Three-dimensional objects in the Society’s collection come in all shapes and sizes. While most are small enough to display in a glass case, others take up more room. Such is the case with one of my favorites, a 1955 Ford Customline Sedan. The car is one of our most recent acquisitions, and currently is on display in the Minnesota’s Greatest Generation exhibit. The Ford has a special use history, having belonged to three generations of a single family. While that story is told in one of our podcasts, in this space I’d like to focus on the car itself.
The Customline series was Ford’s mid-line entry. It was fancier than the spartan Mainline, but not as well-equipped as the Fairlane model. Ford built more than 235,000 four door (or “Fordor,” to use the company’s clever spelling) Customlines in 1955, making it one of the most popular models. The 1955 cars are distinguished by their wrap-around windshields and “egg crate” grilles, as well as their optional seat belts and air conditioners – both Ford firsts that year.
This car is somewhat unique among our objects in being so well-documented, beyond the family’s own recollections. The car’s serial number, A5PG167947, yields all sorts of information once it is decoded. The “A” identifies the engine as a six-cylinder overhead cam with 101 horsepower. The “5″ denotes the model year of 1955. The “P” designates the place of production as the Twin Cities Assembly Plant in St. Paul. The “G” identifies the body style, while the numerals indicate the car’s consecutive unit number. Other codes reveal the car’s body type, trim work, and color – “Mountain Green” in this case.
The sedan is equipped with a three-speed “Fordomatic” automatic transmission, an AM radio (added in the early 1970s but of the appropriate vintage), and Ford’s “Magic Air” system, which allowed the cabin to heat up and the windows to defrost much faster – certainly handy in Minnesota. While the car does have seat belts, they are after-market add-ons, and not original Ford components. Other custom features installed by the owners include plastic seat covers, a Goldy Gopher window decal, and a loud klaxon affectionately described as an “oogah” horn.
All in all, it’s a pretty special piece. The car was built in Minnesota and driven in Minnesota by the same family for three generations. It relates to transportation, manufacturing, and – in the context in which it is displayed now – post-war consumer culture. And did I mention that it has just 42,300 original miles?
Matt Anderson, Objects Curator