We met Terry Moore three years ago when Project KISS was being clad in Candy Apple Red paint at the 1-Day Paint & Body shop in La Habra, California. Terry blew the body filler dust off his clothing, shook our hand, and boldly asked, "when are you going to run my '51 Ford convertible in your magazine?"
So early one foggy Saturday morning, we motored 100 miles down to Corona, California, for a look at Terry's '51 drop-top and to meet his lovely wife, Gina. Terry rolled up the squeaky, single-panel garage door, blew the dust off, spun the starter, and lit the old Ford flathead V-8. A puff of blue smoke came from the tailpipe. There's something about the purr of an old Ford flathead. It is surely different than a lightweight small-block or an old FE big-block. There's the clatter of vintage mechanical tappets and the rattle-slop of wobbly pistons. Displacement isn't all that grand at 239 ci, but an old Ford flathead makes a sweet sound every Ford enthusiast should hear at least once in a lifetime.
The Ford flathead V-8 doesn't need much of an introduction with Ford buffs. It was born from Henry Ford's desire to build a better performing automobile. Engineers told Mr. Ford a V-8 couldn't be done. they told him casting a V-8 block was virtually impossible. He told them to do it anyway. What ultimately followed was Ford's legendary V-8 of 1932. It would become an industry benchmark in a world of in-line sixes and straight eights. And that's the way it was for 20 years. The Ford flathead V-8 was a record setter in the old days at Bonneville. Today, 73 years after its introduction during the Great Depression, the flathead continues to turn heads and break records at Bonneville.
Terry and Gina will tell you this '51 Ford isn't about breaking records, nor is it about wowing spectators at a car show. It is mainly about driving, cruising, and remembering a simpler time in America. Forget the power top switch, you won't find one. The only air bags you might find on this car would be underneath in a custom street-rod suspension, but those aren't there either.
Sit down, relax, and press your posterior into the 54-year-old upholstery. It's like sitting on your grandparents' old sofa. Admire the dashboard for its period styling from the post-war era. Check out the cherry-clad steel with chrome appointments. Behold the custom door panels by Henry Hernandes. Look up. That's the sky with all its vivid blues, whites, and grays.
When we asked Terry what the greatest challenge of his restoration project was, he said, "finding a rebuildable flathead for the thing." When he purchased the car, which was a basket case, there was the exhausting process of finding good parts, including the engine.
What attracted Terry was the car's convertible status. "There aren't many of these left," he tells us. He noticed this car on a car trailer on the I-10 freeway, cruising along in Los Angeles. Had it not been for the telephone number on the tow vehicle, he might never have seen the car again.
Terry wanted to build a period car that reminded him of his youth. It didn't have to be perfect. It just had to provide the memories, the feel, the smell, the sound. Terry managed to find a complete set of original Cragar SS mags still in their Cragar boxes-unused-for $200 at the Pomona Swap Meet. There were dozens of other similar finds that enabled him to achieve his dream.
Terry and Gina enjoy life's simplest pleasures in their Ford convertible: taking on the American road and cruising the social spots; lowering the top by hand; turning the key and hearing the flathead; pulling out of the alley behind the house and accelerating through the gears of an old, unsynchronized, three-speed crash box. Indeed, simple pleasures a lot of us need to experience.
Terry and Gina have the good fortune of reliving an era in America that is certainly long gone and making a few fresh memories in the process.