Posted by: davidbowerkingwood | September 2, 2011

A 1954 Ford V8, Part 1

When I entered Dallas Theological Seminary in 1960 we, as most young seminarians have experienced, were faced with the challenge of adjusting our budget to meet our new financial reality. Not only did we have the expense of moving from Houston to Dallas we had to eliminate every possible expense which included selling our partly paid for newer model car.

We were able to buy a dilapidated 1954 Ford for $125 cash that had a terrible body but a reasonably reliable engine and transmission. The engine was one of the last of the old Ford flat head V8’s that was soon to be replaced by the new overhead valve design; I mention this because this engine plays a part in the second half of this story. Fortunately the car was a dark brown which had the excellent quality of hiding the rust spots which comprised almost 50% of the exterior finish.

When we moved to Dallas we had two boys and my wife was expecting our third child so our plan was for my wife to stay home and raise the children; I would go to DTS and work part time to pay the bills. Needless to say this was an optimistic arrangement which challenged us all.

It wasn’t too long after we had moved into the student section of a public housing project that one of the virtues of owning an old car came to the fore. It started out as a typical day but around mid-morning I was standing at the sink when I heard a strange sound like the world’s largest steel band starting to play off in the distance.

I wondered what in the world that sound was as I had never heard anything else quite like it. Being a public housing project meant there were no garages so all of the cars were parked on the street or on small parking lots for the tenants. A minute or two went by and I started hearing the sound of heavy thuds in the back yard.

I looked out and saw huge hailstones hitting the ground with the sound of a high fly baseball slamming into the ground. I also saw the little girl who lived next door standing in the middle of the yard looking around her at the strange sight so I immediately ran out into the yard and grabbed her as I ran to her back porch. She started crying but her mother was very grateful seeing what was happening and what I had done.

The hailstones were the largest I had ever seen, easily the size of a softball; if one had hit the little girl it could have caused injury. The sound I had heard was the sound of those hailstones hitting all of the cars parked in the area. There was extensive damage to most of the cars with windshields broken and sheet metal pock-marked with big dents where the hail had hit.

I walked past many cars, observing all of the damage and wondering how ours would look. You can imagine my pleased surprise when I got to ours and couldn’t see any damage at all; in other words it looked just as bad before the hailstorm as it did after the hailstorm had passed. The windows had not suffered any damage as the windows on the 1954 Ford were more vertical and presented less of a target for a falling hailstone.

My adventures with the ’54 Ford take a patience trying turn when I try a very difficult repair job with very little money and no tools in the Sears parking lot in Part 2.


  1. They had character and built character. I drove a 65 Pontiac. I could tell when I was drifting across lanes by watching for the White line through the holes in the floor. Great engine though


    • I’m definitely under the impression that newer cars are better built; one doesn’t see or hear of rust through problems with the newer ones the way it used to be. On the other hand they’re so complicated they offer little or no opportunity for the shadetree mechanic to do his thing.


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