In 2001, Bill Simons was visiting his parents in Maine when he saw an ad in the local newspaper offering a "project car" - a 1949 Ford station wagon.
The 1949 model was the first Ford to receive a thorough makeover after the end of World War II. A total of 31,412 two-door, eight-passenger Custom Ford station wagons were produced. Each one weighed 3,543 pounds.
Simons investigated the advertisement in the paper and discovered the car for sale had been dismantled and partially reassembled. He thought the asking price was excessive, so he walked away. Besides, he knew that 1949 was a year of big change at Ford with more metal and less wood in the station wagons.
A few months passed, and Simons contacted the seller to see if the price of the Ford had become more reasonable. It had, and Simons purchased the station wagon in August 2001 in Limerick, Maine. He left the car there and went home to Arlington, Va.
Arrangements were made for Simons to fly to Maine, rent a truck and trailer and haul his treasure home. The flight he chose was scheduled on Sept. 13, 2001. Two days after the terrorist attack on the United States all flights were grounded, so Simons' plan was scuttled.
The seller then agreed to transport the Ford 10 days later to the annual antique car gathering in Hershey, Pa., where Simons could take delivery.
Once the 17-foot, 4-inch-long Ford was at his home, Simons began a careful inspection. The 329-cubic-inch, flathead V-8 engine was given a clean bill of health and was pronounced capable of 100 horsepower. Fluid capacities included 5 quarts of oil and 19 gallons of gasoline.
Fortunately, the metal bodywork had been completed. Simons says all of the original wooden parts of the car were intact, including the dark mahogany panels, as well as the lighter maple trim pieces.
On the inside of the metal shroud around the spare tire on the tailgate was a sample of the original Meadow Green paint. That color was perfectly matched when the metal parts of the car were painted.
When new in 1949 the Ford had a base price of $2,119 and was supported on a 114-inch wheelbase by 7.10x15-inch tires. As what turned into a 10-year restoration project progressed, Simons says that wherever he could keep an original piece of the car, he did so.
His Ford features three-row seating with original vinyl upholstery in the second and third row seats. Only the front seat has been reupholstered.
In a nod to safety, Simons has installed three-point seat belts, as well as adding a second tail/brake light that also permits turn signal indicators.
The side glass windows by the second and third row seats slide forward and backward. The glass in the car is all original Simon's reports, except for the two-piece windshield.
Simons has learned that Ford often went into the parts bin for parts such as the door handles that are from a Mercury sedan of the same year.
Early on, as the lengthy restoration was inching along, Simons was pleasantly surprised to hear from the man who had sold him the car. He had found a critical part that Simons had yet to discover was missing. The man was happy to give the part to Simons, who was even happier to get the part.
After a decade of what Simons describes as "countless frustrations" the Ford can now be steered in the same 20.5-foot turning circle as when it was new. The speedometer is ready to register 100 mph speeds. "It can go 70," Simons affirms.
"I know every nut and bolt on the car," Simons says. "It was a struggle," he says of the restoration project, "but the victory was worth it."
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