Live Auctions

The Terms We Use: 1951 Ford Two Door Sedan

When you read a lot of ads and go to a lot of car shows, you begin to see the length and breadth of the word restoration.  A lot of cars are labeled restored, and you just have to sit back and wonder if the owner really knows what that word means.  Perhaps it is time for one of the major publications in the industry to establish a standard definition for each word relating to collectible automobiles.  Words like survivor, preservation, collectible, modified, and even barn find need to be clearly understood when bandied about, and a checklist needs to be added to some of those terms to grade their percentage of correctness.  I know it sounds picky, but it couldn’t hurt.  At any rate, the term used to describe this 1951 Ford two door sedan, found on Craigslist in Dayton, Indiana, is amateur restoration.  Priced at a very tempting $6800, this barn find Ford has a lot going for it, and we have faithful reader Pat L. to thank for this marvelous find.

So, what exactly is a restoration?  The dictionary definition that applies is: the bringing back to a former condition.  If that is the case, then a restored automobile should be brought back to its former condition as it left the factory.  This applies to every single part from bumper to bumper and tire to roof.  The National Corvette Restorers Society does a good job with this standard, as a Corvette that receives a top award is like factory new.  The car even has to have overspray in the right areas, and the proper grease pencil marks on the frame.  Other cars end up being restored to a standard far beyond what they looked like when they left the factory, like what you see in a lot of Pebble Beach eligible restorations.  These are textbook over restorations.

Average cars that are restored by enthusiasts often get both over and under restored.  Over restored is when hours are spent making the car perfect, within the limitations of finances and time.  Under restored cars often suffice with a paint job and seat covers, which is what I think we are seeing in this car.  I do take offense to the term amateur restoration.  I have seen professionally restored cars that look horrendous, and I have seen home garage restorations that are perfect in every way.  The term itself makes us think of Beavis and Butthead applying paint to a car by throwing it on the fenders.  Perhaps independent restoration is in order for well executed restorations, while brought to driver level is more appropriate for lesser attempts.  I guess vocabulary variety is the spice of life.

I say all of this because I am witness to the wild range of descriptions that sellers use to describe vehicles for sale in ads both online and in print.  I also am well aware of the complaints that readers have with stories that are lacking in details and photographs about the vehicles we write about.  Often, we here at Barn Finds are forced to act like sleuths, looking carefully at enlarged photographs and using research to try to fill in the blanks.  The goal for us is to entertain you and maybe give you a head’s up on a bargain or two.  Many times we want to write about cool cars that are put up on the internet, at no cost to the seller in many cases, but the ad consists of a one sentence description and three blurry photographs.  To add to that, a lot of ads are purposely written to bait, deceive, or they outright lie.  Yes, I am serious.  There are some dishonest folks out there.  Honestly.

The Ford in this particular ad looks to be a fairly good, original car that had a repaint a number of years ago, and some refurbishment of parts like the bumpers and the usual stuff like the braking, fuel, and cooling systems.  The original seats are hidden under the seat covers, and the car is said to run and drive with no problems.  Judging from the grime on the windshield, this test drive must have been taken after these pictures were taken.  Of course, it would have been better for the seller to have taken pictures of the car after cleaning it up.  At least they aren’t hosing the car down with water and then taking pictures in an attempt to make the paint look glossy.  The seller has also listed a number of specific parts that they replaced in getting this one back on the road, and that is very helpful to buyers trying to determine whether a car is worth the asking price.

When you look at the car as a whole, it is not an amateur restoration from a few years ago.  It is a solid, good looking, desirable Shoebox Ford that is a good candidate for a restoration, or it can be cleaned up and enjoyed as-is without too much work.  If the seller took the time to clean the car up, took detailed pictures at the largest setting on their camera, focused on photographing both problem areas for this model car and evidence that those problems do not apply to this car, and provided a heavily detailed description of everything they know about the car, my guess is that the car would sell quickly.  It is a pretty good car that needs a bit more good salesmanship and documentation to put it in someone else’s garage.


  1. Uncleape

    how do people send you a car that may be interesting for you to use?

    • Mike H. Mike H

      They have a page for that:

      • Howard A Member

        Hi Mike, apparently, they’re very selective.( or swamped with submissions) I’ve sent in several that never were considered, including the antique manure spreader, that was a true “Barn Find”. :)

      • Mike H. Mike H

        Now, come on Howard. . . Maybe it’s just because it comes from you?

        I keed, I keed.

  2. Rock On Member

    Or scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on contact.

  3. Howard A Member

    Great description of what a restoration is, or can be. I fall into the “amateur” category. Our ’50 Packard was very similar to this Ford, complete, but needed a lot. What Jeff didn’t mention, unless I missed it, is it all hinges on money, and what you have to put into a project. We, like most, at the time, had limited funds to restore the car, so naturally, close, not pristine, had to be good enough, and it was. We didn’t have the money for a “nut and bolt” restoration, just good enough to enjoy, like this car. At the time, we had the benefit of several “parts cars” that eased the cost considerably, but not sure that’s possible today. There are simply no parts cars left, and anything you do, today, is going to be big bucks. Most people today feel,( not me) why sink a ton of money into something, to have a 1951 driving car. May as well, for the same cost, do the upgrade thing. And that, being what this is, a 2 door ’51 Ford, (WOW,) is what will happen here, and I guess that’s ok.

    Like 1
  4. Alexander

    I’m not sure whether this is the wide-angle distortion, the layer of grime, the lack of polish, what appear to be undersized wheels/tires, a drab white color, just styling (or lack thereof), or what, but I took one look at these photos and found myself saying “Dear God, that has to be the homeliest-looking vintage American car I’ve ever seen.” I mean, it looks obese. With all the grace of swollen legs crammed into diabetic socks.
    So I went looking for photos of other ’51 Ford coupes just to see whether it was the photography or I was right, and I found a photo of another white one–which turned out to be for sale, much further along in restoration, converted to 12-volt system, new seat upholstery, still needs some finishing details, for $1200 less than this one’s asking price.
    I’m not giving details because I’m not selling it or intending to disparage the one pictured here, but someone searching could find it, I’m sure. Then it becomes an issue of how original do you want them?
    Still homely as a mud fence in my opinion, though. A nice, clean, white mud fence, but a mud fence. But, hey, different strokes for different folks.

    Like 1
  5. Jim Mc

    You want to talk about the “terms we use”, how about two-door sedan? Yes, I know that’s exactly what it was referred to in the sales literature and is still the proper description of this car. I’m more surprised that given the title of this post the irony of that phraseology escaped the write-up.
    Two. Door. Sedan.
    Gotta love it.

    Like 1
    • Mike H. Mike H

      I don’t understand what you’re getting at? The International Standard (ISO 3833-1977) defines a sedan as a passenger car in a three-box configuration with A, B & C-pillars and principal volumes articulated in separate compartments for engine, passenger and cargo. The passenger compartment features two rows of seats and adequate passenger space in the rear compartment for adult passengers, whereas a coupé is defined as having a closed body, usually with limited rear volume, a fixed roof of which a portion may be openable, at least two seats in at least one row, two side doors and possibly a rear opening, and at least two side windows. No specification is made for the number of doors, and the coupé body is usually limited as having useable rear passenger volume of <33 cubic feet.

      Today, coupé has become more of a marketing term for automotive manufacturers than a fact of the vehicle's design and technical makeup. The term has been ascribed to vehicles with two, three, or four doors, and for their perceived luxury or sporting appeal. This is because coupés in general are seen as more streamlined and sportier overall lines than those of comparable four-door sedans. Hence a coupé would be marketed as a sportier vehicle than a two-door sedan.

      Credit for much of this response goes to the folks at Wikipedia and a writer from Quora

      Like 1
      • Jim Mc

        Sorry, I wasn’t aware that was your parking spot. Wasn’t labeled. I can see your shiny new ISO 3833-1977 will fill it out to the yellow lines…

        Like 1
    • DweezilAZ

      That’s what it is. A two door sedan.

  6. Joe Haska

    I never can understand why people just don’t clean up a car, they want to sell. Over the years, I have bought cars, and just cleaned them up and sold them for a profit, its not that difficult!

  7. Darrun

    Most old cars have been somewhat Refurbished, not Restored. Big difference. Fortunately, you can look at the car and see the seller is either misleading, or confused to the terminology. The thing that I’ve run across over the years that I’ve been burned on is: “REBUILT”. I’ve purchased a few cars with rebuilt engines, with new gaskets and a can of Krylon applied, and that was rebuilt in the sellers opinion.

  8. geomechs geomechs Member

    The term, ‘Restoration,’ is definitely a loose term. It’s all in the beholder I guess. I remember back when I was running my ’47 Ford pickup. I spent hours putting a new floor in the bed, rebuilding the brakes, transmission and cooling system. Countless hours attempting to reclaim the long-since-faded-weathered dark green paint were also in the mix. People would come up to me and tell me that I had a ‘new’ truck there. I’d just snicker and take the compliment. Otherwise I look at restoration as: ‘Patch and polish,’ ‘Driver Quality,’ ‘Trailer Queen/Concourse,’ and ‘Rescue 9-11.’ The latter when the owner is so fanatical about the well-being of his car that he suffers a massive stroke or heart attack if he dares to park it outside and sees a seagull within a couple of miles (seagulls can bomb with better precision than a Norden Bomb Sight). Those fanatics should get out of the car hobby and take up polishing silverware, or hairdressing….

  9. paul

    My first car was a ’51 ford just like this one. I was living at Ft. Benning Ga. and on the way to school in Columbus Ga. each day, I would see it sitting at a gas station with a for sale sign. it was a dark green and looked pretty cool so I used money I had earned delivering pizza to buy it.

    Was a great car, had a cracked block so I found a ’53 Merc motor and put it in at the post auto workshop.

    The main problem I had with the car was there was just far too much power for the cluster gear in the transmission to handle, was very weak and easy to rip up. Can’t remember how many times i had to replace it.

  10. TR

    I’ll take the bus

  11. Mark S

    In my mind there are 6 classes of car bodies, here goes. 1) coupe a two door car that has two or four seats and has an A. B. and C. Pillars. 2) hard top, two or four door car with no B. Pillar can seat up to six and may include station wagons. 3) sedans a four door car that seats up to six has an A. B. C. pillars. 4) Station wagons a two or four door car with closed back instead of trunk has A. May or may not have a B. But does have a C. D. Pillars. 5) Limousines I don’t need to explain.6) Convertables this is a car with a soft collapsible top it can be a two or for door car. This is how cars were discribed prior to mini vans an SUV’s. I can’t believe that any one calling himself a motor head doesn’t know these terms they have been around forever.

    Like 1
  12. Mickey Dorsey

    I had a restoration business in the mid 80’s and used the terms “show quality”, ” showy road car”, “maintainance”, and “repair” to determine what the customer wanted and expected to pay for. By far most of my customers who were willing to spend serious money on a restoration had a sentimental reason to do so. This Ford 2 Door Sedan (not coupe), was exactly like my first car, but mine was black. I hope those who think it to be ugly as mud won’t be offended when I criticize their choice of car. For me it would be a trip down memory lane and I’m sure someone out there might feel the same. I hope it finds a good home.

  13. charlie Member

    50 years ago, when I was young and had an extra $300 burning a hole in my pocket, I came upon a ’39 MG SA drophead, 119″ wheelbase, body by Salmon Sons, top by Tickford, just a gorgeous car. The ultimate of l930’s styling. Red leather interior, still “serviceable”. BUT the previous owner had brought it back from England after WWII. Engine self destructed sometime in the early l950’s. Word (wrong it turns out) was there were no spare engines, it was the only pushrod straight 6 MG had made, and they only made 500 of them. (In fact it was a Woolsely engine that powered tens of thousands of British police cars in the 30’s and 40’s and you could have gotten one, but, who knew back then?) So, he put in a Hudson Super Six with Twin H power, which was available, and powerful, and heavy and long, 3 speed, overdrive, he had to breach the firewall to make it fit, the MG radiator was much too small so it overheated in the summer. The right side had been hit and so the right front fender did not quite match the left. The right rear fender was homemade and did not match at all. The sheet metal piece below the trunk was homemade, the taillights were Ford pickup of the early 50’s, the headlights were late ’30’s Buick, the generator was White truck, MG was 12 volt from the beginning. There was a mass of bell wire to serve as resistance to drop the voltage down to 6 or 8 for the head and tail lights. It drove on 4.75 x 19″ tires which Sears was still selling. No heater. So what was it? Not restored. Not original. Modified? Was going to put a Mopar slant 6 in, in the early 70’s, it would have fit well, Hudson parts were getting hard to find. But wife, kids, house, came along and it was sold for the $300 I paid for it.

    • Colin

      Your car was “Custom.”

  14. Mickey Dorsey

    One last comment. I’m sure all the armchair quarterbacks out there will quickly correct me if I’m wrong, but to me this is a 1950 Ford. 51 had an extra bullet in the center of the grill and the protrusion leading up to the tail lights was covered with a chrome (or SST) decorative piece. Am I mistaken?

    Like 1
  15. charlie Member

    You are right. Two bullets (or later Dagmars, after a well endowed TV personality) on the ’51.

  16. Mickey Dorsey

    My mistake. 49-50 had the bullet in the middle.

    Like 1
  17. Troy S

    Chop top, white walls, burned out glass packs, souped up flat head, just how my dad would’ve liked it many many years ago.

  18. DweezilAZ

    That grey paint was a very popular color. Very common sight on old cars when I was growing up.

    Looks like a driveable car, one that wouldn’t cause worry using around town on the weekend just as is. Fix what needs to be fixed. A driver. Not a “restored” show piece.

    I like it just as it is. Like so many of the old cars still running the streets when I was a kid, it would have been 15-16 years old.

    And Jeff: thank you for not describing this car as a “two door ‘post’ sedan”.

    Like 1
  19. DweezilAZ

    two door sedan

    Like 1
  20. DweezilAZ


    Like 1
  21. Graywolf

    First car was a ’51 Ford 2-door. Took off rear chrome to tailights,filled the holes and added ’49 Ford tailights. My first customizing job. Put lucite shift,radio and door lock knobs, really on a roll here! Reversed the rear spring shackles and lowered the front with spring kit. Added black/white seat covers and painted diff white with a Dewey Weber Surfboard sticker on the housing and back window. Car was white, but by the time I did some small body work, I ended up painting the whole car rattle can flat black. After sanding and spraying again, white wheels and baby moons, it looked awesome! Removed back seat cushion, cut out support, was able to stick surfboard in rear without much sticking out of trunk! WOW, fun days!!

    Like 1
  22. Mickey Dorsey

    These are the memories that will make someone buy this car. It may be ugly to some, but was a “shoebox” full of memories for some of us baby boomers.

    Like 1
  23. bog

    Guys….I have read all the comments and am absolutely astounded that no one, including our author, caught the very thing (maybe) that was part of the discussion. Correct terminology. This Ford is properly called a “TUDOR” (Ford’s funny way of naming this sedan model). They also had the “FORDOR”, for the four door sedan. My first car, purchased at age 12 for $ 100.00, was a 1950 Tudor Sedan. Sort of faded “Sea Foam” green. My Dad taught me basic “wrenching”, and with his oversight, I rebuilt the car. Not restored. Probably ran and stopped better than new, but the paint was left alone and the interior was fine as it was. Flattie & 3 speed stick. Loved it, wish I had it now.

    Like 2
  24. Al Beavers

    Well, the car that shown in the “barn” was sold today to a car dealer from Iowa. In part I do have to thank BarnFinds for the notoriety from their post on this car. That’s what prompted the new owner to call and arrange for more current photos. But, this is what a BarnFinds story is about, leaving us scratching our heads, and wonder what would it take to have the car in question. If I had any idea that BarnFinds would have picked up this post, I could have accommodated them for a more favorable critique.

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