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Another '56 Ford convertible 48 years later

(Oct 15, 2009) - Walter Strilec grew up in Toronto and bought his first new car from Thorncrest Motors, a Ford-Monarch dealership on Dundas Ave. West near Islington. It was a '55 Ford Crown Victoria in cherry pink and apple blossom white (which incidentally was the title of a hit song that year). A year later, he decided he needed something more exciting and traded in his '55 at that same dealership for a new fire engine red 1956 Ford Sunliner convertible.

  • Choosing a car at dealership. Thoughtful grey hair man in formalwear leaning at the car and looking away

(Oct 15, 2009)

Walter Strilec grew up in Toronto and bought his first new car from Thorncrest Motors, a Ford-Monarch dealership on Dundas Ave. West near Islington. It was a '55 Ford Crown Victoria in "cherry pink and apple blossom white" (which incidentally was the title of a hit song that year). A year later, he decided he needed something more exciting and traded in his '55 at that same dealership for a new fire engine red 1956 Ford Sunliner convertible.


A year and a half later, he joined the U.S. Air Force and sold his convertible. In the years that followed, he saw many old cars at shows and swap meets and always found himself on the lookout for another '56 Ford convertible.


Then one day in 2005 while looking at a display of collector cars at the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas, Walter's wife saw a magazine ad offering a '56 Ford convertible for sale in Arkansas.


It was in good solid condition and partially restored. Walter arranged for a man in North Carolina to complete the restoration and the work was finished by the spring of 2008.


In the summer of that year, Walter drove his car to southern Ontario to visit his son and daughter. He brought it one night to the local A&W cruise night here in my home town of Leamington and that is where I met Walter and saw his car for the first time.


It's gorgeous in coral and white with a new white convertible top and wide whitewall tires. I was 13 years old in the fall of 1955 when these cars first came out, and I can still see myself looking through a showroom window at one of these dazzling beauties. It was America's most popular convertible for the '56 model year with 58,147 built compared with 41,268 for Chevrolet and 6,735 for Plymouth.


If you were buying a new Ford in 1956, you had three overhead-valve V-8 engines to choose from, all numbered based on their cubic inch displacement: 272, 292, and 312. A six cylinder engine of 223 cubic inches was also available.


The two-seater Thunderbird for 1956 employed the 292 or 312, and if your regular Ford had one of these engines, a Thunderbird insignia appeared on the front fenders ahead of the wheel openings. That way you could tell your neighbours that your car had a "Thunderbird engine."


Ford styling changed dramatically for 1957, making the '55s and '56s unique and instantly recognizable today, over 50 years after they were manufactured.


As a thank you, if your story is published in this column you will receive a copy of Bill Sherk's book "60 Years Behind the Wheel: The Cars We Drove in Canada 1900-1960". To share your stories or photos e-mail billtsherk@sympatico.ca or write Bill Sherk, 25 John St., P.O. Box 255, Leamington, ON N8H 3W2.


Bill Sherk is one of Canada's leading authorities on old cars. He has written three books on the subject. Since 1991 he has been a feature writer for OLD AUTOS newspaper as the "Old Car Detective" and is the recipient of an award from the Antique Automobile Club of America for his work as a Canadian automotive historian. Sherk taught history to high school students for 31 years and is now happily retired and tracking down old car stories from all across Canada.


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