Steve Baur
Former Editor, Modified Mustangs & Fords
March 5, 2013
Photos By: Mike Slade

There's an obvious argument about which car provided more of itself to this amalgamation of automotive art, but there's no doubt that the end result is stunningly superb.

George Bickel Sr. of Apex, North Carolina, claims to have owned more than 90 '56 Fords, this one in particular tallying 96.

"I acquired my very first '56 Ford in 1957 right after the '58 models came out," George recalls. "As a 17-year-old high school student, I sold the '54 Mercury I had fixed up, and borrowed the balance with my father's co-signature." It took three part-time jobs for George to cover the $40 monthly note, as well as provide for the hot rod modifications that were sure to come. George started with glass-pack mufflers, Mercury fender skirts and Mercury station wagon taillightsthe latter was a cheap upgrade back in the day, but as George told us, costs quite a mint now.

As you might deduce from the massive total of cars that George has on record, the cars have come and gone, and it was time for that to change. George started planning a Ford Victoria project; something that he would keep for the long run. He started collecting items for the build, including the now-hard-to-get Mercury wagon taillights, Mercury door chrome, cruiser skirts, and spinner hubcaps. According to George's plan, the '56 would be equipped with a 312ci Y-block, three-speed overdrive transmission, lake pipes, skirts, and a Lincoln Continental kit. However, in 2006, George put together a '66 Ford F-100 and utilized a wrecked '00 Ford SVT Lightning for many of the trucks components.

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"That proved to me that it was the best way to build what is referred to as a retro-engineered vehicle, thus my plans for the Victoria changed dramatically," says George.

George began by purchasing a suitable '56 Ford from a local guy that has provided George with a number of these cars over the years. Then, he began searching for a late-model Mercury Marauder to scavenge parts from. It would offer a full-frame chassis as well as a potent drivetrain. After nearly a year of bidding on salvageable wrecks, George still was not able to bring home the right vehicle. A call from his salvage dealer, however, informed George that he had just taken possession of a wrecked '07 Mustang, and not just any standard issue 'Stang, but one that had been dealer-modified with a Roushcharger supercharger at that.

"It was a light rollover with 17,000 miles on it," says George, who jetted down to his local Ford dealer with a tape measure to see how the '07 Mustang measured up to the '56 Ford. After deciding it looked good, George told them it needed to be driveable, so he had them replace the right front suspension and wheel and then they dropped it off to George so the transplant could begin.

After deciding that the late-model dash could be retrofitted with just a bit of modification, George stripped off and sold any usable body parts from the 'Stang to recoup some money. A great deal of comparing things and sizing things up led George to have Fatman Fabrications install one of its independent front suspensions on the '56 chassis.

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With the front end set, George turned his attention to the Mustang's 8.8 rearend. He needed to chop it down as it was much wider than he had anticipated, however, George had never attempted this before.

"My research led me to Strange Engineering and a gentleman named Mr. Ed, who not only provided all of the necessary parts to do the job, including new axles, but also convinced me that I could do the job myself," George told us. "He made it sound so easy that I had to at least try." Having been down the fabrication road with his F-100, George was able to properly narrow the housing, as well as relocate the shock, Panhard bar, and antisway bar mounts.

Narrowing a rearend housing sounds simple compared to what was next. George intended to use the Mustang's rear three-link suspension, and so went about fabricating brackets to mount the lower control arms to the '56's chassis. Pockets for the coil springs were next, as was a custom crossmember that the shocks and upper control arm could be fastened to.

Next up were the engine and transmission. Again, here, the rearend mods seem easy. Using a pair of 5.0 engine mounts from an earlier Mustang allowed the Three-Valve to rest comfortably in the Fatman front subframe, while the transmission required a new crossmember to support it. George also fabricated a crossmember to which he mounted the '07 Mustang's center-mount driveshaft bearingthat's right, George used the Mustang's original two-piece driveshaft. The Mustang's exhaust system pretty much fit as well, with the exception of having to relocate the mufflers.