Way back in 1998, Mary Knox was looking for a cool car to haul the grandkids around and attend the occasional car show. Hubby Gary Knox had already built an outstanding '57 Ford two-door ranch wagon, but she wanted something she could call her own.
Gary found what he thought would be the perfect car at the Chickasha swap meet in Oklahoma, a freshly repainted '55 Chevy business coupe with rubber floor mats and a rebuilt 6-cylinder engine.
But Mary wasn't interested. When she saw a 1952 Ford Customline, her eyes lit up. "It was blue and it was a four-door," she said, and she liked it a lot.
"It was a one-owner car with 42,000 miles on the odometer," Gary said. "It was not to build, but to drive," he said.
Mary did drive the car for a while, but, according to Gary, she decided something stronger than the 110 horsepower flathead V-8 was needed.
So in 2004, the flathead, along with the original 3-speed overdrive transmission, came out. In their place went a 1993 Ford Lightning pickup V-8, mated to an automatic overdrive transmission and a stronger 9-inch rear end out of a '59 Ford.
As so often happens, one thing led to another and the mechanical upgrade turned into a complete makeover of the car.
"When he started talking about painting it, I wanted it blue," Mary said. "And then he showed me that color," she said, referring to the amazing pearl yellow-gold hue that covers the car. They had to get permission to use the color, mixed for a world-class mid-'50s Chrysler wagon, from the owner.
For their application, they fittingly chose to call the color "Knox Gold."
Gary Knox wasn't so sure how the color, applied by Gwynn Bilson of Benton, would work out until the newly polished original bumpers and stainless trim, along with NOS grille and gravel guards, went on the car. Then he was convinced.
All badging was removed, a set of '56 Olds taillights were frenched into the back fenders and ultra-fine pinstriping detail was applied by Ron Meyers. The crowning touch, though, was shaving the rear door handles, which fools most people into believing the car is a two-door.
Joe Newlon designed the custom dash, with Rick Fisher adding a knee panel to house the Custom Auto Air A/C outlets. Newlon also sprayed the leather-look paint on the dash top, under the hood and deck lids and on the interior garnish moldings.
Fisher's wife, Karen, said the color of the car reminded her of her daylilies, so Gary borrowed a clipping from a neighbor and graphics specialist Meyers added a daylily surrounded by butterflies to the dash.
Fisher covered Infiniti bucket seats and the stock rear seat in soft Cessna leather, with Newlon stitching the "M" monogram in each seat.
Dakota Digital gauges fill the original instrument opening, while a Juliano steering wheel mounted on an ididit tilt column is connected to a Mustang II style rack and pinion steering gear. Front suspension is a Fat Man subframe mounting Air Ride Shock Wave bags and Granada disc brakes.
Rolling stock consists of a spectacular set of 17-inch Intro Saltsters mounting low profile Toyo tires.
Gary Knox built his own exhaust system from the Speedway Motors headers back to the Cherry Bomb glasspack mufflers, terminating in polished exhaust tips.
He said the build ended up being a sort of "family" project, with all the friends above, along with buddy Joe Jack, pitching in with ideas and labor.
"The car was built for our 50th wedding anniversary as my gift to her," Knox said. "He said that was my anniversary ring," Mary chuckled.
Is she happy with her "ring"?
"Oh, yeah, I'd better be," she said. "I'm going to show it a lot. I go to coffee every month with the girls I went to school with in Hutchinson and I'm going to drive it over there."