We’ve got a challenge for you: The next time you are at car show, keep an eye out for wagons. Then, keep a particularly sharp eye out for a Ford Ranch Wagon. We’d guess that you won’t find one, because they are not terribly common.
The rarity of the Ranch Wagon, especially at shows, is what drew us to Scott and Shannon Smith’s ’52. After doing a few laps of the car, we realized it ticked all the right ‘awesome hot rod’ boxes for a Rod Authority feature.
Since the car is a standout, even in stock trim, Scott took a reserved approach to the car’s visuals. It is clearly modified, but done so in a subtle manner. There is no wild paint or body mods, just a clean, well thought out aesthetic approach.
Even the most diehard of blue oval fans have a hard time pinpointing everything that’s been done along the way.
The subtleties of the car didn’t just wow us, as they impressed the judges too, as the car took home the 2017 Master Builder award at the Detroit Autorama. Not a bad accomplishment for an owner-built ride!
An Eight Year Journey
Before becoming the show winner it is today, the wagon belonged to Scott’s father. That makes this a hand-me-down barn find. The car was far from the pristine condition that reality television might lead you to believe all barn finds are when unearthed.
Scott spent a total of eight years rebuilding his Ford from the ground up. No small endeavor, especially for a family man. Scott did the lion’s share of the work himself, but on occasion, he did enlist his sons, aged 16 and 14 for some help.
Scott, while sitting next to his father, stressed the importance of passing the hot rod passion down from generation to generation. “If we don’t get the kids involved, the hobby might disappear, so it’s important to expose them to it.”
A body man by trade, Scott started there first. He massaged the sheetmetal back to life before it was coated in a Charcoal Gray hue using Axalta waterborne paint anywhere that white and chrome are not present.
As mentioned, subtlety is key, so the roof line is as factory delivered. But the side fuel door and rear window wiper have been deleted. Custom trim wraps the car, and the rest of the brightwork has been polished to a better than factory shine.
The rearend of the car looks quite modern due to the replacement of the factory multi-piece rear window by a custom single piece unit. It’s a small change that makes a huge difference in the rear three-quarter profile of the car.
White paint is on the roof and windshield visor, as well as the rear quarter panels where it wraps around and covers the bottom quarter of the rear hatch. The rear hatch door also has elegant pinstriping around a re-styled Ford emblem.
The Ranch Wagon sits low, very low, and the Ford tucks 18-inch wheels in the front, and 20s in the rear. The wheels are wrapped in soft lip white wall tires to give a period correct nod.
Tucking wheels that are several sizes larger than what came on the car was no easy undertaking. The factory installed front suspension has been replaced with components from Fatman Fabrication. Additionally, drop spindles and stainless steel control arms have been installed.
Supporting the rearend is a four link set up that has had its mounting points tucked up within the frame for extra clearance when riding low.
The four link is attached to a Ford 9-inch rearend, and Wilwood disc brakes have been installed all around to bring the wagon to a halt.
Air ride allows the car to sit low when parked, but rise on start, thanks to Accuair I level management.
Inside, the upholstery of the car is comprised entirely of new leather. The upholstery is the only part of the build Scott didn’t do himself. The white and grey materials used inside play off the exterior colors, and again, hint at a theme of subtly that ties the entire car together.
A custom white and grey steering wheel sits aft of custom gauges, and the custom rear seat folds down to reveal a real wood floor.
The interior of the car is usually complimented by a hanging surf board. However, for this year’s show, the relocated Detroit couple left the board back at their Naples, Florida, home.
Built Ford Tough With Chevy Stuff
To the chagrin of Ford purists everywhere, the wagon is motivated by a small-block Chevy under hood. But, it is not a plain Jane 350. Sitting in front of the shaved firewall, the fuel injected mill breathes through tall stacks that just fit under the hood when closed.
Naturally, a custom exhaust has been fitted to the car. For late night beach side cruises, the car also has flame throwers installed to light up the night sky.
The Ford Ranch Wagon isn’t the most common car in the show circuit, but Scott and Shannon’s car makes an argument that they should be.
There’s not a bad angle to be found on this Blue Oval, and we can only hope to come across it again soon. Preferably, next time we’re beach side somewhere in Florida!
Owner: Scott and Shannon Smith
Hometown: Detroit Michican, relocated to Naples, Florida
Vehicle: 1953 Ford Ranch Wagon
Color: Charcoal Grey and White
Engine: 350 small-block Chevy
Brakes: Wilwood four-wheel disc
Wheels: Foose 18×8 and 20×10
Suspension: (Front) Fatman with drop spindles and stainless steel control arms. (Rear) stainless steel four link, Accuair I