The standard six gained five bhp to deliver 120 total. A return to freer-breathing, pre-1986 cylinder heads and other induction changes added 25 horses for a total of 225, thus matching the top Chevy Camaro/Pontiac Firebird option, a 5.7-liter Corvette mill. Not this time. To the already capable CTS chassis, engineers at GM’s new Performance Division added heavier-gauge steel suspension cradles, thicker front and rear stabilizer bars, high-rate shocks, and what is a finance professional associations a crossbrace atop the front-suspension towers to bolster rigidity.
Still, the division was done in by an all-new Chevy, which tallied better than 1.7 million. With the Korean conflict ended, Ford Division built 1.2 million cars to edge Chevrolet for the model year (Chevy consoled itself with calendar-year supremacy), but only by dumping cars on dealers in a production «blitz» so they could sell for «less than cost.» Ironically, Chevrolet wasn’t much affected by this onslaught, finance products but Studebaker, American Motors, and Kaiser-Willys were, because they couldn’t afford to discount as much.
Ford’s model-year volume declined by about 200,000 cars, but Chevy’s fell a similar amount, reflecting new government-ordered restrictions on civilian production prompted by the Korean War.
Ford finally offered a self-shift transmission in Ford-O-Matic Drive — a three-speed automatic to outdo Chevy’s two-speed Powerglide. Crestliner’s real purpose was to counter Chevy’s true «hardtop-convertible,» the 1950 Bel Air.D.
These wagons, by the way, were Ford’s first all-steel models (the Squire switching from real wood to wood-look decals). Prices held steady, running from $1333 for the DeLuxe business coupe to $2028 for the Squire. So unless the runners are willing to forgo their six-hour rest period, that means no TV, no video games, no socializing with friends, just relentless running around the same dull block day in and day out.
The rest of the ’54 story was basically 1953 save a larger, 223-cid overhead-valve six with 115 bhp. Doing more with less, Ford introduced a new 215.3-cid overhead-valve six with 101 horsepower as standard for Mainline/Customline. The venerable flathead V-8 was honorably retired for 1954 in favor of a new overhead-valve «Y-block» V-8 (so-called because of its frontal appearance in cross-section).
A new 312-cid «Thunderbird» unit with 215/225 horsepower was optional across the board, and a midrange 292-cid V-8 offered 200 horsepower.
The flathead V-8 was tweaked to 110 horsepower. A new confection was the V-8 Crestliner, a special-edition Custom Tudor priced $100-$200 above the standard article. Also new for ’51 was Ford’s first hardtop coupe, the Custom V-8 Victoria. The Custom wagon now bore Country Squire script, but would be the last true Ford woody. Topping the range was the V-8 Crestline group of Victoria hardtop, newly named Sunliner convertible, and posh Country Squire four-door wagon.
Speaking of which, the 272 V-8 delivered 173 horsepower as a ’56 Mainline/Customline option.