious, but still with carpets on the floor unlike the rubber-matted Custom.

That lasted all of one year, and in 1963 a “300″ appears for those just needing to have those black rubber floors. By 1964, order is restored, sort of, as the Custom and the new Custom 500 settle into the new pecking order that would now actually last longer than usual.

1972 would mark the last year for the un-numbered Custom, and the last Custom 500 would be found on the 1977 models. It was all LTD, all the time, until that uppity Crown Victoria showed up in 1980. Of course, that CV wasn’t a new name, having graced some top-line hardtops in the mid-fifties. And by 1991, the LTD too was tossed overboard by the CV. For some reason, that never sat well with me; the LTD name should have stayed right to the bitter end.

Back to this Custom, the cheapest big Ford that year. It listed for $2313 ($16,862 in 2013 dollars); the elusive stripper $9,999 Nissan Versa of its time. Just to put the Ford hierarchy in perspective, here are the prices of the four-doors up the whole line: Custom: $2366; Custom 500: $2518; Galaxie 500: $2678; LTD: $3313. The LTD did have a standard 289 V8 and automatic; the rest all started with the 240 (yea!!) six and three-speed manual. Power steering and brakes, automatic, and god forbid A/C and electric windows were all optional. So just who bought a Custom two-door anyway?

The four-door was obviously bought by Police and taxi fleets and such, which explains why it outsold the Tudor two-door two-to-one. Misers, one assumes. My Dad made a tradition of such choices, although never anything as large as a full-sized car, God forbid, despite having four children.

I remember climbing into the back of full-sized two-doors like this; kinda’ odd really, to then suddenly find yourself in such a roomy rear seat. So it was in the olden days.

Ford 1969 Custom 2 door

Now since we’re prattling away on the Custom’s history, how about the Ford two-door sedan’s? 1969 was the last year for the full-size  two-door sedans. Since the 1970 Fords were only slightly refreshed using the same body, the Custom Two Door must have died in 1969 of natural causes: not enough interest. These just screamed “flintskin” or “fleet”. And even the fleets were done with them. If memory serves my right, Chevy and Plymouth pulled the plug that same year too. The end of the Tudor era coincided with the beginning of the Bougham Epoch.

I like this particular Custom a lot, despite being the kind of car I loathed as a kid. Needs dog dish hubcaps, though. It’ almost endless tail has a bit of rakish uptilt, and sports a Hurst floor-shift conversion for the three-speed manual that backs the 289 (4.7 L) V8. Simple, plain, rugged, easy to fix, no problem finding upholstery for that. It’s the sedan counterpart to my ’66 F-100. I’ll bet it has manual steering and brakes. Even the brake drums are the same; and in stock at the parts store too. How many fifty year-old cars can say that? Someone will end up with a keeper (don’t call though; that was a while back; it’s long gone).