Ron Cherry: A Ford fanatic’s dream car
February 2, 2018
One thing about Gary Blum is that he knows what he likes. And he likes Fords. His first car was a '51 Ford 4-door sedan.
"My dad bought it for me," he said. "Four doors just didn't work for me. I had it about three months."
He was in high school at the time and four doors were a sign of a family car, something no kid wanted. So he sold it and bought a '56 Ford 2-door sedan. It had a 292 cubic inch engine with a 3-speed manual trans. To boost the power, he dropped on a Carter four-barrel carb from an Olds. However, the trans was a problem.
"I tore it up about weekly," he said with a chuckle. "So I put in a 3-speed with an overdrive from a Mercury and a Hurst shifter. That solved the problem."
A friend at a tire shop modified a pair of tires into barely-legal "cheater slicks" for the rear.
"I had the first ones in Phoenix," he said. "They weren't too good for pulling my boat out of the water, but I managed."
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He raced the Ford both on the street and on the strip.
"It was pretty competitive with the Chevies," he said. "Unless they had a really hot set up."
After owning it for about five years, he sold it to buy a new '63 Pontiac Catalina with a 389 cubic inch engine and 4-speed trans.
The Pontiac was the only non-Ford he's owned. But even that car he used to tow a '61 Ford Starliner B/stock race car to the track. The Starliner held the record in its class in Arizona. After the moment of straying with the Pontiac, he returned to the Ford flock and has only owned Fords for the street and for the strip.
In 1999, Gary spotted a '56 Ford Victoria 2-door hardtop for sale at a swap meet. The original owner of the car had died and his grandson was selling it. The car was bone stock, with the original 292 cubic inch engine and auto trans. It even had the factory black and white paint job.
The car had been sitting in a barn for 20 years. The grandson had originally thought of building it himself, but that was beyond his pay grade, so he put it up for sale. Gary had always had a special fondness for the first '56 he'd owned and bought it.
"I paid more for it than I did for my first one," he said. "And it was a rats' nest. Literally."
Since he had more time and money than when he owner the first '56 in high school, he decided to make the car his dream car, a Pro Tourer.
Building a dream car
First, Gary had Dominator Motor Sports custom build a chassis with a Mustang II-type front suspension with rack and pinion steering for it. In front, he used Wilwood disc brakes. In the rear, he used a Mustang Cobra Independent Rear Suspension 3.73:1 rearend with factory disc brakes.
A '97 Mustang Cobra was an essential parts donor for the project. It provided a 4.6L engine with a double-overhead cam and electronic fuel injection. For a trans, he used a Performance Auto five-speed auto with overdrive. Not being satisfied with the stock 320 horsepower engine, he added a Procharger supercharger and intercooler, which boosted the horsepower to about 500.
Wiring took two separate Ron Francis kits, one for the engine management control system and one for all the other elements of the Ford's electrical components.
Inside, Gary used 6-way power buckets seats from a Jeep Cherokee and the stock bench one in the back.
Roman's Upholstery in Auburn modified buckets, removing the head rests and raising them so they matched the rear seat. They did all the upholstery in black marine vinyl with red stitching and installed black carpets.
Gary married the '97 Mustang Cobra dash into the original one for modern instrumentation and added a tilt ididit steering column. For sounds, he went with a Samsung integrated AM/FM/Bluetooth system with 400 watts of power.
The body was relatively rust free and is basically the only thing used from the original car. Gary's nephew is a body and paint man, so he did his magic on the Ford.
He nosed it and decked it (took the chrome off the hood and deck lid and filled the holes) as well as repaired any dings and dents. Then he painted it with Wicked Merlot Jewel and Silver Nickel metallic paints, keeping the same two-tone look that it originally had. For rubber on the road, Gary opted for Goodyear Double Eagle tires mounted on AT Cobra-style wheels.
While Gary is reluctant to call his Ford Pro Tourer finished, he said it was streetable about two years ago.
"I'm always tweaking something," he said.
Since then, he has put about 1000 miles on it, much of that to NorCal car shows, where he has won several awards. Its next big event is Autorama in Sacramento on Feb. 16, where it is to be in the main building. Before it goes, it will have a new, custom grill.
Gary's rightfully proud of his Ford dream car.
"You can't buy a book on how to make ProTourer for a Ford like you can for a Chevy," he said. "A lot of it is built by hand. People see it and say, 'This is different than I expected. When you look close, there's a lot more to it.' You hear that about Chevies a lot, but not so much Fords."
For a Ford fanatic, that's music to the ears.
Ron Cherry's books, including the Morg Mahoney detective series, are available on Kindle and in print copy at Amazon. His new book, "The St. Nicholas Murders," is a Christmas mystery that takes place in a small town in the Sierra Foothills that is remarkably similar to Nevada City and is now out in paperback and Kindle on Amazon. Check out his website at http://www.rlcherry.com.