Larry D 1956 Ford Ranch Wagon

Last trip headed to junk yard

Sometime in the late winter of 1965 I was manager of a Chevron service station in California, when a quite neglected '56 Ford Ranch Wagon came in from out of a cloud of smoke. The driver, a fairly young lady, asked for 50 cents of gas. When I asked her why only 50 cents, her reply was that she was tired of all the problems she'd been having with the car and was on the way to the local junk yard to scrap it and get $50.00. I tried to explain to her that it may only need some minor repair and better maintenance, but she didn't want to hear it. After a few minutes of bantering she was adamant about getting rid of it, so I made her an offer of the $50.00 the junk yard offered, and I'd drive her home right then, and no charge for the 50 cents of gas.

Offer accepted, so it became mine. While still at the gas station I decided to wash it to get as much of the dirt and grime off before taking it home to convince my wife I wasn't really crazy. Lo and behold, that dirty tan car was actually ...WHITE! Then I checked under the hood, and found there was nothing to measure on the oil dip stick, except for a drop of sludge on the very tip. Smelled awful! Had my help give me a hand pushing it into the service bay and put it up on the lift to drain the oil, pulled the plug, and nothing came out! Lowered it back down and was debating what to do when a sales rep touting a new oil additive product came in. I listened to his pitch for a few minutes, but when he announced that he would guarantee the performance, that it would stop oil leaks, clean up sludge, and increase compression or it was free, I had to go for it and agreed to put in a limited inventory as a test.

Well, to make a long story short, IT WORKED! IT DID EVERYTHING HE SAID IT WOULD! I was amazed! It took a bit over a week to actually get to the point that I could change it and refill with regular oil and just one quart of the additive. In the meantime I kept the car at the station, making all of the minor repairs it needed to avoid getting ticketed, such as fuses, tail light lenses, a few light bulbs, new brake shoes, a set of new tires, and just general cleanup, in and under the whole car.

After one month still at the station, I had everything working, including the radio, and you could see clearly out the windows. Took it home then and surprised the wife with her 'new' car! She was a bit skeptical, but happy to finally have her own wheels.

Then, in 1972 while working in a body shop, I decided it was time to really clean it up, and the full restoration began, with a slight deviation. I completely stripped and gutted the whole car, removing everything down to the bare body/chassis, from chrome and lights, to engine and suspension. No rust anywhere, so it was primarily a chore of removing built up road grime and rotted rubber mounts and weatherstripping. All chrome got redone, the entire body was sandblasted and the newest primer applied inside and out. Then I painted the entire body using a metallic maroon inside and out, a heavy metallic gold around the windows inside and out and the entire dash and steering column. Once done with all of the painting, I reinstalled all windows with all new gaskets and seals. Then came the deviations. I installed a center console and bucket seats from a '64 Galaxy, the 390 CID engine and Cruise-o-matic I rebuilt with a floor shift, and Chrysler 15" deep dish chrome reversed wheels with 'knock-offs'. That car became well known throughout Southern California at parades towing our new matching colors 28 foot dressing room horse trailer. It still looked and performed like new when we divorced in 1979, and she kept it.

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