Watch the Fords go by! In this latest Car Spotter’s Guide, we feature the company’s passenger car line for 1952 through 1954.
Previously at Mac’s Motor City Garage, we’ve featured Spotter’s Guides for the 1949 to 1951 Ford lineup and for the 1955 and 1956 model years as well. Now it’s time to complete the run with the 1952 through 1954 Ford passenger cars. Let’s dig right in.
For 1952, Ford completely reskinned the all-new passenger car introduced in 1949, a step that inspired the slogan, “The only modern styling in the low-priced field,” a friendly jape at Chevrolet and Plymouth. The fresh sheet metal (Crestline Sunliner convertible shown) sported sculptured rear quarter panels with aircraft-ish simulated air intakes—a trademark feature of the ’52-54 Ford cars (Mercury and Lincoln, too) and an easy way to recognize them today.
While the ’52-’54 cars are very similar overall, the individual model years are easily identified by their distinctive grilles and parking lamps. For 1952, a stylized center bullet is flanked by turn/parking lamps with a three-blade motif (“jet air intakes” in Ford ad lingo). Note the classic Ford tri-color hood shield, and that the parking lamps stand outside the grille opening at the ends of the slotted grille bar.
Three trim levels were offered in these years: the bare-bones, chrome-free Mainline, the mid-range Customline, and the full-dress Crestline. Shown here is a Mainline Business Coupe. Through 1954, Ford continued to offer its somewhat anachronistic Club Coupe and Business Coupe body styles—these had shorter roofs and smaller rear seat areas than a standard two-door sedan.
In 1953, passenger cars received a revised front end and, on the Customline and Crestline models, an extra slash of horizontal bright trim on the rear quarters—as shown on this Customline Club Coupe. Along with the venerable flathead V8, now punched out to 239 CID and rated at 110 hp, a more modern 215 CID OHV inline 6 with 101 hp was also offered. In most ways, the 6 actually outperformed the old V8.
The revised 1953 front end features a full-width grille bar and opening with a central bullet bracketed by four black stripes on each side. Small, rectangular turn/parking lamps dwell in the lower outboard corners of the grille opening.
In 1953, the Ford Motor Co. (founded 1903) marked its golden anniversary models with a commemorative steering wheel medallion. A Crestline Sunliner convertible, shown here among the famed wooden garages in Gasoline Alley, also served as the pace car in the Indianapolis 500. The pace car promotional models featured Kelsey-Hayes wire wheels and a continental tire bump in the deck lid.
Ford’s ’49-’51 station wagons were available only as two-doors, a situation the company remedied on the ’52-’54 body, which it offered in two-door Ranch Wagon and four-door Country Sedan and Country Squire models. Shown here is a top-of-the-line ’53 Crestline Country Squire in all its faux-mahogany glory.
The next facelift in 1954 featured redesigned bright side trim and another new grille and parking lamp scheme. Shown above is the Victoria pillarless two-door hardtop, which was offered only as a top-end Crestline model from ’52 through ’54.
While the appearance changes for 1954 were minor, underneath there was an updated chassis with ball-joint front suspension. But the big news this year was the all-new Y-Block V8, an overhead-valve design with 239 CID and 130 hp. Drivetrain choices included a three-speed manual gearbox with or without optional overdrive and Ford-O-Matic, a fully automatic planetary transmission with torque converter.
The 1954 grille features a central bullet vaguely similar to the 1952 design, but is housed in a full-width grille opening with a turn/parking lamp on each end of the grille bar. Since the rear-end designs of the three model years are so similar, the front ends make a handy tell for car spotters today.
With its $1975 base price, the Fordor Sedan was the least expensive and most popular of the top-end Crestline V-8 models for 1954. Available extras included power steering, power brakes, power windows, and power seat.
This catalog rendering shows the revised side trim for 1954 and another new Ford feature that year that has forever captivated enthusiasts, the Skyliner clear acrylic roof insert. Formally known as the Crestline Skyliner, the Victoria variant was relatively popular—over 13,000 were produced.
At left is a 1954 Crestline Victoria; at right, a Mainline Tudor Sedan. Ford marketing in these years promoted the benefits of two-car households. Ads pointed out that for the price of one premium-priced auto, a family could purchase two new Fords—a powerful idea with suburbia spreading across the country and more women joining the workforce.