Kens 1956 Ranchero… and more

 

KENS 1956 RANCHERO

 

I first learned about Ken when I saw a single picture of Kens 1956 Ford Ranchero online. I got in touch with him and found out there is a lot more to tell than just the story on his 60s styled Ranchero.

A story by Ken G.
 
Ken grew up in Wisconsin in the fifties and fell in love with rods and kustoms. He read every Hot Rod and Custom Car quarter magazine he could get his hand on and started working on cars when he was 13 or 14 years old and got himself his first car, a 1937 Chevy coupe. which he had for a couple of years and which he worked on as much as he could with limited skills, tools and money.
 
CCC-ken-37-chevy-01This was Ken’s¬†first car around 1952, a 1937 Chevy Coupe. He was about 13 or 14 years old. Check the hub cap in this picture as it might have been the only one on the car because that’s all he¬†could afford.
[divider]
 
CCC-ken-47-mercuryHis¬†second car was this 1947 Mercury which he¬†had instructions to leave alone. Ken’s¬†father renamed him¬†‘Damn Kid’ when he came into the garage and seen the roof cut off. Ken¬†didn’t own a torch or even knew how to weld, but Looking at all the Barris chop jobs in those quarter mags got to his¬†mind big time. Every penny he¬†had went into this car to have it built at some local shops. After¬†some of the work fell apart on this car, he decided it was time¬†to do his¬†own body work. This was 1954!
[divider]

CCC-ken-34-ford-01Ken bought this 1933 Ford 5w $35, while the Merc was being chopped. He channeled it and at 17 his father kind of had enough of his behavior giving him a chance to choose which branch of service he wanted to go into. Ken choose the Navy.
[divider]

CCC-ken-50-mercury-01In the early 60’s chopping Ken found a 1950 Merc and started to chop it the Barris way. Ken¬†was out of the Navy now and got rid of a newer car for this Merc which he¬†liked better then car payments.
[divider]

 
CCC-ken-50-mercuryAnd as if the chopping wasn’t enough Ken also¬†sectioned his 1950 Merc. This¬†was done above the distinct Merc body line in order to retain that kustom look. Fins were in at the time, so he¬†added those and decided to turn this into a Ranchero 1950 Merc. The windshield was raised into the roof line. Ken¬†could not remember where the truck cab came from that he¬†grafted into the Merc roof. Ken¬†ended up junking the car¬†in 1979 when he¬†moved to AZ.¬†It would be kool finished even with what’s going on in today’s car scene. Picture date is July, 1961 and he¬†was in his¬†early 20’s at the time.¬†
[divider]

 
CCC-ken-55-pontiacThis 1955 Pontiac was their¬†driver. In the meantime Ken¬†was married, but still a car nut, and not being able to leave anything alone. This was Ken’s¬†first paint job and attempt at pin-striping.
[divider]

 
Ken was never able to leave things alone, and needed to customize everything. After selling his mildly customized 1955 Pontiac he bought a used 1956 Ford convertible which he at first mildly customized. Ken had the door buttons inside the scoops and every time he open a door when neighborhood kids were around, he would kick the bumper at the same time. These kids would see that and spend their time kicking the bumpers watching for the door to open. Is it any wonder these cars had a bad public image back in those days?

One of the many heroes from back then was Herb Gary who he admired for his metal work. Another guys work Ken admired was Harry Bradley. He admired his design work ever since he first saw it in the magazine. Just some names that influence his taste in cars and restyling. His love for cars led him to move to Wichita. There was some aircraft industry which I sought a job from. But he soon found work at a Chevy dealership where Bill Cushenbery once worked. He worked there for some time doing collision.
 

Some of the guys at that shop¬†told Ken¬†how Cushenbery’s¬†body hammer broke so he went home and got his dad‚Äôs claw hammer and still did better work then anybody there.

 
After that Ken¬†went¬†to work for Dave Stuckey, who‚Äôs shop was close to Starbird‚Äôs. Ken¬†was only for a short time at Stuckey before he was¬†closing the¬†shop to go back to work for Starbird who had the Big ‚ÄôT‚Äô deal with Monogram, and they were going to build that car. Dave Puhl was Starbird’s shop foreman then.¬†It was a crazy life style and hard to make a living at. Ken¬†went back to Wisconsin, struggling to make a living. He then¬†met Larry Alexander (The taller brother) at a car show in Milwaukee. They¬†got talking and he¬†told him about where he¬†had been, what he had been doing, plus that he¬†was driving a customized ’56 Ford convert at the time, which he had¬†painted candy red, while in Kansas.
 
CCC-ken-56-ford-convertible-04Taken by Ken’s¬†home in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin with an early type model (daughter) in Nov., 1963.
[divider]
 
CCC-ken-56-ford-convertible-03Ken traded the Pontiac for this 1956 Ford convertible which was unmodified when he got it. Ken added Packard taillights and Chevy grille, amongst some other restyling. 
[divider]
 
Larry Alexander was at the show for Ford as they had a contract with them. They¬†both went outside of the building, as he wanted to look at Ken’s¬†car. After he saw it, Larry Alexander¬†offered Ken a¬†job at their shop. He¬†went over to Detroit and I remembers the “Alexandria” 1955 Pick-Up¬†truck being built at the time. He remembered is so well because of his¬†own ’56 Ford. That‚Äôs when¬†Ken first met the other brother, Mike. This was a time when work was done with mainly a torch. Ken was extremely impressed with the quality of their work. It was top class!

They also had the¬†AlaKart in their shop at the time.¬†I had just been in a fire down South. He¬†think that happened in¬†Georgia. Also a Roth twin engine show car was there and the frame had been breaking apart from just being trailered around to the car shows. Ken¬†was taken to a new building the ‚ÄėA‚Äô brothers were planning to move to, as they had a retainer from Ford to help them make the move. Another thing the brothers shared with Ken¬†was that Barris was trying to get them to join him in becoming an extension of Barris Kustoms.
 
CCC-ken-barris-abros-card-01
 
Ken admitted that the ‚ÄėA‚Äô brothers have always remained a top of the class act in character and integrity from that time in the history of the Kustom car world. He¬†had the opportunity to be in touch with some others from that era but very few of them could or ever would come close to Larry and Mike Alexander.

The 1st car show for Ken¬†in Oshkosh, Wisconsin July, 1963. Ken had his 1956 Ford¬†all ready for paint, just before he¬†was going to leave Wichita Candies were new to him and Dave¬†Stucky was going to guide him¬†through painting the Ford with candy red. This was at the time Dave Puhl was already working for Starbird. And¬†Stuckey was going to go to work for, so Puhl talked Stuckey out of helping Ken painting his car.¬†As if sharing something like that was a ‘no, no’ from those in the know. In the end a¬†boy who hung around the shop and absorbed everything that was going on in that shop, guided him¬†completely though this paint job. Ken¬†has never forgotten this till this very day,¬†because for the time it looked really good. Even Startbird commented how good it looked!
 
CCC-ken-Lil-coffin-01
 
CCC-ken-Lil-coffin-02Two¬†pictures of Dave Stuckey’s Lil’ Coffin which Ken made from some negatives laying on the floor in Stuckey’s shop. Ken¬†didn’t work on this car though.
[divider]

 
CCC-ken-56-ford-convertible-02The first car show Ken ever entered a car is was in Oshkosh, Wisconsin July, 1963
[divider]

 

CCC-ken-56-ford-convertible-01The car looked fantastic in candy red with a white soft top.
[divider]

 
 

Kens 1956 Ford Ranchero

The Ford looked really amazing in the Candy Red paint, but the quality of the meterial back then was not as good as it is now. So the first time frost set in on the car the paint cracked really bad. Ken got kind of sick of it and decided to made a truck / Ranchero out of it. This was in 1967.

At the back Ken left the 1956 Packard taillights whihc he had installed previous on the convertible. But he removed the bumper and created a roll pan. He created a new roof for the car from a 1959 Ford Station Wagon and he also used the back window from this wagon and made it to fit the pick up. On the front of the car he replaced the For hood with an¬†1961 Pontiac hood that was from a wreck. The front of the fenders was cut off, and reshaped. New¬†headlights were set in¬†the new openings and the front, above the grille was hand shaped.¬†He used a Studebaker pan to form a new grille opening.¬†They¬†used to use conduit because it was cheap.¬†So that’s¬†what Ken used for the¬†grill¬†on his Ranchero.¬†Plus paint was cheaper then chrome, so the grille bars were painted white. When all the work was finished Ken painted the car in candy green and the interior was done in white with metalflake green inserts.
 
CCC-ken-56-ford-ranchero-09This is a car show in the upper peninsula of Mich. The front used a Studebaker pan and homemade grill made out of 1/2″ conduit.
[divider]

 
CCC-ken-56-ford-ranchero-08From a convertible to a 1956 Ford Ranchero entered in the Milwaukee, Wi. car show in 1968.
[divider]

 
CCC-ken-56-ford-ranchero-07The Packard tail lights were still used as they were on the convertible, but a rolled pan completes the rear body work. The rear window came from a 1959 Ford station wagon.
[divider]

 
CCC-ken-56-ford-ranchero-06The front completely restyled using a “61 Pontiac hood blending into a redone front sheet metal.
[divider]

 
CCC-ken-56-ford-ranchero-05
 
CCC-ken-56-ford-ranchero-12Another photo at Ken’s shop showing some of the “61 Pontiac hood and front end design.
[divider]

 
CCC-ken-56-ford-ranchero-11Seats and bar were made to be different to try showing the vehicle. White with a metalflake green insert made it fit in with what was happening at the time in the car scene.
[divider]

 

CCC-ken-56-ford-ranchero-10Sitting over by the side of Ken’s¬†Wi shop.
[divider]

 
CCC-ken-56-ford-ranchero-14After sowing the car at the car shows for some time, Ken started really using the truck, as these photos show.
[divider]
 

CCC-ken-56-ford-ranchero-13This was in the late 1960’s.
[divider]

 

After using the truck for some time Ken¬†sold the car and lost contact with it. Eventually he got in touch with a guy who said he owned the Ranchero now and that he planned to restore it. But Ken thinks it was to far gone and it eventually was scrapped. As for Ken… he continued building cars.. and still does today.

 
 
 
[divider]
 

(this article is sponsored by)

CCC-Sponsor-Kustoms-Illustrated-602
 
[divider]
CCC-donating-sponsor-ad-01
 
[divider]
 
CCC-Sponsor-Forgotten-Fiberglass-W
 
 
 
.

 6,867 total views,  1 views today

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
0

Rik Hoving

Rik is the CCC editor in chief. As a custom car historian he is researching custom car history for many years. In 2004 he started the Custom Car Photo Archive that has become a place of joy for many custom car enthousiasts. Here at CCC Rik will bring you inspiring articles on the history of custom cars and builders. Like a true photo detective he will show us what's going on in all those amazing photos. He will write stories about everything you want to know in the realm of customizing. In daily life Rik is a Graphic Designer. He is married to the CCC webmaster and the father of a 10 year old son (they are both very happy with his excellent cooking skills)

One thought on “Kens 1956 Ranchero… and more

  • May 10, 2015 at 22:25
    Permalink

    Ken, your stories and photos are great. I particularly like your insights, especially about how hard it was for those guys to make a living at this stuff in the 1960s. That’s something we don’t really hear about or even think about today. Very thoughtful. Nice work, Ken and Rik!

    0

Leave a Reply