A dainty little key turns on the ignition, but a separate chrome starter button awakens the engine, which idles contentedly. The pedals are of the through-the-floor variety; we push in the clutch, grab the white plastic ball on the end of the long shifter, and move it easily into first. With its huge, white steering wheel, the Ford is surprisingly easy to maneuver, and we head out onto the two-lane roads that surround McMullen's farmhouse.
In a 1950 Ford, you sit up high as you gaze out through the split windshield and over the hood, its chunky chrome strip at the center pointing the way. It doesn't feel fragile, but you don't want to rush the old Tudor. You just sort of adjust your pace and allow the car to transport you to a slower time.
Charmingly simple compared with the baroque machines that would soon follow, and yet far more modern than its immediate predecessors, the '49-'51 Ford stands at that idyllic crossroads in American history, when the country had fully emerged from the Depression and World War II but had yet to descend into the overblown consumerist culture that would come with rising prosperity. Although the times are much different now, this Ford is also a hopeful reminder that the right car can put its maker back on the road to success.
3.7L flathead I-6, 95 hp
3.9L flathead V-8, 100 hp
3-speed manual with overdrive
3-speed automatic (1951)
Suspension, FRONT: Control arms, coil springs
Suspension, Rear: Live axle, leaf springs
WEIGHT: 2900-3550 lb
3,338,860 (all body styles)
$7500-$100,000 (sedans are cheapest, followed by coupes, then convertibles, then station wagons)
It's a milestone car in Ford history and a perfect embodiment of the American automobile at the dawn of the 1950s. Supply is plentiful (although many cars have been hot-rodded), and parts availability is very good. The car is mechanically simple, yet it's up for the rigors of modern road travel. Convertibles are pricey and wood-bodied station wagons are impossibly expensive, but coupes and sedans are relatively affordable.