Friday, October 15, 2010


My dad was a Ford man and the sight of a 1951 Ford coupe on the street in Jonesboro the other day got me to thinking about his cars.51 ford
We had a brown ‘51 Ford coupe. Dad always bought two-door models when I was little because he and mom thought I might open a back door  and fall out at highway speeds.
We took our family vacations in the ‘51, and I have vague memories of a trip to Washington, D.C. and stopping for lunch in Fredericksburg, Md. My chief preoccupation at the time was getting my parents to stop so I could buy more comic books to read in what seemed a cavernous back seat area.
Dad kept the ‘51 when he bought a 1955 Ford Fairlane. The ‘51 became his daily driver and the white-over-aqua Fairlane stayed in the garage 1955_Ford_Fairlane_2-Door_NUK072 unless Mom needed it for shopping.
I found this picture of a Fairlane online and it looks pretty much like ours.
This is the car that took us to Yellowstone National Park in the summer of 1956. That was the summer I spent on crutches, having broken my left femur when I rode a friend’s bicycle into the path of a Cadillac. Luckily, the driver of the Caddy was a local doctor and he scooped me up, checked in with my parents, and drove me to Home Hospital in Lafayette, Ind. for treatment.
fairlane front seatI also found this picture of the front seat space of the ‘55 Ford Fairlane. What jumps out at me is that there are no seat belts – seat belts weren’t  standard in Fords until the mid-1960s – and that big, hard, unforgiving steel dashboard. I shudder to think what would have happened to us if we’d had an accident in this thing.
It was our first car with an automatic transmission – the ‘51 had three on the tree – and also our first with a one-piece windshield. The speedo was kinda cool – it had a clear plastic top so it was backlit with daylight as well as with a light bulb when the headlights were on. There was no air conditioning. My parents didn’t have an air conditioned car until I left for college so the controls to the immediate right of the steering wheel only worked the heater and the vents. The chrome inner half ring on the steering wheel, by the way, worked the horn. The next thing to the right is the AM radio with push-buttons for your favorite stations. FM and FM stereo were still years in the future. I think that’s a clock (analog, of course) to the right of the radio.
It was thoroughly modern in 1955, but it seems desperately primitive compared with today’s cars.

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