The 1950 Shoebox Ford Custom
In 1949, Ford introduced its first post-war design. Instead of having noticeable fenders covering the four wheels, the car had a slab sided profile that led to people calling it the “shoebox.” Ford wasn’t first out with such a design. Henry J. Kaiser had introduced slab-sided vehicles with the 1947 Kaiser and Frazer. But Kaiser didn’t have any pre-war models to bring out of mothballs. He started from scratch. For Ford, and most other U.S. manufacturers, 1946 meant retooling the 1942 models. In Ford’s case it took another three years to get a new model on the showroom floors. And while Ford kept the new design for three years, my focus today is on the 1950 Shoebox Ford Custom.
Canadian automotive historian James C. Mays relates how the man who designed the Shoebox Ford wanted the design to go to Nash. Apparently, in those post-war years, few car companies had their own design staff. George Walker took his design to George Mason at Nash-Kelvinator, and Mason was suitably impressed. The word did not make on down the line, apparently, because when Walker didn’t hear anything back from Nash-Kelvinator, he pitched his design to Ford. Ford had a design competition, and Walker won. Mason was not happy. To ensure that he never lost out again, he created an in-house design team for future Nash projects. Read all about on the Old Cars Canada blog, or the link from carrosantigos.
More on the development of the Shoebox Ford
The auto editors of Consumer Guide have a website titled “How Stuff Works.” On that site, they have nine separate pages devoted to the development and production of the 1949 Ford and its successors in 1950 and ’51. In addition they have eight separate pages devoted strictly to the Woody wagons built with Ford and Mercury nameplates. Those models, sorry to say, are outside the scope of this post. Still, I heartily recommend visiting their 1949 Ford pages, as well as the Woody wagon pages.
My Personal History with the 1950 Shoebox Ford Custom
As you may recall, at the time of my birth in October, 1949, Poppa drove a 1947 Kaiser. Sometime in my first year, Poppa bought a new car, a 1950 Shoebox Ford Custom. I never heard him refer to it as a “shoebox,” and I have little memory of that car. Poppa drove his 1950 Ford until he traded it in for a 1953 model Ford. In 1953, we took a cross-country drive to visit my grandmother. We drove from Laurel, Montana to Parkersburg, West Virginia and back, but not in a straight line. No, it was more of a lazy upper-case L. ( ̚ )
I cannot be sure that we took the 1950 Shoebox Ford Custom on that trip, I was only three at the time. But my earliest memories stem from that trip, and I recall our car being blue. The 1953 Ford was maroon. The 1950 Ford was dark blue, as I recall. From Laurel, we drove east across Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin. At the eastern end of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we crossed the St. Marys River from Sault Ste Marie, Michigan to Sault Ste Marie, Ontario. I’ll talk more about the trip in an upcoming blog, but after passing through Toronto and stopping at Niagara Falls, we drove the Ford on to Boston, then south to Parkersburg. I have very limited memories of the trip, but some memories I know are mine, and not ones born of watching Poppa’s slide shows.
Modern Connections to the 1950 Ford
I find most of the cars I photograph at the various car shows around our area–northwestern Montana and northern Idaho. Admittedly, I haven’t been good at using keywords to enable easy searches of my almost 100,000 photographs. When I set up a “smart collection” in Adobe’s Lightroom, the program found over 600 photographs of Fords. Two of those were Shoebox Fords, a 1950 tudor coupe and a 1951 convertible. Both are bright red, at least today. I don’t know if the owners changed the original colors of the cars. Both look newly painted.
The car shown at the head of this page is definitely not in showroom condition. I don’t think it would take a lot to make it a decent driver, but as no one was staffing the car lot, I could not confirm the car’s mechanical status. When I called the company’s listed phone number, I got a message saying the number had been disconnected. Without knowing more about the car, I cannot recommend that you rush to Pablo, Montana, and buy this baby.
How to distinguish the three Shoebox Ford Custom years
Having rushed the car into production, Ford was not ready to make major changes from one year to the next. In the late 1950s, it is easy to spot the differences between a 1957 model, a 1958 and a 1959. The differences between the 1949,1950 and 1951 are much more subtle. The first place to look is the bullet nose. Introduced in 1949, the nose was chrome, with no color added. In 1950, the center of the bullet was red in color and had a “6” or an “8” on that red background, depending, of course, on whether the engine was 6-cylinder or 8-cylinder. In 1951, there was no center bullet nose.
The second place to look is the side spear. On the 1949 model, the spear either began on the front fender as a simple spear, or in some models, had a second chrome strip under the front end with the words “Ford Custom” engraved on the strip. In 1950, the “Custom” name appeared in a rectangle above the front end of the spear. For 1951, the name appeared in the same location as in 1950, but an additional strip of chrome led back along the rear fender to the tail light housing. Both of these are remarkably minor clues when you’re trying to figure out what year Ford you’re watching.
It never ceases to amaze me that if you look for something specific on the web, you’ll probably find it. I didn’t really expect to find a Shoebox Ford Blog website, but sure enough, one came up immediately. It is in Portuguese, and while there is an easy translation device, the pictures alone are worth the visit. The blog writer goes by the name STGM (Sic Transit Gloria Mundi–Thus passes the glory of the world, in Latin) or CarrosAntigos (old cars in Portuguese. He has amassed a significant collection of advertising materials for the 1949 through 51 Ford, both in English and in Portuguese. The website also has a complete pdf file of the official shop manual for the Shoebox Ford. I recommend you check out the site.
Most of my daily recipe suggestions come directly from my inbox. Not surprisingly, many of the folks who email me write about food and share recipes. I, in turn, share a small percentage of those recipes with you. Today’s recipe, Grilled Apple and Swiss Cheese Sandwich, was in the first e-mail I opened today. It sounds so good, especially as I’ve just come in from mother nature’s April fool prank, a snow storm, and a grilled sandwich just sounds scruptious. I can’t wait to fix one for myself.
Just as with the Guest Site, all I had to do was ask Youtube for videos on 1950 Shoebox Fords and several choices came up. I chose one that gives you a great view of the outside of the car, as well as the interior and what’s under the hood. The owner even starts the car up so you can hear what these cars sounded like going down the road. Fair warning, the opening section of the video focuses on the car owner, not just the car. Even so, I think you’ll find the video informative and fun. It’s a great visual for the 1950 Shoebox Ford Custom.
More Information on the 1950 Shoebox Ford Custom
I have no doubt that as of April 1st, 2020, you know how to do a Google search. Let me just add that both Amazon.com and Ebay.com have many, many listings that could be of interest to anyone looking for more information on the 1950 Shoebox Ford Custom. Did you know, for instance, that HotWheels has at least a couple versions of the Shoebox Ford.
The 1949-1951 Ford Mercury Club shows up on a list of car clubs, but I have not been able to get any further information. The most recent event they have posted was in 2003. The Ford Owners’ Association is definitely still going and has a website at www.fordowners.org. According to their website,
This association is formed by FORD enthusiasts who want to bring together all FORD owners who are dedicated to the restoration, preservation, modification, fun and enjoyment of all vehicles built by FORD Motor Company, from the earliest years to currant year models. FORD cars, trucks, tractors, Lincoln, Mercury, etc., all under one organization.
We welcome ALL FORDS! This is for the love and enjoyment of this great American product. What is better than owning a FORD? This is a family-oriented association for owners of all ages.
Sounds like they’ll be happy to have you join, as long as you love Fords.
My Editorial Calendar for April, 2020
The purpose of an editorial calendar is to allow a writer to pre-plan his writing assignments, and keep track of where he is in process. Looking at the calendar below, you will see that I cover my main interests in this way. On Sundays, I write about my life growing up. The title is almost always the name of a town or city. Mondays I follow up with a travelogue on my domestic travels. For April, I’ll be writing about various trips around Washington State. Tuesday is dedicated to food or cooking, and Wednesday to classic cars. Thursdays, I return to travelogues, but this time I look at foreign trips I have made. Friday is my day to talk about books and authors, and Saturday I leave open for anything of interest that has happened in the recent past.
The Calendar Itself
|Classic Car: Ford||Foreign Travel: Finland 3||Books: Cozy Mystery||Open|
|Colusa CA||Domestic Travel: Thurston County WA||Cooking: Keto Diet||Classic Car: Nash||Foreign Travel: Canada||Books: Mystery||Open|
|El Cerrito CA||Domestic Travel: Pierce County WA||Cooking: Slow Cooker||Classic Car: Plymouth||Foreign Travel: Japan||Books: 20th Century French||Open|
|Pinole CA||Domestic Travel: King County WA||Cooking: Buttermilk||Classic Car: Oldsmobile||Foreign Travel: Mexico 3||Books: 20th Century German||Open|
|Smith River CA||Domestic Travel: Jefferson County WA||Cooking: Cakes||Classic Car: Mercury||Foreign Travel: Mexico 2||Books: Richard Stevenson||Open|
|Berkeley CA||Domestic Travel: Island County WA||Cooking: Pies||Classic Car: Dodge||Foreign Travel: Mexico 3||Books: Anthony Bidulka||Open|
Note this calendar can be seen as advisory only. If the world comes to an end on April 15th, I won’t be writing on April 16th. I don’t care how much you want to read about my trip to Japan. Also, I invite you, my readers, to jump in and say “No, don’t write about Mercurys on the 29th. I’d really rather you wrote about Studebakers. I aim to please, and if there is any way I can accommodate you, I will. Fair enough?
That’s all for today. Stay tuned tomorrow for, yes, a third day about my travels in Finland. Please do comment below. I love to see your thoughts, even when you disagree with me. Especially when you disagree with me. And I love my subscribers, so hit the subscribe button at the top right of the page and you’ll never miss one of my posts.