Sunday, December 23, 2012


A couple of posts back, I wrote about Henry Ford and my self-diagnosed status as a bit of a "Ford man," based on my abiding love of a handful of Ford cars, including the (justifiably famous) Mustang and GT40, but also the Custom that they introduced in 1949 and sold with small modifications for three years after that. I don't know why I developed this fondness for the Custom, except that - in the context of its time - it was a somewhat sleek, simple, attractive car that didn't have the proportions of a battle cruiser or an excess of chrome and post-deco protuberance. Not as striking as, say, the Nash Rambler from around the same time, but a good-looking, middle-of-the-road car for the emerging middle classes in the post-war era.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I was looking through some old family photos and came across this:

That's the house I grew up in when it was brand new, and the pram on the front lawn contains my sister, Mary, then an infant and as new as the house. And in the driveway, my dad's relatively new Ford Custom coupe.

I had to consult my copy of The American Auto to come to this revelation, and since was shot from the back, I can't tell whether it's the 1949 version with the single chrome bullet in the middle of the grille or the 1951 model with the "dual-bullets." Here's a photo of the earlier version, taken at Deerfield Village's Motormuster earlier this year - a beautifully restored example with whitewalls in a shade of green that I'll always associate with the '50s as it ramped up into economic cruise control.

I don't need to tell you what I'd give to own this car today. It would, to be sure, be a beast to own - constantly in need of costly repairs with parts that I'd be scrounging all over the internet. I doubt if it has power steering, and even for its size I imagine its handling might be less than elegant. And let's not talk about the mileage, or having to garage it for four months of the year so it doesn't shatter into shards of rust and scrap after one too many winters of road salt and slush. In my dreams, though, I'm driving it along the St. Lawrence on the way to the Maritimes to visit family, the trunk loaded with luggage, the kids in the back, the radio playing Perez Prado.

What I don't understand, however, is my instinctive love of this less-than-outstanding car. There's no way I'd have remembered it - by the time I came along, it had been replaced by the Buick LeSabre my dad bought around the time I was born, and which sat in the garage for years after he died, four years later. I don't recall anyone in the family talking about the Ford much, never mind telling me its make and model, but there it is, nonetheless, sitting on the concrete driveway at 41 Gray Avenue over a decade before I was born, and already worming its way into my car consciousness. A true mystery, and one I'll likely never be able to explain.


  1. I feel the same affection for Mustangs, because my otherwise irritating, unlovable grandmother always owned them -- and the cool ones, too, not the modern ugly ones.

    Paid cash, too. Scottish. Being very short, she had to use numerous cushions to reach the steering wheel. And she was one of the worst drivers I ever met. But still...

    1. Note, if you will, the lack of lace curtains on the windows. We were lace curtain Irish, to be sure, but even in the postwar boom, it would be a while before we could afford curtains.

    2. Also, Mustangs. What's not to love?

  2. I wouldn’t say the 1949 Ford Mustang is less than outstanding. This car model made its mark during the 40’s and the 50’s. It had been advertised as having a “lifeguard body.” In the years after it was introduced, it had been completely integrated with rear fenders and a very distinct styling approach.

    Stelle Courney

  3. Oh wow! That was indeed an old photo, huh! Anyhow, in its earlier picture, you can really see how awesome and stunning a 1949 Ford Custom coupe is. It was beautifully restored! Without a doubt, that classic must’ve been well taken care of.

    Dewey Setlak