Restoration of the Blue Whale

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1956 Ford Country Sedan Restoration Project

Tech data:

  • Body Type: 79D Customline 6 passenger Country Sedan
  • Engine: 292 Y-block Thunderbird V8 202 HP

  • Transmission: Fordomatic 2 speed

  • Rear axle: Dana 44 3.56:1

  • Color: Bermuda Blue and Diamond Blue

  • Project Description

    I acquired the car in August 1992. I had seen it sitting next to a house
    for several years and I had always thought about buying it. It reminded
    me of one our family had when I was a kid. It was intended to be used as transportation
    for my high school-aged daughter. After getting it home and
    examining it closer, it was obvious that extensive repairs would be necessary.
    All the floor panels and the spare tire well had rusted though and
    needed to be replaced. The bottom of the tailgate was also rusted out, a common
    problem with these wagons. The good news was that there was no other serious
    rust on the body. The engine was a total grease-caked mess, although
    everything was still in original condition. Once money had been put
    into rebuilding the engine and transmission, it was too late to turn
    back and total restoration followed.
    It was decided that despite not being a particularly rare or collectable
    car, a total frame-off restoration would be the way to go. All the glass
    and trim was removed and stored. The doors and tailgate were also removed
    and the interior was gutted. The body was then removed from the
    frame using a fork lift and stripped to bare metal. I decided to farm
    out the body work and painting to a friend so the body and all the doors,
    fenders, etc were hauled to his shop while I continued to work on the
    frame, running gear and suspension. I decided to repaint the wagon with a two-tone
    blue instead of the original blue and white. Although this particular
    body style was not offered in this color combination, I did use original
    1956 Ford colors.
    The frame was cleaned and painted and all the suspension components were replaced.
    The rear end was resealed after verifying that the ring and pinion were in good shape.
    After two years of work (mostly due to painstaking attention to detail
    by my paint guy) the body was ready to go back on. The services of the
    fork lift were employed again and the body went back on in April of 1999.
    This was a major milestone that gave me the motivation to step up work on
    the project. Once sheet metal started going back on, it was easier to
    envision the finished product.
    Finally, in January 2000, all the body and running gear components were
    reassembled and the car was again driveable for the first time since I
    bought it. At this point, I began driving it to local car shows. It got lots
    of nice compliments, even in its partially finished condition.
    Near the end of 2000, I had received all the interior pieces I needed to
    replace the seat covers, door panels and carpet. All the interior metal trim
    and brackets needed to be stripped, sanded and repainted first.
    By spring of 2001, I had rebuilt the front and rear seats and put on the seat
    covers and installed the new door panels. One of my goals was to get the car
    completed by the end of September in time to attend the Run to the Pines car
    show in Pinetop, AZ. I had received the Best Unfinished Effort award at this
    show two years earlier. I was presented with one half of a plaque. Returning
    with the finished car would allow me to collect the other half. I finished repainting
    and installing the interior trim and rear floor pieces and recovered the rear floor
    with ribbed vinyl that was similar to the original linoleum that was used in the
    wagons. The wagon was finally finished and in time for the show! I received the other
    half of my plaque at Run to the Pines 2001. Since then, the wagon has been driven to
    numerous car shows and cruise-ins around southern Arizona and New Mexico.
    As I get more confidence in the car's mechanical abilities, I venture farther from home
    and explore new show venues. In March, 2003, I took the wagon to Yuma, AZ
    for the Midnight at the Oasis show. In April 2003 I  attended the Fabulous Fords
    Forever show at Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, CA. In August, 2004 we drove the 

    wagon to Williams, AZ for a show. We've also been to Silver City, NM and everywhere 

    around southern Arizona.

    These are some photos showing the major stages in the restoration process.

Front sheet metal and engine were removed.

Repainted body going back on the frame.

Front end sheet metal makes it look like a car again.

Almost roadworthy. Going for a test drive around the neighborhood.

The 292 y-block under 40 years of grease and dirt.

The rebuilt engine after the body and fenders went back on the frame.

Complete 292 ready for a test firing.

Frame undergoing cleaning and repainting.

The first door being re-hung.

Rebuilt 292 y-block reinstalled in refurbished chassis.

©RL Ireland, 2002, all rights reserved.

Roys Blue Whale