Stories from Steve: ‘56 Ford Convertible
Updated: Feb 16, 2022
You’re right: this car does not conform to our Foundation parameters. It’s not an untouched, low-mileage car, and it isn’t low production, either. But here’s the thing–when I was a kid, I couldn’t get it out of my mind.
Our family lived in Tyngsborough, Massachusetts. Dad felt we should have a camp where Mum and I would spend our summers together. From 1949 to 1951, we built a log cabin in the tiny town of Casco, Maine so we could have a place to camp during the summertime.
By 1954, it was time for me to get a job. I lived and breathed cars, so I headed directly to the only gas station in town, Mr. Brackett’s Esso station. I jumped on my bike and headed for the garage and asked for a job.
The first thing he said to me was, “How old are you?”
“I just turned twelve,” I replied confidently.
“Can’t do it – too young,” he replied in an abrupt, Maine-like manner.
Anyway, I ended up working as a caddy at a golf course.
1955 was a repeat of 1954.
The conversation I had with Mr. Brackett at the beginning of that summer mirrored the one I had the previous year.
“Mr. Brackett, I need a job working on cars.”
“Not here, you’re too young,” he replied brusquely.
Disappointed, I returned to the golf course.
Suddenly, it was June of 1956.
I had heard that one of Mr. Brackett’s employees had quit, so I returned to the station to see if I had a chance.
“Mr. Brackett, I need a job and I just turned 14.”
“Will you work nights and weekends?”
“Yes sir, any schedule you need.” I replied quickly.
“Can you be here tonight at six?” he asked.
“Yes, sir.” I replied with a broad grin.
I started working just before the July 4th holiday weekend. Gas was 29.9 cents per gallon on Friday and 32.9 cents per gallon on Saturday. To tell you the truth, I’m not sure I fully understood the reasoning behind the price change at first. However, when the price dropped back down 29.9 cents per gallon after Labor Day, I finally understood that I had learned the first of my many lessons in American business practices.
You must be asking yourself: how does this beautiful 1956 pink and white Ford convertible fit into this collection (and therefore, my life as a whole)?
Well, it wasn’t two or three weeks after I started working at Mr. Brackett’s Esso station that a man named Gary Simonds pulled in with a brand new 1956 Ford—just like this one. The top was down, the rumble of glass-packs filled the air, and every piece of chrome sparkled in the station’s light.
He asked for a dollar’s worth of gas. While we filled up his tank, I went ahead and washed not only the windshield, but also the headlights, parking lights, tail lights. Heck, I would have washed the whole car if he’d asked. Gary paid his dollar and drove off to the popular town of Naples, Maine.
And just like that, I was hooked–I couldn’t get that car out of my mind. In fact, I couldn’t wait for the next time he’d come in for gas. And luckily, just as I had hoped, he became a regular customer for the rest of the summer.
But this is far from the end of the story. After the first week or so, Gary wasn’t alone. At first, there was a cute, young girl in the car. Then, there was more than one and sometimes it was full of girls, all giggling and laughing and driving me crazy. I guess that experience was best summarized in 1966 by Stephen Stills from Buffalo Springfield when he sang, “There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.” Well, it wasn’t clear when I was a kid, but I think I’ve got it figured out now.
In the 1980s, I started looking for an exact duplicate of Gary’s 1956 Ford. After several years, I could not find the right car (or for that matter, a rust-free Ford convertible period). Finally, I spotted an advertisement for a car in Denver—they claimed the car was rust-free, but there was a catch: it was black-and-white.
I bought the car and John and Jackie Kane (renowned restorers of Triple J Restorations based in Ft Lauderdale) picked it up and brought it to their shop. They produced this beautiful clone of Gary’s car, including the same
style continental kit.
So that’s the story. Even though it doesn’t conform to our mission statement, this car is still one of my favorites and is consistently very popular with visitors who have toured our facilities.
Written by founder Steve Ames