- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2001

By introducing both the Powerglide transmission and the pillarless Bel Air hardtop in 1950, Chevrolet succeeded in beating Ford twice in one year.

Ford came charging back in 1951 with Fordomatic and the new Victoria pillarless hardtop. The new Ford model was such a success that it outsold Chevrolet's Bel Air by 110,286 compared to 103,356.

The beauty of the Ford Victoria was not lost on the Dietrich family in Bucks County, Pa.

With parental help, son Karl was able to purchase a sea island green Victoria with a raven black top from Reliance Motor Co. in Soudertown, Pa.

The bill of sale dated May 12, 1951 indicates a base price of $2,067.66 to which was added:

•Fordomatic…………$168.50

•Ford custom radio……..91.60

•Magic Air heater………57.40

•Undercoating…………30.00

•6.70x15 spare tire, tube..25.68

•Deluxe fender aprons…19.95

•Ford backup lights……13.20

•Ford directional signals..13.20

•Electric clock…………12.70

•Rear fender trim………11.95

•Ford deluxe wheel rings.11.50

•Oil bath air cleaner……..7.90

•Oil filter………………7.90

•Positive action wipers…..7.80

•Ford side view mirrors….7.50

•Front fender trim………7.50

•Filterzone sun shade…….3.50

•Chrome exhaust tip……..2.25

•Chrome gas door trim…..1.50

•Curb signals……………1.25

With all those added extras, such as a spare tire, windshield wipers and directional signals, the price rose to $2,570.24. The benevolent dealer allowed $1,100.24 on a 1948 Ford that was traded in, adjusting the total to $1,470.

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania got $4.50 for license and title fees, leaving a balance of $1,474.50.

The 239-cubic-inch, 100-horsepower flathead V-8 was barely broken in when the young owner was drafted to visit Korea.

That's when his sister, Gertrude, stepped up saying, "I could use a car."

On Valentine's Day in 1954, she married Richard Nice, and the car went with her because it was better than his car.

From about 1956, it has been garage kept.

The newly wed couple began raising a family, and when the Ford was 11 years old, a son, Jim, was born.

As far back as he can remember, the Ford was always a part of the family. "We would go in it to church on Sunday," he recalls. "My mother would get groceries in it, too."

Mr. Nice recollects taking a family vacation trip to New England in the Ford in the early 1970s with his parents and brother. That was about the time his father had seat belts installed.

Mr. Nice says the car was painted white in the late 1970s but later was repainted in its original hues.

By the time Mr. Nice was a teen-ager the Ford had achieved antique status. Although his parents were not antique auto enthusiasts, they knew the car was valuable.

Consequently, Mr. Nice relates, "I was not allowed to touch this car."

After 1983, the 3,188-pound car just sat in the garage. Mr. Nice's mother died in 1986 and the Ford continued to occupy garage space for another decade when Mr. Nice's father decided to convert his garage into a shop. The Ford had to go.

A few inquiries were made about selling it, but Mr. Nice, now a database administrator for the federal government, couldn't let his mother's car slip away.

His father cautioned Mr. Nice about the woes of owning an antique car. However, Mr. Nice assured his father that he was up to the task.

A local mechanic rebuilt the brake system and managed to get the long-dormant V-8 running again. In the spring of 1996, Mr. Nice, climbing behind the steering wheel with the full horn ring and a full 16-gallon gasoline tank, began the 180-mile drive home to Northern Virginia. Riding on a 114-inch wheelbase, the car handled with expected nimbleness. Mr. Nice felt confident with his wife, Kathy, following in a modern car.

Her presence was keenly appreciated when the old Ford overheated near Aberdeen, Md.

The Victoria completed the rest of the trip on the back of a truck. Since then, both the engine and radiator have been rebuilt. The cooling system has a 21-quart capacity.

The sides of the Ford are remarkably free of dings and dents. The owner attributes that to a rural life. "This car never saw the city of Philadelphia," he explains.

Mr. Nice is tackling one thing at a time on his Ford Victoria in an effort to slowly improve the car. He reports that his father exhibits pride in the car whenever he comes to visit.

"I think he's glad it's still in the family," Mr. Nice says. "I know that I am glad I kept it."


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