The 3-1/2 year build on this 1955 Ford Customline sedan ended just in time for the 2015 car show season. Everywhere the car appeared, people loved it. They loved it in Nashville, where the Ford was a Builders Choice pick by Bobby Alloway. The Ford continued to collects Builders Choice awards all summer—in Indy where it was selected by the Roadster Shop, in Des Moines with a pick by Roger Burman, and in Columbus where Andy Leach honored the car. It was especially loved at the Car Craft Summer Nationals in its hometown of Milwaukee. The Customline, nicknamed GT55, earned Car Craft award for Best Paint and Best In Show, and a STREET RODDER selection for Best Ford In A Ford.
Nobody loves the GT55 more than owner Gene Schwister. "I'm a Ford man," Gene told us. The folks in Milwaukee already know that, especially all the other Ford men and women who have purchased cars from the Schwister Ford dealership in town.
Gene’s grandson Tyler is another Ford man. Tyler was looking for cars on the Internet in 2010, when he spotted the Customline advertised for sale. It looked appealing and the body was described as “restored.” After negotiating, agreeing on a price, and driving to Pennsylvania to get the car, Gene realized that “not to be in the best of shape” was a better description for the Ford’s condition. Even so, he knew that he and Tyler could turn it into a nice car.
The project started at Gene’s home shop. With the body off the frame and stripped to bare metal, attention turned to the chassis. One of the first decisions was to use an Art Morrison chassis as the updated platform for the sedan. Engine and transmission mounts were added to the tube frame. The frame was ground smooth and powdercoated in the same color that would eventually be used in the interior. The Art Morrison Enterprises independent front suspension with dropped spindles was added. Power steering is provided by a Ford rack. The Strange Engineering Ford 9-inch rear with 3.70 gears and a Posi is located by a four-link and Panhard bar setup. Antiroll cars and Strange coilovers front and rear upgrade the Ford’s ride. Many of the suspension components were smoothed and finished with black powdercoating.
Once Gene and Tyler had the body back on the frame, they turned to Dave Widmann at Dave's Hot Rod Shop in West Bend, Wisconsin, for help with the build. By now, Gene told us, the bodywork was moving way beyond dent and rust repair, and the “nice car” was on its way to becoming extraordinary.
The body modifications are subtle but extensive. The front fenders were reshaped to replicate the crown in the doors and to be flush with the hood edges. The fenders, hood, and rear quarters were peaked, holes were filled, and ornamentation was removed. The front bumper was flipped, and sectioned front to back, side-to-side, and top to bottom. The grille was sectioned, relocated, and reangled. A lot of attention went into customizing the lights. Dave created custom LED headlight lenses and lenses and bezels for the taillights and parking lights. Parking light buckets were resized to reduce bulkiness.
The contemporary tire and wheel combination blends with the classic body. Wide Toyo radials measure 225/35ZR18 and 275/45ZR20 and are stretched over 18x8 and 20x10 GTs from Schott Performance Wheels. Rolling stock is back up by Wilwood disc brakes. Six-piston calipers grab 14-inch front rotors, with four-piston/12-inch brakes at the rear.
Dave’s stunning paintjob is monochromatic black from SPI contrasted by a wide band of Black Diamond running the length of the hood, top, and deck—divided by saddle-colored pinstriping. The amazing effect is what earned Gene’s Ford its Best Paint award at the Car Craft Summer Nats.
Instead of continuing the black on the inside, Dave finished the custom sculpted door panels and headliner, modified 1965 Thunderbird buckets, and hand built rear seats in smooth and perforated saddle tan Italian leather—accented with Black Diamond painted pieces and stainless trim. Most of the dash was metal shaped, dressed up with a customer insert, and covered with a 1956 Ford dash top section—plus more Italian leather. Gauges were selected form Classic Instruments and a Billet Specialties steering wheel was chosen to top the ididit column. Pedals are from Wilwood. The center console houses switches for lights, ignition, and wipers, as well as the Kenwood receiver. The Vintage Air controls and vents are hidden.
Dave created the sculpted panels in the engine compartment and designed the brown and black color scheme on the Ford Coyote engine that powers the GT55. Gene and Tyler preferred an Eight Stack injection system to the factory setup, so a system was created for this application using Weber 48 IDA carb-inspired throttle bodies. Dave hid the injectors and hand-shaped the fuel hard lines—and built the fuel block and regulator. A Performance Electronics ECU and sensors control the system. Custom exhaust pipes run from the stock exhaust manifold to the custom stainless tips exiting through the rear bumper. MagnaFlow mufflers sound just right. The Coyote is dressed up with more Black Diamond paint plus satin saddle colored paint, which gives the look of leather. A Tremec five-speed ties the Coyote to a Dynotech driveshaft.
Gene told Dave that when the 1955 Customline was finished, he would stop building cars. That plan didn’t last long. Now Gene has a 1957 Ranchero in the works. In the meantime, he’s having a blast touring and showing off the GT55. As for Tyler, he says that his plans to autocross the 1955 Ford are on hold for now, while he and his grandfather continue to display their car at prominent events, where even Chevy guys love this Ford.
Article courtesy of Hot Rod Network, written by Tim Bernsau, contributer Robert McGaffin.