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Last Year Flathead V8: 1953 Ford Courier

Often referred to as a “Sedan Delivery” here’s Ford’s offering for 1953, known as the Courier. I often encounter Chevrolet and Pontiac versions of this special two-door, modified station wagon, but this is the first Ford Courier I have stumbled upon. Also notable is that this was the last year for Ford’s venerable flathead V8 to see production duty in a domestically assembled vehicle – ’54 would bring the new OHV 239 CI V8. I’ll cut to the chase and run with the assumption that hot rod city is probably this Ford’s next stop, but let’s check it out and see if it has the necessary chops for that kind of endeavor. Interested buyers will find this Ford utility in Azusa, California where it’s available, here on craigslist for $7,000.

Ford had a strong year in 1953, placing number two in the domestic production race with a total output of 1.2 M vehicles. This was accomplished across three different trim lines with the Crestline at the top of the heap, the Customline in the rocking chair, and the Mainline bringing up the markers. The Mainline’s station wagon was known as the “Ranch Wagon” and the Courier was a modified version of that bottom-of-the-line wagon. Total Courier production is believed to be a bit less than 10K units.

There are some before and after images in the listing, but as it sits, this Courier is wearing a gray shade of primer and appears to be straight; the seller adds, “Good body, just a little rust in lower front fender“. The front bumper and grille’s chrome plating is surprisingly sound, I’d venture that they’ve been redone while the lack of trim and the wide whites project a ’50 vibe.

The 110 hp, 239 CI “Strato-Star” flathead engine is said to be original with a sticking lifter and “a bit of blow-by“. The mileage is north of 100K miles so this end-of-the-line flattie may be up for some rejuvenation. An automatic transmission was available, but this Courier makes do with the standard three-speed manual column shift transmission.

Utilitarian bucket seats occupy the passenger compartment but that’s about it for the interior. The door panels are missing and the cargo compartment, while sided with something like fiberboard, loom over a deteriorating wooden deck – and that’s about it. Barren as it is, it is a blank canvas and the next owner can set whatever direction they choose.

It seems odd today to consider a configuration like this Courier as a viable delivery vehicle but times change and you work with what you have at the time that you have it. A sedan delivery was clearly considered a functional vehicle based on the number of manufacturers that offered a version. But now, 70 years later, passenger cars in general, and station wagons in any form have given way to CUVs and SUVs. And that leaves us wondering where a car like this Courier can fit in today. Well, as I suggested earlier, this is a great basis for a hot rod or a restomod (without an LS engine, please) – I definitely don’t see a stock restore in this Ford’s future, how about you?

Comments

  1. Avatar photo Aussie Dave Member

    Jim, define “stock”?
    I’d rebuild the flathead with date correct go faster bits, repaint in its original colour (whatever that was). I’d upgrade the seats, but I’d restore the interior to factory. The only sound system id install is period exhausts.

    Like 23
    • Avatar photo Jim ODonnell Staff

      Redo it as Ford intended. What did you think it meant?

      JO

      Like 6
      • Avatar photo Aussie Dave Member

        As in the upgrades I mentioned, upgrades to period correct go faster bits

        Like 1
  2. Avatar photo Big C

    As long as it stays all Ford? Do what you want. A very cool car. Stock or customized.

    Like 9
    • Avatar photo Tiberius1701

      Agreed!! The first one to say LS swap loses a testicle….

      Like 11
      • Avatar photo Frank Sumatra

        IMHO, the “Swappers” have already lost one and are overcompensating.

        Like 3
      • Avatar photo Bob

        Dual Quad 427 Side Oiler or Cammer with a 4speed, 9′ rear and four wheel disc brakes. Sticky tires with wide whites and widened steel wheels with caps, as quiet a exhaust as possible and go stoplight to stoplight, suprise the rice burners and other wanna be boy racers

        Like 0
    • Avatar photo Jimmy Novak

      Please explain the thinking within the hotrod culture where any deviation from correct originality is acceptable except that engines must be from the same manufacturer.

      Like 0
  3. Avatar photo St.Michael

    go fast flatty goodies n 5 or 6 speed

    Like 6
  4. Avatar photo Dan

    5.0 with a 5-6 manual would be sweet!

    Like 9
  5. Avatar photo Jim Shee

    To the Pie Wagon!

    Like 3
    • Avatar photo Tiberius1701

      You go Newbomb!!!

      Like 2
      • Avatar photo Rw

        Newbombs was 56 chevy

        Like 1
  6. Avatar photo JustPassinThru

    The comments of how this layout, this body-style, seems unlikely as a functional delivery vehicle, speaks of how the industry has changed. Back then…most makers offered ONE, sometimes two, basic cars, and all their “models” were trim variants or modifications. For example, the only difference between a 1955 Chevrolet 150 police cruiser, and the same year’s Nomad, was the roofline, the interior trim, and tailgate (steeper rake than with a Handyman wagon). Ford made everything from Sunliner hard-roof convertibles to Ranchero pickups and sedan-deliveries, all on one car. Interestingly, it was Nash that started running multiple platforms, with its Rambler small model alongside the regular cars.

    As to this one: As the writer says, this is a good platform for a street rod. It’s gutted; there won’t be historically-correct reproduction parts (not for a Courier) and there’s few memories. Even I don’t remember seeing any panel-deliveries, back in the early 1960s.

    So, do it up, sin-bin style. Tucked and rolled padded door cars, and some ergonomic seats.

    Save the flathead? It’s historically interesting, but it’s a headache, and apparently this one needs repairs. Sticking lifters? It’s got valves in the block. What there is, if that’s the problem, is a sticking valve. Since the guides are in the block, that means it all has to come out.

    Yeah, put a 5.0 in there; or maybe an older V6. Even that would carry a lot more punch than that 1930s-era flathead, born of Henry’s stubbornness.

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo Rw

      Nomads way different,hard top style doors but, they are the length of 2 door post doors,rear wheel wells also different.

      Like 3
  7. Avatar photo TMK

    I would an try to find a wreck Mustang with a coyote motor and put the whole drive line under it.

    Like 5
  8. Avatar photo Tom Bell

    A truly rare and historically significant car. To butcher it in any way would be criminal.

    Like 13
  9. Avatar photo geezerglide 85

    From everything I’ve read sedan deliveries came with bucket seats because the passenger seat was an option. Surprising this one has a V-8, I think most were sixes, you didn’t need more than that to deliver flowers or baked goods. These were made as utility vehicles, used up and thrown away. With this one being so solid and complete I think it would be a shame to hotrod it, but most likely that is what future holds for it.

    Like 8
  10. Avatar photo V12MECH

    3″ chop , tuck and roll, candy apple with a historically significant chrome caddy motor .

    Like 6
    • Avatar photo Uncle Ed

      No

      Like 5
    • Avatar photo Bob

      I’ve seen so many Tri Five Chevy sedan delivery and station wagons ruined by chopping the tops. Truly look terrible imo

      Like 2
  11. Avatar photo Gord

    The flathead continued for 1954 in Canadian built Fords.

    Like 3
    • Avatar photo Jim ODonnell Staff

      I specifically stated for a “domestically assembled vehicle“. A Canadian Ford is just that, Canadian.

      JO

      Like 2
  12. Avatar photo Dana Fayette

    Great vehicle! I wish I had room for it. Whoever thinks that flathead isn’t capable is flat wrong. Cam, aluminum heads and a 4 bbl carb, and maybe a mercury 4-inch crank and that baby will scream. I know – I’ve done it. You could add a 4 speed, or even 5 speed. That vehicle is screaming for some one to finish the job – keep it stock but pretty it up.

    Like 4
    • Avatar photo Terrry

      you forgot, headers too! Ford flatheads are sweet-sounding with duals and glass packs.

      Like 0
  13. Avatar photo Andrew S. Mace Member

    To me, it seems a shame to “butcher” a 50th anniversary year, last-of-the-flathead car such as this. Keep it bone stock and use it carefully as originally intended; could be great advertising for a business!

    Like 8
    • Avatar photo Rw

      Get in running order ,sort out brakes and such,play with it while looking for a 390 or 406,do it like they did in 60/70s…

      Like 3
  14. Avatar photo Carbob Member

    I like this one a lot. Too bad it is on the opposite side of the country from me. California sure is a great place to find some nice old cars. I’d make sure that the car is roadworthy and enjoy. Invest a little effort in the interior and then maybe do some engine work Eventually complete a do it yourself paint job. I would keep this car as close to stock as possible. GLWTS.

    Like 4
    • Avatar photo Gary

      Couple of grand to get it to you and you have your toy. I bought two trucks from Reno NV and it cost me two grand to get them to Cleveland Ohio back in 2021. If i had the room it would be on it’s way to me

      Like 0
  15. Avatar photo Vibhic

    I owned a 1952 Ford courier when my children were young back in the mid eighties. It was dark blue and my kids said it reminded them of a hearse. I remember when I was younger I would ride by a home that had this dark blue 52 Ford courier sitting in the driveway. The older gentleman that owned it mowed lawns. He would carry his mowers in the back with a big bright orange sign on the tailgate saying mowers do not follow too close. As I got older my interest in this car became stronger and I would occasionally ride by to see if the car was still there and always was. I had heard the car was not for sale but one day the car was not there and the next time I went by it was not there. I assumed it was sold. This was in the ’70s. Move along into the ’80s and I was checking craigslist ads for cars and a 52 Ford courier showed up in a town about 20 miles away. I contacted the owner and went to view the car and low and behold it was the exact same car. He had purchased it from the old fellas wife. Strange how the universe works.

    Like 5
  16. Avatar photo chrlsful

    not strange, U were meant to have it, no?

    I’m w/those who rest0, light on the mod. Esp as the drive’n ‘sleeper’ upgrade – S/S, safety, then performance (era correct most parts, some modern oem) as performance means pep AND mpgs. Might get an AOD as I’d daily it for work. If I brought in a 500 lb motor ona a pallet test stand ina focus wagon I’d love the extra space in this (esp on wkends when using it asa “camper”). May B white w/the dinoc & glass edging “woodie” & red or blk interior. Keep the phat/flat. I’m into slo & good lookin/original. May B some chrome head bolts, pretty engine paint, headers to match my cycle of the era…

    Like 1
  17. Avatar photo Claudio

    I love driving so an old junker with a no power engine, whinny trans and diff, 4 wheel drums , no handling, no power accessories just doesn’t do it for me !
    The trend towards modernizing is not about to fade , look at the price of custom restos , they have surpassed the stock ones , look at the builds , all modern ! Its here to stay wether you like it or not and if you have been boosted , you are probably on your way out …
    I hate rapp music but it aint going away …

    Like 0
  18. Avatar photo C Force

    Other than rebuilding the flathead with some Offy performance goodies i would go original resto on this one…

    Like 2
  19. Avatar photo Bob

    I’ve seen so many Tri Five Chevy sedan delivery and station wagons ruined by chopping the tops. Truly look terrible imo

    Like 2
  20. Avatar photo Dave

    Not the lifter, but maybe a stuck valve, as said above. I had a 53 Ford panel delivery truck, not the rarer sedan delivery like this one, sold it 4 years ago. About 20 years ago I did a valve job on it with the engine still in the truck, a real pain in the back! If you have the long valve spring retractor tool, the assemblies can be removed, valves ground or replaced, even exhaust seats replaced if needed. You put the new seats in the freezer before tapping into place. But this one likely needs rings as well. I say keep as original, either fix the flat V-8 or replace with another if possible. If not, another Ford engine. Fix rust and don’t worry much about the paint. Decent chrome is a plus. Drum brakes are okay if driving cautiously.

    Like 1
  21. Avatar photo Dave

    This one is a deal, I think. I’m too old and have a 66 F-100 to drive. It is much more comfortable than the 53 F-100 panel delivery that I mentioned I sold. That said, my first car in 1967 was a 53 Ford tudor (2 door). I learned to work on cars with that one. Paid $50 for it. This sedan delivery should be okay as far as comfort, same as the more common station wagons. I sold the 53 panel truck for the same price as this one 4 years ago. It had an engine “tick” as well but ran well, had more rust than this.

    Like 0
  22. Avatar photo Dave

    There may be an exception to the rule about putting in an engine of the same manufacture. How about putting in a Ford flathead V-8 in a later Chevy, I had read recently? Also, same manufacture but much later year, I saw in person a Ford Bronco, first series, with flathead V-8. That was just!

    Like 0

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