1952 Ford Crestline: At Home with Farmers
Life was good on an Illinois farm in 1952. Crops were bringing top dollar and hog prices were up, too. Don Hattendorf was working on the family farm when he took delivery of his brand-new white-over-maroon 1952 Ford Crestline Victoria.
The 1952 model was the first year Ford had a curved, one-piece windshield and the first year for an all-new body. It was the second year for the hardtop convertible look for Ford.
The flashy Ford weighed 3,274 pounds, and had a 110-horsepower, 239.4-cubic-inch flathead V-8 mated to a three-speed manual transmission with overdrive. It was the car of Hattendorf’s dreams, and he set about personalizing the Ford with a split manifold so he could install dual exhausts, a pair of chrome fender skirts, a chrome spotlight, chrome half-moon headlight covers, and blue dot taillight lenses.
Most importantly, he acquired a steering wheel spinner with his girlfriend’s high school picture showing through the clear plastic knob. He dated the girl in the spinner only a brief while before she became his wife. Soon thereafter, as every red-blooded American male over the age of 18 did in the 1950s, Hattendorf faced the military draft. When he left for basic training his Ford stayed behind with his bride. After fulfilling his military obligation, Hattendorf returned to Illinois.
In 1957, the Ford was traded for a new car, and forgotten for the next four decades. But then he got nostalgic. Searching in antique car periodicals he found the twin to his first Ford.
“I got chills,” he says. He called the owner in Florida only to learn that the car had been sold to a cotton farmer in Georgia. Hattendorf then contacted the farmer and had several conversations with him during the next year.
While visiting their daughter’s family in Atlanta, Hattendorf called the owner to see if he could get a look at the car. “Come on over,” was the response.
The Hattendorfs saw the dust-covered car in a barn, paid the cotton farmer with a check, told him they would be back tomorrow. The next day, Hattendorf and his son-in-law retrieved the car. “When we got to the highway,” Hattendorf says, “I ran it up to about 40 and when I let up on the gas, it popped into overdrive, and I drove it 70 miles per hour up to Atlanta. When we got there I thought I had died and gone to heaven.”
The next day the family was washing, cleaning, and polishing the Ford. “Within a few hours, there she stood in all her past glory,” Hattendorf says. A rented truck and trailer provided the means to get the old Ford back to Illinois.
Hattendorf knows the engine was rebuilt when the car was last restored. The odometer, accurate or not, reads 106,000 miles.
There were only two items on the car needing attention. One was the grille, which was replated with chrome. The other item was a 1950s-style spinner that Hattendorf located and affixed to the steering wheel, after which he slipped in a picture of his wife from the high school yearbook.