|Our 1952 Ford Customline Tudor sedan. (Click on image for full size.)
This is a very special car. Not many were sold and few survive. But what really makes it special is its chain of ownership over 55 years: my father and me. This was my father’s first new car, it became my first car, and it still runs today.
The Ford 1952 Customline Tudor sedan was an all-new product that year. Ford had to delay its introduction until February due to production restrictions from the Korean Conflict. This particular car came off the assembly line in Norfolk, Virginia. My father, Roland Briers, bought it on December 10th, 1952, from Rowley Motors, in Catonsville, MD, for $2,414.53, with a down payment of $435.00. He received an allowance of $389.53 on his trade-in, a 1939 LaSalle four door with a cracked engine block that my father had bought after being mustered out of the US Navy in 1945.
How do I know this? I still have the original invoice! Not only that, I have the 300 and 1,000 mile service receipts and the finance agreement. My parents chose the Tudor because my brother Karl and I were five and six years old at the time. In those days, before child seats and rear door locks controlled by the driver, we had tried to climb out of the LaSalle’s back seat more than once.
Our first new car
Our 1952 Ford featured a new 215 cubic inch overhead valve six cylinder engine with 101 horsepower. It had a Fordomatic Transmission and two-tone paint (Shannon Green [dark] and Glenmist Green [light]). Other options included a fresh air heater, turn indictors, a six-tube radio, and whitewall tires. The dealer installed seat covers and antifreeze, and applied undercoating. From December 1952 until the summer of 1959, our family went everywhere in that Ford, including regular trips to Central Pennsylvania to visit relatives.
By 1962, when I was old enough to drive, my father and I worked together to spruce up the car with new seat covers, new frontend chrome, and a new, brighter coat of paint. In 1965, my father transferred the title to me.
|Ken (2nd from right, in cap and gown) standing with family, including brother Karl (also in cap
and gown), parents Helene and Roland (standing between their sons), and uncles Gordon and
Kenneth Briers (far left and right), at the 1969 graduation from U. of Maryland.
I drove the Ford through high school and part of my college years. When my brother Karl learned to drive, I gave him the Ford and bought myself a new 1965 VW 1200 Beatle. A year later, we both transferred to the University of Maryland, and my brother bought a 1957 Chevrolet. At that point, after owning it for 14 years, we all decided to keep our original 1952 Ford, but to store it in a rented garage.
For the next 41 years, other than a move to Ellicott City, MD, it sat undisturbed.
Then, in summer 2007, my wife Sally suggested that we pull the old Ford out of storage and find someone to fix it up. She wanted to drive it, and we both thought it would be great to display at shows. So we asked Roger Bylsma, a friend at the Bay Country Region of the Antique Automotive Club of America (AACA), if he would like to do the work. Roger agreed. On August 12th that year, he and I drove to Severn, MD to pick up his son’s truck and trailer and continued on to Ellicott City to pull the old Ford out of storage.
After pumping up the tires, Roger and his son David winched the car on to the trailer, then Roger and I took off for his home in Hurlock. When we got there, I washed the car and it looked surprisingly good for its age. Over the next two months, Roger replaced all of the brake tubing, rebuilt the brake cylinders, removed the upholstery, washed it, and replaced the foam rubber padding. Sally and I found new material for the door panels and we had Bonnie Cagle, of Wrights Wharf, MD, repair the seat upholstery, the door panels, and the arm rests. We also replaced two cracked windows with glass with original markings.
On Monday, August 27th, my cell phone rang. Roger was on the line, and he asked me if I could hear the noise. He said: “That’s your engine, running!” What a great sound it was to hear!
In late September, I got tags and ordered a set of tires. Meanwhile, Harrison’s Transmissions, in Easton, MD, picked up the Ford to rebuild the transmission. It took a little while to find the right bands and seals, but they didn’t have to replace any of the metal.
We installed the tires on October 16th and the transmission was finished the next Friday. After 41 years, my father’s 1952 Ford Customline was back on the road!
It’s first show
On Sunday, May 4th, 2009, after a bit more tinkering, our newly reborn 1952 Ford made its debut at the AACA Bay Country Region’s annual Dust ‘em Off Tour. Having completed the rehabilitation (Not the restoration!) of the car, we took it to the AACA Eastern Spring Meet, in Flintstone, MD, where it earned a Certificate for Historic Preservation of Original Features (HPOF).
On the outside, it looks like new, but underneath it is the same ‘52 Ford I had grown up with and learned to drive on. I’m sure that my father (and my mother!) would be pleased.
Ken Briers is a former locomotive engineer and a railroad operations consultant who loves trains and old cars, particularly Fords.