A new Ford Fairlane Victoria two door hardtop was a class act in 1956. Featuring the lower, sleeker roofline found only on the previous year’s upmarket Crown Victoria and even bolder side chrome, the Vicky lacked nothing in aesthetics when compared to its comparable GM counterparts.
Alwyn Pridham resides in Moama, NSW, the sister town of Echuca, and classic Fords have been the apple of his eye from his earliest days. His automotive passion has filtered down to all of his sons, including Barry Pridham from Ballarat with whom we initially spoke, along with Alwyn.
“Dad’s always had a variety of cars, ’33 Fords, ’36 Fords, four or five Tank Fairlanes, a couple of Slopers. Mum even had a Ranchwagon for a while,” says Barry as he attempts to dredge up 40 something years of family memories. “We used to own the local spare parts shop in Daylesford, back then mum drove a ’59 Ford Tank Fairlane hearse. Dad used to race at the old Daylesford Speedway back in the 60s and 70s with a ‘39 Ford with a sidevalve. We would all go to the track, mum would work in the canteen, and dad would help on the gate and race. My two older brothers would race too, but I was a bit young.”
One of those brothers, Andrew, was responsible for inducting this 1956 Ford Fairlane Victoria into the family, purchasing it back in 1985. “It was a tidy driver, one colour red with a 390 big block, FMX auto and a set of five slot mags. It was already right hand drive, we drove it to the Street Rod Nationals in Canberra recalls Barry.
Andrew had only owned the hardtop for two years when the mines in Western Australia came calling. With Andrew now based well away from home, the car sat idle, prompting Alwyn to purchase it from his son.
A few years passed and with the red paint starting to show its age, Alwyn decided on a budget makeover. A “friend of a friend” repainted the Ford in a more traditional yellow and white, but Alwyn was happy to keep the driveline and interior as is. The car looked sharp and over the next decade and a half, he made even more improvements like disc brakes and icy cold air conditioning. He also purchased a continental kit and fender skirts from the USA, painting them to match.
The Fairlane and Alwyn aged gracefully together, but whilst Alwyn had plenty of good years still ahead, the 390 FE motor was starting to cause trouble. “It would run hot all the time, I was nearing 70 and just didn’t want the hassle. I just wanted to get in, turn the key and drive it without the worry,” explains Alwyn. After locating a 351 Cleveland, Jamie Bourke from Engine Action in Echuca fully rebuilt it top to bottom. The cast iron FMX trans lived on but it’s since been replaced more recently with a C10 from C.A.R.S. of Ballarat.
Approaching retirement and with near on 30 years of ownership, Alwyn and wife Dawn had understandably formed a bond with the Vicky and figured it deserved another repaint, although peeling off the old layers presented some serious rust issues according to Barry.
“Dad wanted a really good paint job so it needed to be fully stripped. We knew there was bog in it, but he didn’t think it would be as bad as it was, but once you start you can’t stop. He decided to do it properly, but it did turn out to be an expensive build in the end.”
Keen to be involved in the build, Alwyn reviewed the local options and ultimately assigned the restoration to Rod Munro of Border Customs in Moama. Alwyn adds that he and Rod are both members of the Rich River Rod & Custom Club. “I’ve known him for almost 20 years, he’s very good at what he does,” says Alwyn. “I took the car to him complete, then went to his shop every day from 7am to 4pm for 15 months to work on the car, pull it apart, make small repairs and such. I worked with him until he got it to the stage where it needed to be primed, then I said ‘I’m out of here!’”
The body itself was restored to perfection but the boys went the extra mile when it came to the engine bay; filling holes, smoothing and extending the inner guards to better conceal the front suspension. We like the removable filler panels between the guards and firewall, shielding the stock hood hinges. The Rubber Connection came up with a fresh pair of rear quarter panels (along with a truckload of new rubbers and parts), while Rod tackled most of the other major rust.
The interior was still suffering a bad case of the 80s with its Thunderbird bucket seats. Efforts to source an original split bench were fruitless so an early Falcon bench was used as an alternative. Alwyn called upon an old acquaintance in Phill Worsley at Daylesford Upholstery Service, entrusting Phill with the overall design. The final combination of green and white vinyl compliments the mild custom theme of the build perfectly.
The rebuild has taken around two years and the Vicky has been on the road for another two, Alwyn taking the opportunity to enjoy the coupe on a regular basis. “He’s 75 now and he still loves it, he drives it every week,” says Barry. Ironically not long after these pics were taken, Alwyn located a correct split bench seat just 30km away! It’s now in the car and is a much nicer fit.
There’s a few more participants in the build worthy of mention, namely Ken and Garry at Perrow’s Paints, Jet Hot Coatings in Castlemaine, Auto Bling in Melbourne for restoring the stainless trim, Harkrome in Braybrook for chrome plating, Dave at A1 Air in Ballarat and Scotty and the crew at C.A.R.S. (Conder’s Automotive Restoration Services), especially for helping Alwyn out with a changeover gearbox at very short notice just before the 50th Victorian Hot Rod Show.
“And to my three sons; Wayne, Andrew and Baz for all their help, and of course my wife Dawn for putting up with the rebuild for 15 months from morning to night!” closes Alwyn.
Story by Gavin Kelso, Photos by Scotty Gom, Featured Cruzin #189.