This story explores the beautiful 1951 Ford Convertible belonging to Bud and Karen Sargent.
Late November 1950, nearly 6.3 million visitors poured into Ford showrooms nationwide for the two-day introduction of 1951 models. Despite early winter storms gripping much of the U.S., dealers booked 53 percent more new car orders during the Nov. 24-25 introduction event than they had the year before.
Ford’s 1951 lineup packed enormous refinement although engines and body styles mostly unchanged since 1949. Of particular appeal to women were Ford’s first automatic transmission and the industry’s boldest postwar palette of colors, interior trim and materials.
The sporty Crestliner, for example, came in two shades of green, tan or Hawaiian Bronze, with a black vinyl roof and black or brown side inserts, plus interiors in black or brown artificial leather with tan, chartreuse or blue-green craftcord inserts. Sun lovers could order their convertible tops in tan, green, black or black with red binding.
The ’51 lineup also included the Country Squire, a name that would grace Ford’s top-of-the-line station wagons for the next 40 years, and the Victoria hardtop, a totally new design by the legendary Gordon Buehrig (of Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg fame). The Victoria wasn’t formally introduced until the following February because of the company’s insistence that it be a genuine hardtop, not an add-on compromise to a Ford convertible. After spotting the competition a three-month lead, Ford’s crash engineering and design team delivered a winner, as the Victoria outsold all other hardtops in only nine months of the 1951 model year.
1951 was the third year of the "lead sled" design that lifted Ford from the brink of bankruptcy in 1949. Most experts rate the '51 Fords as the best looking of that era due to the stylish new front grille and ultra-modern horizontal taillights. This look of quiet refinement helped Ford keep its sales over the 1 million mark despite Korean War restrictions that limited production and access to raw materials. The Custom Convertible was Ford's only ragtop in 1951, selling 40,934 for $1949.
Options for the 1950 model year remain basically remained the same as prior years, with the exception of an optional 3-speed transmission with automatic overdrive, and an optional two-speed Ford-O-Matic automatic transmission. Model choices were Deluxe Series and Custom Deluxe series. A Custom Crestliner was available with full wheel covers, special paint, extra chrome trim and vinyl top covering. All were available with choice of either 95 HP 6 cylinder or 100 HP Flathead V8 engines. A pillarless two-door hardtop (the Victoria) was also available. Other options for 1951 included fender skirts, bumper guards, radio, heater, clock, side mirrors,locking gas cap, fog lights, defroster, white wall tires and wheel trim rings.
Sargent found his ‘51 in 1988, parked in a Reseda back yard since 1964. While there were only 64,000 miles showing on the odometer, 2 1/2 decades of sitting had taken it’s toll on everything. After a brief search, “donor organs” were found in the form of a wrecked 1965 Mustang. The 289 V8 engine, transmission, and rear end had escaped damage in the Mustang and were put into the ‘51. In the interest of safety, front brakes were changed to disk and the steering was also upgraded. The interior was also redone and kept pretty close to stock materials and patterns. He did his own laquer paint job about 20 years ago, about 8 layers in all including the clear coat. Close examination will show it’s age but it’s still a real head turner and always draws a crowd when out on the town.