1951 Ford Custom and the Arrival of the Shoebox Design
In our final installment this week of December’s 2016’s Ride of the Month nominations, we feature the 1951 Ford Custom presented by nominee Paul Abbate. Here is some general information about the ride.
Note: This is not information about the actual vehicle nominated for December’s Ride of the Month, just general information on the ride itself. Please check the link at the bottom of today’s article to view all the actual cars nominated for this month’s Ride of the Month.
The 1951 Ford Custom is a classic cruiser that was part of a complete redesign introduced in 1949. Consumers were more than ready for a fresh look after 1930s designs remained on the market throughout the war and beyond. Some believe the new design literally saved the Ford Motor Company.
V6 Competitive with the V8
The 226 cu-in flathead V6 with a Holley single-barrel carburetor was good for 180 lb-ft of torque, more than the 156 lb-ft of torque generated by the 289 cu-in flathead V8. Also, the 95-hp flathead V6 generated only nominally fewer horsepower than the 100-hp flathead V8. As a result, zero-to-60 mph times are relatively consistent in the 16-18 second range. Ford introduced the three-speed, air-cooled Ford-o-Matic transmission in 1951, a welcome engineering achievement. Before that, only the three-speed manual and a three-speed manual with overdrive were available. Interestingly, the addition of overdrive to the transmission increased fuel economy from about 18 mpg to about 25 mpg.
New Interior Appointments for the 1951 Ford Custom
Front and rear bench seats are offered in the club coupes, while business coupes only include a front bench seat. In 1951, a key-turned starter switch replaced the push button style offered in 1949-50. Also, sun visors first became standard on all Ford Customs during the 1951 model year. The optional Vacu-lite cigarette lighter accommodated the habit of the majority of adults at the time. Although whitewall tires were a distinctive addition to the 1951 Ford Custom, standard blackwalls were far more common due to material shortages related to the Korean War.
The “Shoebox Fords”
The 1949-51 Ford Customs were the first of the “Shoebox Fords” and their streamlined, slab-sided style. 1951 models are easily identified by the twin nose cones versus the single nose cone on earlier versions. Today’s enthusiasts find that restorations of flathead-powered Fords like the 1951 Custom are relatively simple and affordable. Restorations are facilitated by the ready availability of most components, including interior upholstery kits, exterior trim, and mechanical parts.
The 1951 Ford Custom invokes a sense of the simple joy of driving that the American motorist welcomed in the post-WWII era. Lower mileage, high-end restorations can bring $30,000 or more in today’s market, although it is possible to find well-restored 1951 Ford Customs for under $20,000.