Spending three glorious days in Scottsdale, Arizona for auction week, you would naturally expect to see about a million Fords. The auctions I attended didn’t disappoint, though if you don’t count Customs, Mustangs and ’55-’57 Thunderbirds, the numbers are a lot smaller. Here are the Ford cars I found the most interesting. I’m planning a separate post on Lincolns and possibly Thunderbirds. Click through to read about 13 classic Fords and Mercurys.
One of the first cars I saw on the first auction I attended was this 1954 Ford Customline 2-door sedan. At Russo and Steele, walking from the entrance to the main car tents, you pass the auction staging area. When I saw this cheerful little Ford in the sun, I said to myself that this is going to be a good week!
The Customline is actually the mid level model in 1954, though it looks pretty basic. The Mainline is the base model and doesn’t have the chrome side strip or chrome window trim. Whitewall tires were available on any model.
On most of these cars, my photos are supplemented by photos taken from the auction house websites.
Here’s a hood-closed photo off the R-S website. The seller states this is a one-family vehicle, which explains why such a modest car was treated to an extensive restoration to stock specs. It doesn’t explain why it is being offered for sale, but maybe that’s why it was a No Sale. They probably didn’t want to sell it cheap or maybe even for market value.
What impressed me about this car was its original 215cid Six and three on the tree transmission. You don’t see a lot of fully restored six cylinder cars from the ’50’s. It even still has 6 volt power, though that probably works fine with the small engine and no accessories. For 1954, Ford replaced the flathead with the new “Y-block” OHV V8 which wasn’t enough to motivate the original buyer to upgrade from the base engine. 1954 was also the first year for ball joint front suspensions.
Another charismatic Ford product from the middle of the decade: a 1955 Mercury Montclair convertible in a really flattering yellow body with yellow and black interior. This restored car sold at Barrett-Jackson for $34,100.
This photo captures the color a bit better. Convertibles were only available in the Montclair series, which was mainly distinguished by the trim around the bottom of the windows surrounding a small area of contrasting color. The black one on this car really pops with the black in the interior. All Mercurys came with a 292cid V8 while Montclairs had a slightly higher 198hp version.
A perennial collector favorite is the 1940 Ford Deluxe. With some of Ford’s most graceful prewar styling, it’s tough not to love this car. It sold for $45,100 at Barrett-Jackson. Convertibles are always cool, but the Coupe was the real looker, of course.
These three things I love: convertibles, maroon and 1949-51 Mercs. Naturally, a ’49 Mercury convertible like this made me stop and look. It went for $34,100 at Barrett-Jackson, which apparently is the standard price for Mercury convertibles (see ’55 above).
You most likely know that for 1949, Ford introduced all new cars (besides engines) from all three divisions and that Mercury moved from the Ford body shell to the Lincoln. You might also know that Mercury only had one trim level on four body styles, including a suicide door sedan and a super cool 2-door metal bodied, wood-trimmed wagon. A 255cid, 110hp flathead V8 was the only engine. They sold really well and earned Mercury sixth place for U.S. sales for the first time while setting a Mercury sales record up to that point.
Convertibles are great, and this restored-to-stock-original-condition example is certainly a sweet car. There’s a good reason why it’s a convertible, though, which you are probably well aware of. The stock ’49-’51 Mercury coupe is an endangered species, since it has been a favorite platform for customizers since the fifties. There certainly weren’t any at the three auctions I attended in Scottsdale. According to the Barrett-Jackson website, out of the 75 ’49-’51 Mercurys sold in all their auctions nationwide in the last 15 years, only 3 have been stock coupes.
Personally, I think 1949 Mercurys and Lincolns are great looking cars, probably my favorite of all the first new postwar designs from all makers. Strangely the Ford has never done much for me. I know the ’49 Ford has a lot of fans, I’m just not one of them. Admittedly,this 1950 Ford Custom convertible at Silver looks pretty good here. As with all the Silver cars, I don’t know if it sold.
An internet photo of these lovely ladies heading for a girls’ night (or day) out in their new Ford might be better to make my point. While the ’49 Ford is a clean design, I think it might actually be too clean. Ford went a step too far in the slab sided look. Every other first generation postwar car that I can think of took an evolutionary approach with the front fenders and hood. Even if they actually had full width bodies, they acknowledged the styling transition period by having a least a slight appearance of separate front fenders with a raised hood and a certain amount of prow from nose to cowl. I also don’t like the center “bullet” grille. It just seems like a kind of ungainly car to me. Other than that, they’re great! My apologies to any ’49 Ford fans out there. Feel free to set me straight.
Not the least bit ungainly, IMO, is a 1956 Ford Fairlane Club Sedan. Appearing meticulously restored, it sold for $39,600.
A few things set this car apart for me. Foremost was the single tone black paint job. Most ’55-’56 Ford sedans that one sees at auctions or car shows are two tone, as well as being hardtops (Club Victoria) or Crown Victorias (large chrome band over B-pillar and roof). This one is a post (Club Sedan) two door, and also doesn’t have the commonly seen rear fender skirts. It all adds up to an unusual and appealing Ford.
A promo photo off the B-J website shows rear fender skirts, so it looks like they come with the car if the new owner prefers them. The Fairlane was the highest trim level for 1956. Presumably wire wheel covers were originally options on the Fairlanes like they were on Thunderbirds. Regardless of whether they are original to this car, I think they look good. They give it a fancy, high-trim appearance to balance the single color, post sedan look.
The car has it’s original engine (according to the seller), which is the 292cid “Thunderbird” V8 good for 202hp. This was the top engine option at the beginning of the model year, though later in the year the 225hp “Thunderbird Special” 312cid engine was available.
1956 was the year Ford first promoted safety with “Lifeguard Design”. All cars came with double-grip door latches, breakaway rearview mirror and deep dish steering wheel with recessed hub. This car has the optional padded dash and front seat belts. The seat belts only cost $9 and were commonly ordered, but Ford’s seatbelt supplier ran out and only 20% of cars got them.
All that safety equipment is important in case the car ends up like this. Don’t know if this car had the seatbelts, but the driver looks like he walked away with just a dirty shirt.
This was scanned from a book called Vintage Car Wrecks by Rusty Herlocher. I love it because it combines two of my interests, EMS and old cars, in one entertaining book.
Ford’s increasing styling flair culminated in the 1957 models, like this Fairlane 500 Sunliner convertible at Russo and Steele which sold for $18,000. This wasn’t the most perfect example ever, but I shot it because I just dig these. Ford really hit a home run, style-wise. Buyers apparently agreed, as Ford beat out Chevy in sales for the first time in at least 20 years. The grille is tasteful, the side spears luscious and the tail fins as perfectly executed as anything in the ‘50’s. Ford screwed the car up for 1958, then recovered a bit of taste for 1959, but neither compares to the ‘57. They went off in new, mostly good directions starting in 1960, making this the pinnacle of ‘50’s styling for Ford, IMO.
I believe Ford’s next high point for styling is represented here in a 1966 Galaxie 500. True, they copied some Pontiac cues, but that’s awfully good material to copy from. The ‘66 revisions on the ‘65 design really worked to make a graceful, athletic looking car. They’d lose that image completely by 1968, when they went all in on the LTD luxury image.
I ran into this car on my first day, at Russo and Steele. I only took one photo as it has aftermarket wheels, driver condition and isn’t very special by Scottsdale standards. Also, the seller describes it as an XL, which it clearly isn’t. Still, it looks really nice in silver and painted black (probably not original) roof.
I was just reading an article in the January issue of Hemmings Muscle Machines before the trip about ’65 generation full size Fords and how they were actually quite well engineered with stiff, solid bodies and stiff, capable chassis. The chassis was well enough regarded that it was used as the basis for many NASCAR racers into the ’80’s. I was hoping I would see a legit stock big-block XL or 7 Litre but never did. This car was a No Sale. Barrett-Jackson did have a mildly hot-rodded ’66 7-Litre which was pretty cool.
Another styling winner in my book is the ‘66-‘67 Fairlane. Obviously, I’m a sucker for pretty much anything with stacked headlights and “coke bottle” sides. I’m also a sucker for ’60’s Fords in dark green. A Deep Moss Green 1967 Fairlane GTA pushes a lot of my buttons, as well as somebody else’s to the tune of $30,800.
The GT was the muscle version of the Fairlane, coming with the top 335hp 390cid V8 in ’66. They made that engine optional in ’67 when a 200hp 289 was standard, though in fairness they did drop the base price by $4! This has the optional 390, as well as the C6 automatic, which made it a GTA (A for automatic). Interestingly, the monster 425hp 427 was not available on the GT, only on the regular Fairlane. This is because that engine was aimed only at competitive drag racers, who didn’t care about trim. Barrett-Jackson did have a 1966 427 Fairlane inside in the glamour tents which sold for $137,500. That’s only $2,884 per additional cubic inch!
At Silver was one of my very favorites of all the cars I saw at the auctions in Scottsdale. It’s a 1966 Mercury S-55 convertible. While I like ’60’s Mercurys, particularly the full sizers, they are not generally at the top of my lists. Built on the same body as Fords since 1961, they are a nice alternative with their own unique styling and interiors. I wouldn’t have thought of this car as one of my favorites before, but seeing it in person made a big impact on me.
The S-55 is the equivalent of the Ford Galaxie 500 7-Litre, coming with the same new 345hp 428cid V8. The base price was actually a couple hundred less than the Ford, though optional front disc brakes that are standard on the 7-litre Ford might account for that.
The wheelbase is 4 inches longer and weighs about 100lb more than the Ford.
As with the Ford 7-Litre and XL, bucket seats and console are standard. It could have either a 4-speed manual or Merc-o-matic C6. I don’t know the numbers, but I’ll bet the 4-speed is a rare beast. All full-size Mercurys had temp, oil and amp gauges, with a tach optional on S-55.
The 428 introduced for 1966 was the last and largest version of the FE engine series first made in 1958. It replaced the 427 as the top engine choice in Mercurys. Its output was not as high as the 427, but was set up more for driveability than power. Mercury called it the Super Marauder. Great name!
The seller stated that this car is mostly original, with original paint, interior and engine. These Firestones may be reproduction, but they definitely look the part. The aura of originality gave this car an irresistible lure for me. If I could afford it, I’d put this car in my garage in a heartbeat.
Silver had another ’66 S-55 convertible available as well. Pretty impressive considering that Mercury only made 669! This one had more work done to it, though the seller still claimed the interior was original. Both cars had perfect, un-cracked transparent plastic steering wheels.
Spinner wire wheels are added on, of course. Not my preference, but not bad looking. Unfortunately, I don’t know if either car sold or for how much since Silver doesn’t have auction results available yet.
Finally, here’s a couple latter day survivors should warm the hearts of many Curbside Classic readers. On the back field at Russo and Steele were an assortment of misfits and oddballs that didn’t fit in with the muscle cars, sports cars and hot rods that are supposed to be the focus of their event, including this 1988 Cougar . It has a 5.0L fuel injected V8 good for 150hp. Not perfect condition, but a well-preserved survivor of a once common car that is rarely seen on the streets any more. It is 31 years old already. You could have taken it home to park on your curb for $2000.
For you Panther lovers, a very clean 2002 Crown Victoria LX Sport was at Silver, which had its own back lot area for misfit vehicles. The LX Sport was made from 2002-2006 as a “performance” package. It had dual exhausts and slightly more powerful (239hp) version of the 4.6L SOHC modular V8, leather bucket seats with center console and floor shifter, upgraded (cop) suspension, body color grill and special 17” wheels with wider tires. It’s somewhat like the 2003-2004 Mercury Marauder, but not as extensively modified as that one was, primarily with its DOHC engine. It looked to be in excellent condition, though I didn’t see the mileage.
Other articles in my Scottsdale 2018 series: