Cave Find! 1954 Ford Crestline Sunliner

Recently a group of spelunkers were checking out what they thought was a cave in South Dakota and stumbled upon a largely complete car – a 1954 Ford Crestline Sunliner convertible! Details are few about how or when the car got there, but it certainly makes for an interesting find to report. The car is not for sale and is not likely to see sunlight again, either. For details on the find, you can read the story here on Hagerty Media.

Members of Paha Sapa Groto, part of the National Speleological Society, found the 1954 Ford in an abandoned gypsum mine that they mistook for a cave. They were exploring the area underground in the Black Hills of South Dakota where a dozen homes have been lost to things us Floridiana call sinkholes. The mine was open between the 1920s and 1950s. So far, no one has been able to explain the car’s presence and if it was deliberate or accidental. But, however you look at it, this once shiny white convertible may have been down in the bowels of the Earth for 50 or 60 years. And given its precarious position, it’s not likely to rejoin the rest of the world.

So, what’s the scoop on the car they found? Well, it’s a Crestline that was made by Ford between 1952-54. It was the premium trimline of cars sold by the manufacturer. Convertibles were just one of the body styles available with the Crestline, which was powered by a either a 223 cubic inch inline-six or a 239 “flathead” V-8 engine. The Crestline name was dropped in 1955 in favor of the Fairlane.

Ford built more than 1.1 million passenger cars in 1954, with 258,000 being Crestlines. Of that number, just 14% or 36,000 were convertibles like the one buried alive in South Dakota. If this car hadn’t fallen into a cave and maintained a like-new persona, it could be worth big bucks. It would probably cost more than that just to dig it out. Rest in Peace.

For a picture of what this car might have originally looked like, the one above was sold by Barrett-Jackson.


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  1. Rex Kahrs Member

    Once owned by Fred and Wilma.

    Like 27
    • Mitchell Gildea Member

      Well yabba-dabba-do then!

      Like 9
    • Phlathead Phil

      But then sold it to their neighbor Barnie Rubble.

      Like 12
  2. oldsoldie

    I’ve seen guys go to great lengths to avoid the repo man, but THIS is ridiculous!

    Like 34
  3. Steve Bush Member

    After all those years buried in a cave, it still looks better that many cars for sale on this site.

    Like 57
  4. Classic Steel

    Oh no 🤦‍♀️
    Now we need to move… i didn’t think they’d ever find Jimmy Hoffa in his car after our wild blackout drunk night.
    It started with Tequila and doesn’t it always start with lots of Tequila..
    We picked up these average looking ladies (his was a lil *itchy) at the local dive bar near the union hall…
    I was in the back with Betty Lou. Well quite frankly i passed out 😵 and awoke to Hoffa who had bled out after driving down the big sinkhole and his dates feet stuck out from under the car with these ruby slippers.
    He and his friend were gone and there was nothing we could do. I would’ve called the cops but evidently Betty Lou was married to one if the local constables .
    Both I and Betty Lou crawled out and joined AA .. ran off. and never thought this day would arrive😵
    It just goes to show driving and drinking in the Devkota’s makes it hard to cowboy up in the bottom of a cave…😜

    (Anyone else want to finish the story)

    Like 14
  5. Ken Jennings

    “Ran when spelunked” Exactly how dep into this cave was it found, was there a clear path of entry? Would be fun to run the VIN and see if an old owner could be found and get the whole story.

    Like 31
  6. Air Boss

    Early GPS navigation failure!

    Like 24
  7. FastEddie/OldEddie: pick one

    Let’s see: how much is my budget for a buncha helium balloons and another buncha drones? It looks like it’s been scavenged for running gear before it decided to go exploring, anyway, so I’m out.

    Like 2
  8. Weasel

    Duh!!!…that’s we’re I parked it. That night was a blur.

    Like 6
  9. Superdessucke

    Inspiration point?

  10. Spridget

    Beverly Hills Car Club are already on their way.

    Like 23
    • Mike

      Not if Gullwing can get to it first.

      Like 9
  11. Calipag

    I believe the 54 Ford 239 was the first year of the non flat head?

    Like 6
    • Robert

      Yes it was. 1954 was the first year for the Y block overhead valve V8 engine. I believe it was 272 ci.

      Like 3
    • Terry J

      Yup, 1954 saw the introduction of the 239 cu in Y block overhead V8. It grew into the 272, 292 and 312 Y blocks. My very first car (that actually ran) was a ’54 2 door with that V8, back in ’65. :-) Terry J

      Like 3
      • 427Turbojet 427Turbojet Member

        Believe it also had a stop at 256 cubes.

        Like 2
  12. Brandon

    The “cave” was actually a cave in in a Blackhawk neighborhood. A sink hole opened up and the whole development was built on top of the abandoned mine. No one knew. Some folks are thinking the developer wasn’t informed of the land’s previous use. It’s been a big news thing here in SoDak.

    Like 19
    • Susan S McKee Member

      When I bought a house in North Central Illinois, they offered me mine subsidence insurance. Pays for events like this.

      Like 3
    • Gus Fring


      It’s so funny that NO ONE reads the comments…thank you for the real story. Everyone below this is oblivious.


      Someone that actually reads the posts

      Like 7
  13. Don

    My guess would be that someone dumped it after stealing the engine, trans driveshaft & diff.

    Like 5
  14. Haig L Haleblian

    Bet it would a different end to the story if it was a Ferrari GTO or James Dean’s 550.

    Like 3
  15. bud lee

    Batman’s old house .

    Like 14
    • Ted Miller

      Parents first car was a 54 Crestliner! Mom learned not to leave me in the car alone when she went to. Beauty shop, I knocked out of park & it rolled down hill & hit 2 Mail boxes!

      Like 3
  16. Autoworker

    The lengths someone will go to find a parking spot where they won’t get a door ding.

    Like 7
  17. luckylugnut

    Years ago, I remember seeing some sort of late 40’s/early 50’s car poking out of a dirt bank at the edge of someone’s property. It was obvious that they just pushed it over the side and as the years passed, it was slowly covered up by fill dirt and weather until it was completely out of sight.
    I often wondered why they didn’t just call a scrap guy to haul it away.

    Like 3
    • 427Turbojet 427Turbojet Member

      Years ago one of my uncles was a rancher in west central South Dakota. He was a jack of all trades, had a full blacksmith shop, built roads etc. He built stock dams in the prairie by lining junk cars along the low end of a draw, flattening them and covering them with dirt. If the draw was deep enough, it’d get another row of cars and dirt on top of the first. Some of the dams were deep enough to get stocked with fish. We’d be out fishing and you could see the grill of a 30s – 40s car sticking out of the water. He used this ’52 GMC to haul the cars, it has a 12′ boom on the back. He gave it to me before he died, I hauled it 450 miles home. Still works, but don’t have too much to use it on. Has a 302 6 cyl., 5 speed, Brown-Lipe 2 speed auxiliary trans and a 2 speed rear axle. All the gears you can use!

      Like 14
  18. JMB#7

    This reminds me of what I dubbed the “Karst Edition Corvette” from 2014 where about 8 Corvettes dropped into the sink hole under the Bowling Green KY Corvette Museum.

    Like 3
  19. Philip Bregar

    It’s not actually a convertible. Look at the first and third pix, and you will see the supports for the rear package tray. This was brought out at another site I frequent. The second pic looks like someone was using a boat fuel tank to try and start it? LOL. Hey guys, let’s start it and drive it out of here.

    Like 2
  20. Mike Hartman

    Fell in an earthquake crack?

    Like 1
  21. Gus Fring

    Aug 31, 2020 at 1:51pm
    The “cave” was actually a cave in in a Blackhawk neighborhood. A sink hole opened up and the whole development was built on top of the abandoned mine. No one knew. Some folks are thinking the developer wasn’t informed of the land’s previous use. It’s been a big news thing here in SoDak.

    Like 4
  22. Dave Mathers

    THAT won’t buff out!! LOL

    Like 2
  23. MBorst

    I’m thinking more on the lines of a bank robbery get away car !!

    Like 1
  24. SDJames

    I hear it’s being guarded by a Buffalo that likes blue jeans…

    Like 1
  25. Rodney - GSM

    Apparently cave dwellers were much more advanced than we thought. It was common belief that the convertible was at least two million years later. Science, go figure….

    Like 3
  26. Rustytech Member

    I’m not sure this whole thing isn’t “fake news”, the pictures look more like an HO scale diorama than actual photographs.

  27. Daren Stone

    Get parts for it at Rock Auto.

    Like 4
  28. Jack Gray

    Definitely couldn’t afford a Crestline, but as a high school senior in 1959, my FFA project got me a ’54 Customline 2 door sedan for $500 with 50,000 miles on it. Owned by an old Jersey farmer that never drove it over 40 mph. After I got it, I broke it in , but still never got more than 100 miles per quart of oil out of it! Used to take 5 quarts to get from South Jersey to North Carolina where I was stationed in the air force.

  29. Richard James Reau Member

    Caught between a rock and a hard place!

    Like 2
  30. Roy L.

    Insurance job? Please tell me there wasn’t a skeleton in there?

  31. Kenn

    Rustytech, thanks for saying exactly what I see: A diorama of some size. Look at the posture of some of the people, for example.

  32. Mountainwoodie

    Hmm.wheres the drivetrain? When was the development built? Are there plates on the car which might indicate when it was last on the road. If it fell into the hole before the development was built, wouldn’t anyone alive remember it happening?

    Like 1
  33. K. R. V. Member

    That’s where the guy in the movie It’s. Mad Mad Mad Mad World ended up after floating down the river!

  34. TimM

    That last turn must have been a doosey!!!

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