In commemorating its Golden Anniversary, the Ford Motor Co. spelled out, in tiny letters "50th anniversary 1903-1953" around the circumference of the horn button on every 1953 Ford.
That inscription was at the center of a steering wheel on a new 1953 Ford Country Sedan purchased in Kamath Falls, Ore., by William Herron. He gave the eight-passenger station wagon exceptional care until he died Jan. 18, 1981. His son inherited the 28-year-old glacier blue Ford and took it to his home in Ada, Okla. And upon his death, ownership of the station wagon passed to his daughter. She decided to sell the heirloom.
Since the late 1990s, Bruce Valley has been searching for what he terms, "Americana on the road." "I must have looked at 30 wagons," Mr. Valley says.
Because of their practical nature, station wagons are usually worked to death. Good condition original ones are difficult to find. Mr. Valley answered an ad for the Herron estate wagon and found himself auditioning for the role of owner. The owner might be selling the family car, but she wanted it to go to a good home.
Mr. Valley evidently was deemed worthy and in April 2006 he became the fourth owner of the station wagon. According to the odometer, the 1953 Ford had been driven a total of 65,687 miles. The 3,539-pound car made the trip east from Oklahoma on the back of a truck. Mr. Valley directed the driver to deliver his acquisition to a garage in Sharpsburg, Md., where it received a thorough examination. Mr. Valley was amazed at the results.
"It was so beautifully clean," he says. From the chrome-plated jet plane hood ornament to the hooded tag light on the tailgate, the Ford was in great condition. Mr. Valley gratefully says, "It was not betrayed by the former owners."
The decision was made to restore the rust-free Ford and the work commenced. A Connecticut company replated the chrome trim while the interior was tended to in New Hampshire. Much of the interior, such as the faux wood paneling on the door, the window frames and dashboard were in such good condition that they were left in their original state. The leatherette seats received new fabric bolsters, Mr. Valley says.
Ford advertised the car as having "full-circle visibility," and it lives up to that claim. The rearmost windows on the sides slide open and, Mr. Valley says, they are operable. Even though the car is designated as an eight-passenger vehicle, Mr. Valley says, nine can fit somewhat comfortably. The second-row seat is split and the right side of that seat can be flipped forward for access to the third row.
Ford's venerable flathead V-8 was in the last year of production and the 239-cubic-inch engine needed only a tune-up in order to continue producing 110 horsepower. The three-speed manual transmission has the overdrive option to make the engine's work easier. Records indicate that the base price was $2,076 for the middle-of-the-line station wagon and that a total of 37,743 units were manufactured.
The final major task during restoration was to get the radiator rebuilt. In October 2007, after 18 months of restoration work, Mr. Valley declared the job as complete as he wanted it to be and took his car home to Alexandria, Va. Since then, Mr. Valley finds that the car is a people magnet.
"Everybody loves this car," he says. "It's a beautifully sculpted box." He climbed behind the two-spoke steering wheel and motored home with the 115-inch wheelbase supported by the 7.10x15-inch tires. Besides the armrests on each door, the car is equipped with turn signals, an AM radio and a Magic Aire heater and a black rubber floor mat.
Last summer, Mr. Valley took his Ford Country Sedan to Baltimore, where it was used as one of the cars during the filming of "My One and Only." Movie stars Renee Zellweger and Kevin Bacon missed their chance at catching a ride in the station wagon, but they still may get a glimpse of the Ford on the silver screen when the movie is released.
• For your car to become the subject of the Out of the Past column, send a photo (frontal 3/4 view), plus brief details and phone number to Vern Parker, 2221 Abbotsford Drive, Vienna, VA 22181. Only photos of good quality will be considered. No customs or hotrods accepted.
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