Boyd Coddington Custom 51 Crestliner
The generation of cars produced by the Ford Motor Company beginning in 1949 represented a marked change in styling from the dowdy, plump fastback of the immediate postwar years. They were the first products of the post-Henry Ford era (the elder Ford had died in 1947, although he had relinquished control of the company to his grandson, Henry II, in 1945), and the first line to show the influence of Robert S. McNamara and the “whiz kids” who hauled Ford’s business model, as well as it’s styling, out of the past.
Although later tagged with the “shoebox” label, the Ford designs introduced at mid-century were a refreshing departure that presaged the slab-sided ’50s look, and today they offer a glimpse of how that look came across in the days before tail fins reigned supreme. The ’49 ’53 models were also the first crop of Fords since the early ’30s to inspire a broad range of hot rod builders. That popularity has continued right down to our own time, as the cars were produced in large numbers and the great have survived. One such veteran is this 1951 Crestliner, which Boyd Coddington remade for his own use, eventually selling it to another enthusiast. Boyd’s ’51 Ford was in good running condition when he began work on it in 1995, and the body was remarkably free of dents and corrosion. The power plant was the original 255 ci flathead V-8, a direct descendant of the revolutionary engine Ford had introduced in 1932. Although Coddington might have boosted the flathead’s output with a bore and stroke job and new heads, camshaft, manifold, and headers, he opted instead to drop in a crate Ford 302 with electronic fuel injection, matched to a Ford C4 automatic transmission-in effect, installing the innards of a late-model five-liter Mustang into the ’51 shell.
Other mechanical modifications included replacement of the original independent front suspension with a Mustang 2 front end kit, including disc brakes and steering components-although in the interest of automotive multiculturalism, the link between the rack and pinion and Boyd’s own “Classic” steering wheel is a column from a 1978 Chevy van. The body was lowered five inches in front and four inches in the rear, giving the car just enough forward rake to suggest the classic hot rod stance, without substantially interfering with its mannerly, passenger-car pose. The Boyd Coddington Wheels are a Boyd Jr. design called the Vintage Two.
Boyd nosed and decked the body, removing all fore-and-aft ornamentation, and shaved the door handles. The headlights are frenched, and the bumpers smoothed. The paintwork is a two-tone combo of DuPont Black and “Boyd” silver, livened by subtle slashes of yellow-orange. Ron Mangus matched the exterior with a black-and-cream leather upholstery job, just sedate enough so that the Ford’s original dash gauges don’t seem out-of-place.
The Boyd Coddington Crestliner pulls off a difficult job. It simultaneously pays homage to a landmark era in the history of American hot rodding’s most fabled marque, and celebrates the potential that rodders in the ‘SOs and beyond have always seen in this trim little “shoebox” of a Ford.
Crestliner Build Sheet
- BODY: 1951 Ford Crestliner
- CHASSIS: Original
- ENGINE: Ford Auto Sport 302 ci V-8
- TRANSMISSION: Ford C4 automatic
- WHEELS: 17″ Boyd Coddington Wheels Vintage Two
- TIRES: Goodyear
- REAR SUSPENSION: Monroe shocks
- FRONT SUSPENSION: Ford Mustang II
- BRAKES: Ford Mustang; front disc, rear drum