” Stendahl Was Here “


Still trying to make out the meaning of the note I found pinned to the seat of this 1957 Ford at the Gillam Drive event this year. ” Stendahl was here.” Seems a pretty odd thing to do at a car show…

In any event, the car was what I like to call a personal car. It has all the hallmarks of the breed:

a. It started out as a stock item from a major manufacturer. Ford in this case, and as we can see that the car has LHD, it means it came from North America. Or South Canada, if you prefer. From Detroit or thereabouts when Detroit was still a place that made things apart from trouble. It is a 1957 model. A Cold War classic. Longer and lower than the ’56 and with more of a dip and swoop to the tail fin line.

b. It did not satisfy its owner in stock form. We know this because it is different now. Cars from the period were available in what could be a bewildering variety of variations – you looked through a dealer’s book and selected engines, transmissions, level of trim and accessories and then waited for anywhere to a month as your order was processed through the assembly line. If you took what was on the lot, you got it cheaper but most agencies did not risk their cash on stocking the more expensive add-ons or the wilder paint schemes.

Note for the Nollekens in the crowd – the cheapest of the lot were the salesman’s cars – bare-bones sedans with minimal trim that were purchased as travel machines for company men. They were black, or white, or beige. Sort of like a lot of the new cars now…but they had no air conditioning, no radios, and in some cases no heaters. ( A lot like Australian base-level sedans in the 1960’s…) The engines were the smallest and most asthmatic that the makers could put in and the tyres were invariably crossply and about the width of a goldfish. The boots, on the contrary, were the largest the company could find.

c. It has been improved. Some personal cars are improved with engines -some with paint jobs – some with new interiors. They may have bits shaved off or body lines altered with radical chops and slams…or they may be stock steel. But somewhere in or on the car is the personal touch of the owner that makes this ride different from all other rides.




Looking at the ’57 you might say that it is just painted. Yes, it is…and is the paint the same as the paint on your ’57? I’ll bet not.




Is the interior the same as the interior of your ’57? Again I’ll bet not, unless the custom shop in the US was turning them out in batches. I’d say that this lucky driver has a No. 1 Personal Car right now and apart from someone becoming extremely jealous and making another one identical, he will probably be unique in Australia.

Custom Cars – Take It Personal

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