- The Washington Times - Friday, July 14, 2000

Ford was enjoying tremendous sales success a half century ago with its first redesigned cars of the post-World War II era.
Like every other American automobile manufacturer Ford's immediate postwar offerings were simply warmed-over prewar models.
With young Henry Ford II at the helm of the company in the autumn of 1948, the all new slab-sided 1949 Ford was introduced with the distinctive wind splits on the rear fenders leading into the horizontal taillights
The 1950 and 1951 Fords were merely refined and improved versions of the 1949 models. Years later those three model years became known as shoe box Fords. They may appear boxy now, but compared to the competition then the shoe box Fords were quite streamlined.
Ford Motor Co. in 1951 employed the slogan: "You can pay more, but you can't buy better."
Bill Vincent subscribes to that theory regarding 1951 Fords. It just took him 44 years to act upon it.
In June 1995, he became the third owner of a 1951 Ford Custom four-door sedan, one of 232,691 manufactured.
Mr. Vincent found the black sedan for sale in Nokesville, Va., with only 55,000 miles recorded on the odometer.
"All it needed was tuning up," Mr. Vincent said. Thereafter, the 100-horsepower, 239-cubic-inch, flathead V-8 ran like it was supposed to. The power produced by the trustworthy engine appears perfectly matched to the 3,102-pound weight of the car.
Mr. Vincent's Ford carried a base price of $1,553 when new. After adding the cost of a Magic Air heater, a five-button AM radio and a spotlight the price must have been dangerously close to $2,000.
Ford departed for the first time in 1951 from a symmetrical dashboard. All of the instruments and controls were, visually at least, clustered for the driver's convenience. The only thing left in the passenger's control is the glove compartment.
A nice effort at originality was made regarding the speedometer. The end of the needle didn't point to the speed. Instead, the speedometer needle ended with a ring at the end of the needle, which moved to encircle the speed you were traveling. Not exactly the most accurate measurement of speed but it worked.
Other design innovations were appreciated more, such as the trunk lid hinges being concealed. At the same time a strip of chrome was wrapped below the rear window.
More chrome and brightwork was applied to the Ford on the rear fender wind splits. On the 1951 Ford they were covered with chrome and the side molding along each side didn't end at the rear fender. Rather, it continued around the rear below the lip of the trunk, connected the two sides.
At the other end of the car the stylists made customizers of 1949 and 1950 Fords happy with the flat, straight-across engine hood lip above the grille.
Soon after he brought the car home, Mr. Vincent was lying on the car's front floor working under the dashboard, while his wife, Louise, was delivering and retrieving whatever tools he needed.
Unfortunately, neither of them thought to make certain that the Ford was in gear or that the hand brake was set or a wheel chock was in place behind any of the wheels on the 114-inch wheelbase Ford.
The car, with Mr. Vincent on the front floorboards, rolled out of the garage backward. Before it came to a stop, a tree had buckled the left front door.
Amazingly, Mr. Vincent was able to locate another unblemished door in North Carolina.
In 1996 the Vincents traveled to Dearborn, Mich., in their 1951 Ford to attend a gathering of old Fords. On the way home, they drove for hours in the rain with their vacuum windshield wipers barely working.
They finally stopped a couple of hours from home and repaired the faulty wiper motor.
"That's when the rain quit," Mr. Vincent said.
After three years of ownership, Mr. Vincent reports the odometer is just now approaching 58,000 miles.
"I'd take it out anywhere," Mr. Vincent said proudly of his shoe box Ford.

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