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Chris Wolff’s Care of 1951 Ford Made Restoration Easier
By Vern Parker, special to Automotive& Yacht Showcase
Chris Wolff had not been out of high school in Eureka, S.D., very long when he received “greetings” from his local draft board. In 1952, the U.S. Army sent him to Fort Jackson, S.C., for training. Afterward he was assigned to Fort Hood in Texas.
Wolff soon decided that he needed personal transportation, so he rode a bus about 175 miles to Dallas on a Sunday morning for the express purpose of buying a car. On that morning in October 1954, he stopped by the John M. Clark dealership, where he purchased a slightly used 1951 Ford two-door sedan. The three-year-old car had been driven only 11,000 miles. (continue…)
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Beneath the hood of the Ford was a trusty 239.4-cubic-inch flathead V-8 engine rated at 100 horsepower. Wolff fired it up and, in those no-speed-limit days, drove his 1951 Ford back to Fort Hood without the engine even breathing hard, thanks to its overdrive unit.
The 100-mph speedometer, by the way, has a unique needle with a ring at the end that encircles, rather than points to, the indicated speed.
Wolff received his discharge papers at the end of 1954 and drove his Ford back to South Dakota. After studying at the National School of Business in Rapid City, Wolff packed his belongings in his Ford and drove to Denver in 1956. He stayed there for 34 years, until he retired in 1990.
All that time, at each location, Wolff kept his Ford garaged and under a protective car cover. Additionally, whenever the weather was threatening, the car remained in its cocoon.
In retirement, Wolff returned to Eureka, driving his trusty Ford. After four years there, he determined that despite almost a half century of care, the Ford was in need of a general renovation. From his days in Denver he remembered the Applewood Body Shop and arranged to have the restoration work done there.
“It’s about a 12-hour drive to Denver,” Wolff says. In November 2000, he set off at 1 a.m. to Denver so that he would arrive during the shop’s business hours.
Thanks to five decades of meticulous care, no rust was uncovered when the worn paint was stripped from the body. Both bumpers were sent off to be replated with chrome, while the stainless-steel trim was removed and burnished to a like-new sheen.
Some minor fixes were required, such as replacing one of the parking light lenses and one of the taillights. The interior was reupholstered, with the exception of the original headliner. Even the carpet was replaced.
The windup clock and the AM radio, nestled in the asymmetrical dashboard, each worked well, Wolff says,
Records indicate that Wolff’s 3,043-pound Ford was one of 317,869 such models manufactured during the 1951 model year. Each one had a base price of $1,505. The original 6.70-inch-by-15-inch spare tire still sits in the well on the right side of the trunk where it was placed at the factory in 1951.
The exterior got a fresh coat of the original color paint. The restoration was complete by July 2001. An anxious Wolff went to Denver, slid behind the two-spoke black steering wheel and drove the Ford with a 114-inch wheelbase home to South Dakota. The engine performed perfectly. “It’s a pleasure to drive,” Wolff notes.
He soon discovered that he should have given the car a more careful inspection before taking it home. In the light of day, Wolff examined his Ford and discovered a few flaws in the paint.
In October, Wolff drove back to Denver, where the few flaws in the paint were corrected to his satisfaction. The car was in the shop for three weeks. “I was there every day,” Wolff reports.
The odometer on the pristine Ford has now recorded 43,000 miles, which amounts to fewer than an average of 750 miles annually since new.
“The car has always received love and tender care,” Wolff says.
Vern Parker’s column is distributed by Motor Matters.