Curbside Classic: 1950 Ford Custom Deluxe Convertible – The Car That Saved Ford the Second Time

In spite of its heroics producing B-24 bombers, Jeeps, tanks, trucks and lots of other hardware, Ford Motor Company was in tough shape during and after World War II, losing money at a rate of $9 million a month, $1.5 billion a year in today’s value. After the war FoMoCo was in third place behind GM and Chrysler. Something had to be done to save the company. Just as the hit 1928 Model A saved Ford from hanging onto the Model T too long, the all-new 1949-1951 Fords saved the day for a revitalized Ford. This 1950 convertible is a sweet example.

After his son Edsel died in 1943, Henry resumed formal control of the company he’d been running his way all along. At age 78, suffering from heart and mental problems, he was in no shape to run a major industrial corporation, and heavy losses proved it. But Henry wouldn’t let go. In a dramatic showdown, Henry’s wife and daughter-in-law threatened to sell their shares, half the company, if Henry didn’t step down. Finally he let go and in September, 1945, his grandson and Edsel’s son, Henry Ford II, took over as president.

In 1946 Ernest Breech from Bendix Aviation and before that GM was put in charge of operations, and Charles “Tex” Thornton, Robert McNamara and the rest of the “Whiz Kids” team from the Air Force were put in charge of planning. They took on the task of developing an all-new Ford. In the meantime production Fords, like this ’48, were just a continuation of the 1941 car, with some features like a solid front axle that dated back to the Model T. Sales in 1948 were way behind Chevy, and Ford nearly ended up in third after Plymouth.

The 1949 Ford was a radical break from the past. Its sleek “shoebox” style, without protruding fenders and hood, was completely modern, a full generation ahead of the new ’49 Chevy and Plymouth. The front grille’s nozzle evoked a jet fighter. The new Ford was mechanically modern too, with a ladder frame (X-type in the convertible), independent coil spring front suspension, and Hotchkiss drive directly to the rear leaf springs instead of the old torque tube. It weighed 250 pounds less than the ’48 and was three inches lower, on the same wheelbase and length. Those parking lights were new for 1950.

That “8” in the center of the grille indicates the 239 cubic inch Flathead V8 is under the hood. In ’49 the flathead got slightly higher 6.8:1 compression, and revised cooling and ignition systems. It was rated at 100 horsepower and 180 lb.-ft. torque.

I especially love this Custom convertible’s clean lines, long chrome streak and factory fender skirts. Just the right size and just the right shape, this had to have been the coolest ride of 1950.

The Ford’s interior is spacious and simple, with wide bench seats and a stylish steering wheel badge and chrome trimmed speedometer.

1950 saw the debut of Ford’s red, white and blue heraldic crest that was used through the fifties. According to the company it was “derived by Ford stylists from an authentic coat of arms which dates back to 18th century England.”

Tom McCahill raved about these Fords in this Mechanix Illustrated road test. “Today Ford is really out front, and by miles!” “Ford is again the King of the low-priced field.”

The new Fords certainly did their job and put Ford back into solid success. Ford sold 1.1 million cars in 1949, two-and-a-half times more cars than 1948, and pulling ahead of Chevy for the #1 spot. This 1950 Ford sold even more, 1.2 million, and over its three year run a total of 3.3 million shoebox Fords were sold. I’ve always particularly loved them. As Tom said, “It’s class, brother!”