1954 Ford Country Squire

Photography: Luke Ray

Sat in a hotel room, Jim and his mate were surrounded by classifieds covering the whole south of California, when a particular ad caught Jim’s interest.

“LA is like the Gold Coast, Jim,” his mate said, “Things are spread out everywhere. It’s too far.”

“We’re going,” Jim retorted, simply and surely. At that moment it was decided — they were off to see the neglected classic.

Four years ago, Jim had originally visited America intending to find a suitable Buick to bring back to Australia. But, after having no luck finding a barge from the tri-shield marque, he spotted a ’54 Ford Country Squire in the ad. He had to at least give it a look, even if it was a far drive from the hotel. As they arrived, they saw the car out on display after a long barn slumber. It was remarkably complete. Under the hood, the original 239 cubic inch Y-block was mounted between the frame rails, still married to the Ford-o-Matic it was at birth.

The exterior was holding on to the factory wood paneling and paint applied in ’54, even if it did need a fair bit of work. It was the first model year Ford used fiberglass instead of real wood for the panelling, which made the repair a lot easier than it could have been.

Inside, all interior trim pieces were accounted for — though, a family of squirrels looked as if they’d made a home for themselves between the seats some time ago, using the rusted out floor as an entrance. Being the most expensive Ford in 1954 meant the car came with every option available in its day, including power brakes, power steering and factory radio. This also meant parts were hard to come by for the eight-seater land barge.

“All the windows were broken,” Jim explained as he pointed at the side of the car. “I had to make window templates out of masonite…there’s a fella around here that makes all that glass. The front screens are not hard to find. And I did manage to buy a rear screen for it in America. They’re rare as rocking horse shit. ”

Most of the car is still original, save a few pieces here and there. “I was very lucky in that respect because you can’t buy stuff for these cars. The only things that aren’t original on that car are the two mirrors, two Country Squires, and two emblems,” Jim explained, later adding that the brakes had been swapped out for more modern discs along with a FMX three-speed transmission from a later model Ford Fairlane.

All in all, the restoration took 18 months from start to finish — the first six months spent solely researching and sourcing parts. One of the hardest bits to find was the chrome jet predominately displayed atop the Country Squire’s massive hood. Jim’s friend had burned a lot of time trying to find one in America, only for Jim to happen upon one at a swap meet in Australia.

Another issue Jim ran into was sourcing the Country Squire badges on the sides of the car. He had initially ordered a ‘pair’ of badges from the States. When they arrived, Jim got quite the surprise.

“When the package arrived, the ‘pair’ ended up being one ‘Country’ and one ‘Squire’.. that’s what the seller called a pair! I gave the seller a telling off!”

After his collection of parts was complete — including $500 reluctantly spent on Country Squire badges — Jim spent a year rebuilding his Country Squire in the shop, making sure everything was just right. Once again running, now on Aussie roads, it takes people aback from time to time. Looking under the hood confuses some who think that it’s been restored with the wrong motor.

“This is the first of the Y-blocks in America,” informs Jim. In 1954, Ford didn’t have a Y-block option available for their Australian vehicles, still relying on the infamous Flathead V8. The Y-block was a modern, overhead cam replacement for the aging Flathead, not making it to Australian shores until 1955. But, for all its bells and whistles, it is the uniqueness of the Country Squire that draws people in.

“Even the 54 Ford Club of America President didn’t believe I had it over here,” Jim said, explaining his conversation. “He [the president] said, ‘They’re rare in America. Where’d you get it?’ I said ‘I bought it in Los Angeles.’ “He just couldn’t believe I had one in Australia.”