1952-59 Ford Customline: Blue-Collar American becomes an Upper-Crust Aussie

18 October 2013
This Australian 1954 Ford Customline might have been a year behind the US car with its early dash, side-valve engine and king-pin front suspension but to get an annual upgrade as fresh as this onto the local market while catering for high local content requirements, Australia’s poor fuel and volatile rural economy was a huge achievement.

As the 1959 version of One Ford changed the face of Ford Australia, neither the unwieldy US Fairlane nor fragile US Falcon could meet the needs of private and government buyers who had embraced the Aussie Customline as a tough and desirable step-up from a Holden. 

Within two years, Ford’s Australian arm was fighting for its survival and had to return to building unique models for Australia. 

Because owners of local Customlines built between 1952 and 1959 would have to wait until 1967 for an Australian  ZA Fairlane replacement, each Customline still on Australian roads seemed to defy the obsolescence Detroit had intended.  Each example generated new and loyal followings with successive owners.  This extended period of relevance which crossed Australian generations places a genuine local RHD Customline of any year in elite company. 

The Customline shares an unlikely but special place in Australian motoring history with the FJ Holden and the big Austin-Healey as one of the few everyday cars from this period which had unique appeal and relevance that crossed generations.  Used values which have remained firm for decades reflect this timelessness and the fact that they were exceptional cars for their time.

This 1952 Ford press shot highlights how the first local Customline walked a fine line between cutting-edge US design, a remote rural market, hard currency restrictions and local aspirations defined by British and European tastes as well as American.  Local leather and painted wood finish inside helped but aligning the three local sections in each bumper was not always so easy!