The Nifty Fifties concept is to keep things simple and inexpensive, but it can also encompass a pro-quality car such as Waterford, Michigan, residents Bill and Jodi Hallett's '55 Ford Customline. The key is to build a car from the '50s that isn't mainstream and make use of the shape and trim of less common body styles.
The Halletts' '55 fell into Bill's hands in 1983 when he traded his '78 Mustang II for it. Bill says that the '55 was from Arizona, where it had been drag-raced, and it came complete with flames and a hoodscoop. This look wasn't quite his style, so he ditched the scoop and painted the car candy-apple red. This was fine until 1990, when Bill decided he needed some meat under the car and a radical appearance makeover.
With the help of friends and family, Bill and Jodi disassembled the car in the garage and started the rebuild with a tube chassis. A narrowed 9-inch differential was hung from the rear frame rails with Koni coilover shocks and an Alston four-link, leaving plenty of room for the 33x19.50 Mickey Thompsons mounted on 15x14 Weld Racing wheels. The front suspension and steering combined Alston and Mustang II components. The exterior was treated to better quarter-panels, and the bodywork chores were split among Len Bentley, Keith Hallett, and Rick Batchelder in addition to Bill. When the body was straight and ready for paint, Bob Little and Rod Bush sprayed it with Glasurit Banzai Blue. Dr. Ru of White Lake, Michigan, handled the graphics and pinstriping.
The '64 427 was bored, balanced, and blueprinted by Total Performance in Clinton Township, Michigan. The heads were ported and polished and rely on a Competition Cams cam, lifters, and valvesprings to operate the valves. The intake manifold is a low-rise Ford unit that mounts two 600-cfm Holley carbs. The engine is bolted to a C6 transmission that uses a 10-inch torque converter to pass the power rearward.
The other striking part of this '55 is its interior. The stock dash was modified to hold Auto Meter gauges in place of the factory radio, heater controls, and clock. The fabricated floorpan was covered in custom carpet, and JAZ racing buckets were treated to some tweed by Fine Line Interiors in Clarkston, Michigan. The rest of the interior includes Pioneer tunes, handformed armrests, and a full-race-look cage.
Jodi and Bill say Michigan's roadways can be tough on a hot rod, but the '55 has held up under two years of cruising, and they hope to put even more miles on it this year.