I had been itching to do a traditional, non-billet, non-tech car for some time, and had this '56 Dodge racing around in my head for months. That got me to thinking about other non-Chevy Tri-Fives ('55-57 models), so I whipped together a slick '56 Ford companion.
My inspirations were the great sectioned, un-chopped customs of the later '50s, the era just before custom cars got gaudy. Cars like Winfield's Jade Idol, Cushenbery's Marquis, and the X-51 Ford are perfect examples. When executed well, a non-chopped, sectioned custom has no equal in visual impact. Take a look and see if you don't agree.
'56 Dodge RoyalSales brochures for '56 promoted everything from stately trim, to models aimed at women (the LaFemme), to the mighty Hemi "with the magic of push-button driving." Clean factory lines and great power would make this one tidy mild custom, but what if. ...
So it began. Cars from designer Virgil Exner's era have a distinctive look and, if you know your Exner history, you'll appreciate the slicing on this concept. Let's start by sectioning the body without chopping the top. This makes the mild section look more dramatic. I resisted the urge to tunnel the custom canted, quad headlamps, opting instead for modest sculpting in the headlamp surround, allowing me to integrate an antenna on either side. I wanted to retain some original Dodge flavor, but also give a nod to Exner's days at Studebaker, plus bring a bit of sports car flair to what was a pretty quick car. A simple, single-bar grille allows your eye to move across the car with little distraction.
Custom side trim from multiple makes and models pays homage to the original design, and flows back to reworked quarter-panels housing handmade taillamps with "floating" chrome trim for that late-'50s space-age feel. The rear bumper is replaced with a custom pan and bumper to echo the front layout.
Inside, a simple, elegant layout would be the way to go, leaning this car into "coachbuilt" territory. Under the hood, naturally, we'll go for a period-perfect Hemi, and then rest it all snugly on the floor wearing chrome-reverse wheels on wide whites (pinstripe whitewall Royal Masters would be cool too). Then spray it all in a pale lemon-gold pearl, with a pearl white top and lower body, to make the most of those flowing lines.
'56 FordMy all-time favorite custom is the Winfield-built Jade Idol '56 Mercury, so what better choice than a '56 Ford with which to pay homage? Again, there's no chop here, just a mild section to lighten up the design. Next, we'll pancake the hood to make room for the quad headlamp setup. We'll make a killer new front pan/grille surround, and fill the new cavity with a simple single-bar grille, this time creating a pair of wraparound bumperettes, in which we'll hide marker lamps to illuminate the area around the chrome inserts.
Moving along the side, we'll need to make new trim to emphasize the sculpted recess starting mid-door, and drawing into the modified Buick quarter-panels. The taillamp housings hint at the Jade Idol, and wear custom lenses. Black expanded metal creates the background for the taillights and grille cavities both fore and aft. We'll fill the new rear grille cavity with another floating bar to keep the theme flowing. The rear bumpers mimic the fronts, rounding the corners to flow into the cruiser skirts. We'll cover it all in a Winfield-esque fadeaway candy blue scheme, and carry that into the wild interior.
The interior gets the full show treatment, with four bucket seats, a floating console, and a cut-down steering wheel in front of that reworked dash. A combination of painted surfaces and pearl white seating mix the traditional with modern touches. Weld Forgewire wheels give a contemporary feel while also giving a nod to the early '60s use of wire wheels. Under the hood, we'll opt for a Y-block running mechanical injection converted to EFI, and an overdrive tranny for cruising on the Art Morrison chassis.