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Low Rider Ranch Wagon: 1953 Ford

We cover a lot of two-door station wagons on Barn Finds, but often they are on the way down or have already hit bottom. That leaves one with decisions to make regarding a potential restoration, as in, is it feasible, and if so, what’s the best direction to pursue? Well, here’s a 1953 Ford Ranch Wagon that’s already made the transition into what I would suggest is a resto-mod. It’s pretty cool, so let’s go over it in detail. Located in North Hills, California, this two-door hauler is available, here on craigslist for $24,600.

Ford kept its station wagon trim lines pretty consistent for years with the wood sided (faux and real depending on the model year) Country Squire at the top of the heap, followed by the Country Sedan, and the Ranch Wagon bringing up the markers. In ’53, the Ranch Wagon was a two-door-only affair, and pretty popular with 66K rolling off of Ford assembly lines. A two-door wagon seems like an anomaly today (actually a station wagon is an anomaly today) and the reasons for its existence vary. One thought is that the lack of rear doors kept the kiddies inside and prevented them from inadvertently opening a rear door at the worst possible moment.

So, the deal here isn’t overly detailed, the images do the talking. Obviously, this wagon has been slammed and it does have an adjustable air suspension. The copper finish, with brown painted accents, is just perfect, the entire package presents really well. The seller states, “new chrome” and it looks like it! While not all of the trim has been removed, most of it has, along with the corresponding badges – I think I would have plugged those two hood holes.

Interestingly, this wagon is finished in the reverse of the way Ford illustrated it in their ’53 sales brochure where the flanks were brown and the roof pillars and window frames were given the copper treatment.

OK, Ford fans, I’m giving you a warning upfront, if you don’t want to read any further, I’ll understand… There’s no last-year flathead under the hood of this Rancher, nope, it’s a Chevy small block. Which one of the 100M+ small blocks produced since 1955, I do not know but I’d bet on a 350 CI motor tied to a Turbo-Hydramatic 350 automatic transmission. Why? It’s one of the most common redo configurations going, but again, it’s a guess on my part.

The seller sums up the interior by stating, “power windows, power steering, power brakes, new upholstery, new sound system“. It looks great as the two-tone vinyl upholstery mimics the exterior color combination. There is what looks like a homemade console positioned over the transmission hump and it provides a mounting point for engine gauges. Also noted, is what looks like a cable-attached controller for the air suspension. The cargo area shows well as it is nicely carpeted and serves as the domicile for lose-your-hearing boom-box speakers.

So, here you go, one take on what to do with an always popular two-door station wagon. I don’t get the air suspension thing but it does allow for a substantial “parked” visual statement. My thought is that this wagon is reasonably priced for what it is, after all, it has undergone quite a transformation. That whole Chevy in a Ford thing may be off-putting for some, though not for me. How about you, what do you think, a hit or a miss?


  1. Avatar photo Connecticut mark

    I do not like it, or would drive it. Just me, guy did a lot of nice work.

    Like 2
  2. Avatar photo Big Mike

    Lost interest with the mention of a chevy mill under the hood.

    Like 26
  3. Avatar photo mike

    Nice build until you see the chevy mtr….WHY???

    Like 21
    • Avatar photo chrlsful

      easer, cheeper, more sourceable…
      I suppose~

      Like 2
  4. Avatar photo DavidH

    This is just one example of what automobile ownership is all about. Whether it is restored, hot rodded, rat rodded , resto-modded or survivor preserved, automobile ownership oftentimes is the source of fun. Just look at the face of the gentlemen behind the wheel of the ‘53 Ford wagon. My hat is off to his creativity, hard work and the good fun he is having.

    Like 15
  5. Avatar photo Bob C.

    No disrespect to Chevy engines, but keep a Ford all Ford.

    Like 20
  6. Avatar photo gaspumpchas

    I agree with youse guys- Love the car, dont like what they did with it, but I do admire the workmanship and talent needed to get it to this point. I’m sure the owner has more than the asking price in it. There are a lot of guys who will take it to a show and put it on the ground. BF comes up with ’em all!!! Good luck! Just another opinion and like you know what, everyone has one.

    Like 7
  7. Avatar photo Frank Sumatra

    Pretty cool. I don’t see the engine choice being an issue.

    Like 6
  8. Avatar photo Robt

    Chevyitis is unfortunate. Thankfully no pictures.

    Like 5
    • Avatar photo Jim ODonnell Staff

      Actually, there is, here you go.


      Like 5
  9. Avatar photo Brad chipman

    I love chevy small block motors but ford small blocks are narrower and I would have appreciated a build with a Ford motor, 289 or 292 y block would have been better IMHO.

    Like 11
  10. Avatar photo Steve Dore

    Don’t know that 10 years ago anyone would question the Chevy engine. They were everywhere. The ford in a ford debate seems to be a recent development

    Like 6
    • Avatar photo scottymac

      Sorry, Steve, not to a true blue Ford fan. Been grinding my teeth about that for a long, long time!

      Like 8
      • Avatar photo Robt

        So true Scottymac!
        Like forever.

        Like 0
  11. Avatar photo scottymac

    ’56 Dodge visored headlight bezels?

    Like 1
  12. Avatar photo Joe Haska

    This controversy over Chevy engines in Fords and visa-versa is getting out of hand. It all started in 1955 and now it is going strong with the LS phenomenon. I have two cars that I drive all the time. A 1934 Ford Coupe with a 350 SBC and a 1953 Ford P/U with a 390 BBF. Depending on which car I am driving and who wants to share their opinion of my engine choices, I have had accolades of what a saint I am ,to the other side, that I should not be allowed to be in the automotive hobby and possibly be convicted of a crime against nature. WTF Where do these opinionated critics come from? Also, why do they think this is so important in the grand scheme of things? I am coming from 65 plus years of loving , building, and driving in excess of a hundred cars. These cars would all fall into basically a Hot Rod or Custom Car configuration. Such as a 34 Ford I bought when I was 19, that was 1963 two years after High School. From then until now that car has had 3 flatheads one SBF and one SBC, and I liked them all. I have had many Fords with Chevy’s , but no Chevrolet’s with Fords. That seems to be my very common, not many Chevrolet’s with Ford power, though I know they are out there. Why does it matter to so many people? It would seem most of them are Ford fans and are offended by a lack of loyalty, of their counterparts. When I am questioned about my loyalty to my engine choices, I try to respond diplomatically by defending everyone has a right to choose and you should respect their freedom of choice, its their car their choice. Is it just me or is the car culture just a mirror of life in general.

    Like 11
    • Avatar photo Dave

      Spot on Joe! As far as I’m concerned the “purists” can take a long walk off a short pier. This build doesn’t offend me whatsoever and it’s super clean and well executed. I’d be happy to own and drive it!

      Like 5
  13. Avatar photo Big C

    I’ve always had it explained that the Chevy’s are cheaper to buy, and less complicated to install. I don’t care. I usually just tell the proud owners that they have a nice car. That they ruined with the wrong engine. That usually gets the deer in the headlights stare.

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo BrianT Member

      That stare is because they don’t deny your opinion but. in the grand scheme of things, your opinion doesn’t matter.

      Like 0
  14. Avatar photo Angel Cadillac Diva Member

    Ok peoples, I have a question that’s been bugging me for decades…….
    What is with the blue dots on the taillights? It makes the red taillights look lavender.
    Basically, what is the point of the blue dots?
    Educate me, please.

    Like 3
    • Avatar photo Miguel - Mexican Spec

      @Angel Cadillac Diva The lens lights up more purple and it is just to make the light look different.

      Like 0
      • Avatar photo Larry D

        Red and blue make purple!

        Like 0
  15. Avatar photo timothy r herrod

    I know a guy that put a sbc in his 90 ford 1/2 ton just to piss a ford guy off

    Like 2
  16. Avatar photo Larry D

    OK as far as the blue dots go, I had a steel ’32 Ford Tudor street rod for 20 years. And it had blue dots.

    I had a job before I retired which started at 6 AM. I drove my Deuce to work one morning because they were calling for a Chamber of Commerce day. My car was loud and had a very lumpy Crane Cam in it so I was hoping to not attract any undue attention from the long arm of the law.

    I was within a couple of blocks from my work when suddenly! BOOM. I got lit up. My ’32 was yellow so as the policeman approached my car, I couldn’t help but feel like John Milner. LOL

    But he asked for my license and registration which I provided him. He asked where I was going that early so I told him. He looked at them and handed them back. I asked if he minded telling me why he stopped me. He said he thought 5:30 in the morning was a mighty odd time for a car like mine to be out. And he thought the car might be stolen!

    After I thought about that for a while, I was glad he did stop me just in case the car HAD been stolen.

    This was a younger officer who stopped me. Before I pulled away, he told me I should know those blue dot taillights were illegal. I thought and quickly replied that since those cars had such small taillights, the blue dots were to attract attention when the brakes were applied. So I told him they were actually a safety factor.

    He sort of gave me a half-ass grin so I didn’t know if he bought that or if he knew better and knew I was handing him a line of bull…t.

    By the way, a car like mine gets noticed by everyone who passes it when it has a blue light flashing all over it in the darkness at 5:30 AM. And sure enough, that whole day at work, everyone wanted to know why I had been pulled over that morning. LOL

    Like 7
  17. Avatar photo Joe Haska

    Bic C, I am surprised that’s all you get. Maybe the deer in the head lights look ,because they really can’t believe, what you said ,or even who you think you are, to be “THE” authority on how they should build their car. Do you also comment on how they are dressed, or where they live or work, maybe what church they attend or who they voted for in the last election. I especially like Hot Rods and Custom cars, because there are no rules, your choice, creativity money and it’s make and model of and all of the parts for it. If you are building judged and scored restoration, there are certainly some rules, that apply, and are conformed too. But put yourself in the place of the owner of the car you judged, how would you feel, if some random person just decides to tell you what’s wrong with your car ,in his opinion. I have had this happen to me and I don’t like it. I guess deer in the head lights is accurate, because I can’t believe that an adult in a free society would believe this is an acceptable thing to say, to someone that didn’t even ask. I hope you are understanding what I am trying to explain, because I think it’s important. It is a free country, try to put that in perspective, that also includes your freedom and the person you are addressing. I know we are just talking about cars ,but it seems to me that if you feel that way about cars ,what do you feel about peoples freedom in general.

    Like 2
    • Avatar photo Big C

      Thanks for your double posted criticism of my opinion. But if you read the rules of this board. You’ll find that you’re a bit off base for your attack. Saying that, I don’t give a whip about your “feelings.”

      Like 1
    • Avatar photo Dave

      Thanks Joe, I agree 100%. Personally, I don’t believe Joe C actually says things like that to car owners faces, I’ve never heard it in all my years. But who cares, it’s a really cool car.

      Like 0
    • Avatar photo BrianT Member

      Well said!

      Like 0
  18. Avatar photo chrlsful

    grn’n white as seen in the sketched advert moved my family n. from Baltimore to Boston in 1960. Short survival as a mason dixion mom driving on yankee ice totaled (a lill fender bender, thing wasa tank, but U no insur co.s) it to get reneaults (dauphine, 10), Simcas (1000 – the Max. Smart tv show stairway- car) fiat 128s’n others the rest of her mommie bus (drive the kids here, drive the kids there) days. Was that punishment? No ! she DID get Lancia Beta Coup, other exotica once the kids were drivin on own~

    Like 0
  19. Avatar photo Kurt Rogahn

    Count me as one more who detests putting a Chevy mill in a Ford body. I f you want a Chevy, buy a Chevy.

    Like 3
    • Avatar photo Steve Dore

      “Detests?” Really? You guys do kinda need to chill. These are just cars. Yeah this ford would be cool with a 302 or even a flathead (my choice) but it’s still a real neat car. The old boy driving it looks pretty pleased and well he should be

      Like 3
  20. Avatar photo Dennis6605

    I’ve heard this Ford N A Ford stuff many a times on BAT [Bring A Trailer] auction site. The ones doing all the whining are never bidding even when the Ford N A Ford comes along. I’ve built several cars over the years [nine since I’ve retired] and two of them had Fords in them. They were by far the two hardest to sell. Those two were projects that someone else had started and either run out of money or skills and needed to sell. I’ll never do that again.

    Like 1
  21. Avatar photo Joe Haska

    Big C, I don’t know what you mean by giving a whip about my feelings. That was not at all what I was trying to say. Maybe, I was trying too hard to be politically correct, What, I should have said was why do you think it is so important, to point out something as being incorrect and wrong by your standards. Do you think they actually care or even know who you are? I am sure we have never met, but I have had people say the same thing to me, that you suggest. My reaction is usually trying to figure out why they are so opinionated about something that has no effect on them. My thought is, isn’t there enough discord in this country about politics and opinions that get very heated at times. Why would we want the controversy over a Chevy in a Ford to be at that level. It makes no sense. Can’t we all just get along!

    Like 6
    • Avatar photo Big C

      The guy that puts a Chevy in a fiberglass ’32 roadster? Like I said, it’s cheap and easy. But, the guy that inserts a Chevy into a 50, 60, 70’s or later real Ford? He knows exactly what he’s doing. Like the guys putting LS engines in Mustang’s. There’s no law against it. But, one can always voice an opinion. And I do. It may not make friends, at a car show, or drag strip. But most times it does spark a conversation. And I certainly don’t run up to the owner and get in their face. I’m just a Blue Oval fan, trying to support my brand.

      Like 3
  22. Avatar photo Harry Allen

    Nope Nope Nope I have my reasons and through all of the comments I don’t see I need to be any more redundant.

    Like 0
  23. Avatar photo BrianT Member

    This whole Chevy in a Chevy, Ford in a Ford thing has just gotten ridiculous. I’m with Joe and thanks for saying it Joe. I’m one of those Chevy in a Ford people and if someone walks up to my car at a show and tells me that they detest my engine choice I’ll just thank them for their opinion. It’ll be entertaining when my friends laugh at him as he walks away. Last time for now, my car, my choice.

    Like 1
  24. Avatar photo BrianT Member

    I like this car, especially with that engine choice.

    Like 0
  25. Avatar photo Miguel - Mexican Spec

    The right wheels and tire size do a lot for a car.

    I would switch out those first.

    The next thing I would do is put the suspension back where it should be.

    The rest of it looks decent.

    Like 0
  26. Avatar photo Joe Haska

    Thanks Brain T, You got it! MY CAR , MY CHOICE!

    Like 1
    • Avatar photo Jeremy

      You got it Joe. Your car, your choice. It’s amazing to see all these other’s commenting…. Listen guys not your car…If you own it do as you please…. If you like Joe’s car give him a compliment and move on. Cheers Joe you’ve got a beautiful ride.

      Like 1

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