Terry Menebroker‘s 1955 Ford Crown Victoria, known as the “Crown Jewel,” is one gorgeous Victoria. Yep, it’s a Kustom with a K, and Terry has absolutely no regrets about making it so. Terry was about 10-years-old when he first remembers seeing a 1956 Crown Victoria at a car show he was attending with his Dad Erv. He thought the chrome on the car was outstanding, and someday would like to own one of those.
Fast forward 21 years, and a classified ad popped up in the Rocky Mountain newspaper. There was a 1955 Crown Victoria for sale in Silverthorne, Colorado. Sure, it was not a ’56 as Terry wanted, but close enough, and the price was right. Terry and his Dad made the trek from Longmont, Colorado, up the mountain to check it out. The car was on a ranch about 15 miles North of town.
What They Started With
It had been used on the ranch, traveling the rough mountain roads, and there was not a straight piece of trim on it. Fortunately, the guy that owned it had purchased another parts car and started to make one car of the two. The car was rust-free, but she did need body work. Both cars and assorted parts were loaded in two pickups and a trailer and hauled down the mountain.
For the next five years, Terry collected missing trim pieces and tried to work on the rest of of the car. It needed an engine, and luckily, a friend had a 1965 T-Bird that was badly rusted, but had a running 390ci engine with only 60,000 miles. Terry and his Dad pulled the engine and rebuilt it, and added a C6 transmission. To add a little more power, they rerouted the original fresh air ducts behind the grille directly into a custom air cleaner, creating a ram air effect. They also remade the inner fenders and added a narrowed 9-inch Ford rearend taken from a 1957 Ford.
After six years, work on the Crown Victoria had halted. That’s when Terry’s Dad retired from his job and offered to work on the car. The father and son duo struck a deal that saw Dad providing the labor and engineering skills for the custom work, and all Terry had to do was pay for materials and parts, and of course, get his hands dirty helping. Knowing this was the only way the car would get put on the street, he agreed.
Terry reminded his Dad the car was to have the look of a fifties custom, so the first thing done was to louver the hood. This not only looks cool, but helps keep the engine running cool. The trunk was shaved, an antenna was frenched in, and the taillights were sunk. The taillight lenses are one-off pieces with the Crown Vic symbol molded in the center.
It Must Be Blue
The only other stipulation Terry put on the build was it had to have a blue paint job. The correct shade didn’t come along until the 2012 Mustang made its appearance with its Electric Blue hue, which was perfect for the build.
There were two things Terry did not like about the 1955 Crown Victoria, and one was the large parking lights in the grill, and the other was the dash. He and his Dad went to a local junk yard to look at dashes in other cars, and came across a 1960 T-bird. Terry really like the shape of the dash, and it measured out at the right width. There were also cool instrument bezels in the dash that were about 4 inches in diameter, and appeared to be about the right size for the park lights in the custom grille they were creating.
With the purchase of the T-bird dash, its styling influenced the rest of the interior – the Bird’s bucket seats in the front and rear were fitted and covered with rolls and pleats (keeping with the ’50s theme). In addition, a full-length console runs from the front of the car through the back seat.
With most of the body work done, Terry decided the car needed something other than plain door panels. Looking at the way the chrome trim on the roof was mirrored on the inside of the car, Terry thought it’d be cool if they did the same thing with the door panels – mirror the chrome trim on the outside of the door.
T accomplish this task, Terry found another set of trim and had his upholstery friend, Dave Schilling, add the chrome strips to the door panels after upholstering them for a distinct look. The exceptional job Dave did on the interior has gotten almost as much attention as the outside of the car. Unfortunately, Dave passed away recently. So, in some ways, the interior in the Ford is a lasting tribute to Terry’s friend.
After 9 years of building on the car , it was finished in May of 2013. It is a project Terry and his Dad are very proud to say they built together. The Crown Jewel was nominated for the NSRA Northwest Region award at the NSRA Nationals in 2016. Terry drove the Ford to Louisville, Kentucky, and he also won the Top Hot Rod award for the Northwest Region. The car was also featured on the cable TV show Dream Ridez while in Kentucky. Terry commented “I am so lucky to have a mentor like my Dad to help me with my car project. Thanks to him, we made a 10-year-old boy’s dream of a “Crown Jewel” come true.”