Petersen Archive: Bob Bean's 1951 Ford Victoria

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The average yearly temperature in Brainerd, Minnesota averages between fifty-two and twenty-eight degrees Fahrenheit. The average temperature in December is below ten degrees Fahrenheit. An average snowfall of forty-six inches blankets the northern city every winter. The average temperature in Los Angeles, California ranges from seventy-one to fifty-five degrees, with no average snowfall. No wonder Bob Bean stated “that the typical under-slung custom cars of Southern California don’t mix well” with the weather of Brainerd, his hometown. The lack of extensive lowering, however, was not the only unique thing about Bean’s custom 1951 Ford Victoria. As the author of the July 1956 article in Car Craft Magazine “’I admire Individuality” stated, Bean’s ice blue Ford was “flavored with many personal innovations.”

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For one, Bliss Custom Shop and Gordon’s Body Shop in Fresno, California replaced the Ford’s original horizontal bar side trim with the contoured trim of a 1954 Buick. A three-toned paint scheme highlighted the new trim. From bottom to top the car was Gulfstream Blue and Bahama Blue. The top of the car, with a name more appropriate to Brainerd’s climate, was Alaskan White. The rear wheel wells were “radiused,” cut out to match the rear trim.

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Bliss and Gordon’s also removed the trim from the car’s front bumper. They added a Kaiser bumper guard to the rear bumper. The car also got a new grille bar and parking light assembly from a 1954 Chevrolet.

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In contrast to the hot rods accustomed to the sunny weather of Southern California, however, the back of Bean’s car was only lowered “a mere 3-inches.”

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The modifications to the headlights and taillights were more extensive. To restyle the headlights Bliss and Gordon’s used headlight rims from a 1955 Chevrolet. They also added a “small round rod” to the “edge of the shade.” “Rather large round tubing,” which the shops “molded into the fenders” of the Ford formed the housing for the taillights. The shops shaped sheet metal to meet the Ford’s new 1955 Mercury taillight lenses.

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To give the car a more streamlined appearance, the exterior trim was removed. Bean replaced the door and deck lid handles with “an electrical push button system”

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Finally, Moderna Trim Shop, in Tijuana, Mexico gave the car a “full complement of rolls and pleats.”

Though Bean did not work on the major modifications to his car, he built “many of the small incidental items.” As he stated in the July 1956 issue of Car Craft Magazine, the “prime requisite” for his custom Victoria, was “’functionalism.’” Indeed, his cool custom was a flurry in both the sunny Southern California sun and on the snowy streets of Brainerd.

By Kristin Feay

Photography by Bob D’Olivo