- The Washington Times - Friday, August 4, 2000

As Ford approached its 50th anniversary in 1953 a lot of folks expected a razzle-dazzle, spectacular, commemorative model.
When the motoring public received instead was a spruced-up version of the 1952 Ford and the most highly developed flathead V-8 engine since it was introduced in 1932. The flathead V-8 was replaced in 1954 with an overhead-valve Y-block V-8.
By far the most popular 1953 model Ford was the four-door Customline, with 374,487 such models being manufactured.
Each one of those cars weighed 3,154 pounds, cost $1,628, base price, and rode on a 115-inch wheelbase supported by 6.70x15-inch tires.
One of those Fords was purchased and the original owner kept it in very good condition for 30 years. When his son took ownership, the car, even at that advanced age, became a reliable daily driver.
When the son was transferred to the Pacific Northwest in 1989, the 36-year-old Ford was one of the items deemed excess baggage.
It was parked on the family's front lawn in Round Hill, Va., with a "For Sale" sign in the window.
Gene Welch of White Post, Va., saw the car as he passed by, but his schedule prevented him from stopping. A couple of weeks later Mr. Welch innocently asked his wife, Jeanne, if she would like to take a rainy weekend drive.
She agreed, and he just happened to take a route that took them through Round Hill.
What a surprise.
When he saw the Ford still there he had to stop and give it a rainy-day once-over. Impressed with the car, he offered the owner a check, and in April 1989 the deal was done.
Mr. Welch got in, twisted the ignition key and, when the old flathead V-8 turned over, he said, "The hair on my arms stood up." He drove his prize home in the rain with Mrs. Welch close behind. The odometer showed a total of 70,000 miles.
Just before he left for home, the former owner relayed that the car had been in a movie "The Diner," set in Baltimore. Because of this, the vehicle had been painted an inauthentic green.
Mr. Welch discovered that the 1953 Fords were available in 12 single colors or 14 two-tone combinations. He soon had the dent-free Ford repainted the original Hawthorn green.
After driving the car home with no trouble Mr. Welch reports, "It'll run 55 to 60 mph at ease." He inspected his new-old Ford, discovering that besides detailing it only needed tires. The original upholstery, he concedes, "Isn't great, but it is original."
The car never had a heater, which was an extra-cost accessory in 1953. Mr. Welch usually refrains from driving his antique Ford in the winter if the roads have been chemically treated, so the absence of a heater proved to be a non-issue.
Happily, every other item on the car works beautifully.
Six interior color options were available in 1953. Although Mr. Welch will eventually have to reupholster the interior, he's going to put the task off as long as the original remains serviceable.
The original, untouched, 239.4-cubic-inch flathead V-8 in the 1953 Ford is the culmination of 21 years of improvement.
"My first car was a 1940 Ford standard," Mr. Welch said, "and when I hear this engine start, I have that certain feeling."
More than a decade has passed since Mr. Welch bought the handsome car with features no longer found on modern cars, such as a sun visor or wing-vent windows on all four doors. The familiar sound of a flathead Ford V-8 is deflected by an authentic Ford exhaust deflector.
After all these years Mr. Welch has difficulty describing that certain intangible. "You only feel it when you drive a flathead V-8 Ford," he explains.
If you have to ask you wouldn't understand.

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