An old model gets a second life

This beauty was splashed all over posters and magazine advertisements way back in the 1950s. Today, the aging model looks as good as she did in the beginning. What’s her secret? Complete reconstruction, for one thing, combined with a whole lot of patience and TLC.

Born in 1956 in the old East Grand Ford plant that closed in the 1970s, the shiny Ford Fairlane Victoria was the centerpiece of Ford’s ads: “New ’56 Ford,” the posters read, “the new beauty with a great new design.” As with all vehicles made at that plant, she bore a “Made in Texas by Texans” sticker on her rear.

Phil Richardson bought the two-door mandarin-orange looker in 1979 from a coworker.

“This guy would drive it to work, and I said to him, ‘Give me a call if you ever want to sell.’ And one day, he did.”

Richardson bought the car for $2,200 and drove it around for a few years before parking it in the driveway of his Lake Highlands home, where it sat for a decade or so. “I always had wanted to restore it, but you have children and jobs, and the time can get away from you,” he says.

A couple years ago, Richardson says he decided he was never going to be able to restore the car himself, so he commissioned help from Plano resident Peter Leddy, who had made a living restoring classic Fords. The first thing he did, Richardson says, was take the car completely apart, down to the last nut and bolt. That made Richardson a little nervous.

“It was scary to see just the shell of the car sitting there, as if it belonged in a junkyard.”

Richardson, an engineer by trade, rebuilt the engine (“That was my part,” he says), while Leddy worked on the transmission. Then, bit by bit, they put the automobile back together.

“A lot of time was spent hunting for things you wouldn’t even think of, like the rubber to go around a tail light,” he says, noting that the paint job and chrome plating were especially expensive and tricky. “The way they did chrome back then was very difficult and very dangerous,” Richardson explains, “but we did it right.”

He doesn’t say what the project cost, other than that “you could buy a nice new car with it.”

Richardson’s son, Blake, an LHHS alumnus who admittedly wasn’t particularly interested in the car while it sat in his driveway all those years, says the work his father and Leddy have done is impressive.

“They have worked painstakingly over the past year and a half to get every detail right and make sure the car is an accurate representation of what a brand-new 1956 Ford would have looked like,” he says.

Now that the work is about complete, the owner of this mint-condition Ford Fairlane Victoria plans to enjoy his classic ride.

“Some people say it’s too nice to drive. You should use it as a show car, but I want to drive.”

He does, often on the weekend with his wife, Linda. If you pull up behind them, you’ll know them by, if nothing else, the sticker in the back window: “Made in Texas by Texans”.