The End of the Australian Ford Flathead Era: The 1954 Ford Customline and Mainline

Updated on May 18, 2020
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I have always had a love of machinery: wheels connecting to rods, pulleys connected to shafts, engines connected to wheels.

The featured cars are a pair of 1954 Australian Ford V8s, the last of a series. The 1954 Fords were known as 4A models.These were powered by a 239-cubic-inch flathead engine.

The 1954 Fords actually continued to be sold in showrooms until mid-1995, when the new Customlines replaced them. The new 1955 would be powered by an OHV V8 of 272-cubic-inch displacement, otherwise known as a Y-block. If you bought a 1954-style Ford in April 1955, and you decided to sell it a year or so later, you would advertise it as a 1955 4A.

1954 Ford Customline and Mainline

Left. Customline four-door sedan Right. Mainline 'Ute' (or coupe Utility)
Left. Customline four-door sedan Right. Mainline 'Ute' (or coupe Utility)

These were the two choices when you bought a Ford V8 in Australia in 1954.

In the USA you had a choice of 14 models. The Coupe Utility was not available there until 1957, when it was introduced as the Ranchero. The Mainline, however, was available in North America; it was the low-priced sedan, and was available in four-door and two-door models as well as the Wagon.

Both the 1954 Ford and 1952 Ford have slots in the grille side bars, but the 54 has small teeth in them. The 54 has more chrome above the grille bar and a more elaborate shape.  The hubcap centres were red in the US and black in Australia.
Both the 1954 Ford and 1952 Ford have slots in the grille side bars, but the 54 has small teeth in them. The 54 has more chrome above the grille bar and a more elaborate shape. The hubcap centres were red in the US and black in Australia.

The 1949 Ford, introduced in the USA on June 10, 1948, was the model that saved the Ford Motor Company. If the ‘all-new’ 1949 Ford hadn’t been produced, the Ford Motor Company as we know it today—a massive company with ownership of such marques as Jaguar, Aston Martin, Mazda and Volvo just to name some—might not have come to exist.

The interior and dash of the Customline was much the same as the Mainline, except the Mainline’s seat back could be tilted forward for access to the spare tyre, jack and tools. Leather seating was standard with matching vinyl on the door trim.
The interior and dash of the Customline was much the same as the Mainline, except the Mainline’s seat back could be tilted forward for access to the spare tyre, jack and tools. Leather seating was standard with matching vinyl on the door trim.
 Was this the last sidevalve V8 used in the world? Not quite: they soldiered on in French and Brazilian Simcas until the 1960’s.
Was this the last sidevalve V8 used in the world? Not quite: they soldiered on in French and Brazilian Simcas until the 1960’s.

The first OHV V8 used in USA models had the same capacity as the side-valve engines but yielded 130hp.

From the rear, the Customline shows a stainless steel flatter side trim that runs almost the entire length of the car, whereas in 1952 and 1953 models they are in two pieces, a front portion and a rear section.
From the rear, the Customline shows a stainless steel flatter side trim that runs almost the entire length of the car, whereas in 1952 and 1953 models they are in two pieces, a front portion and a rear section.
  The Mainline utility rear window is the same design as from the 1940s, an oval unit with a slight curve in tempered glass. The window first appeared in 1941 in North American coupes and sedans, continuing on until 1948.
The Mainline utility rear window is the same design as from the 1940s, an oval unit with a slight curve in tempered glass. The window first appeared in 1941 in North American coupes and sedans, continuing on until 1948.
The factory RHD dashboard was similar to the 1952- 53 models, metal with wood-grain applied. This was unique to Australia. 1954 was the last year wood that grain paintwork was used on the dashboard and window trim.
The factory RHD dashboard was similar to the 1952- 53 models, metal with wood-grain applied. This was unique to Australia. 1954 was the last year wood that grain paintwork was used on the dashboard and window trim.

The factory RHD dashboard on the 1954 Fords was similar to the 1952-53 models, metal with wood-grain applied. This was unique to Australia. 1954 was the last year that wood-grain paintwork was used on the dashboard and window trim. In the USA, Fords received a new dashboard in 1954 that more closely resembled the 1955 models.

Ford Styling from 1949-1964

American Ford dashboards from 1949 were usually painted metallic colours. For 1950, slight alterations were made. To the untrained, the 1950 models look like 1949 models. However, Ford’s advertising for their new model was ’50 Ways New Ford For ’50’. Again, 1951 Fords were slightly revised, the main visible feature being the ‘twin spinner’ grille theme. 1951 Fords were the final model based on the original 1949 body. Model year production figures were: 1949, 1,118,762; 1950, 1,209,549; 1951, 1,013,381 One can see that these models were very successful for Ford. Unlike Chevrolet, who decided to get one more year’s worth out of their 1949 body, F Ford decided to go for an all-new model for 1952.

One of the main styling features was the introduction of a single curved windscreen replacing the twin flat screens in the 1949-51 models. 1952 was also the year that Ford introduced their trademark round taillights which became a Ford tradition from 1952 to 1964, only missing the 1958 and 1960 big Fords.

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