Gary Wolcott's 1951 Ford Victoria Hardtop Custom
(from Volume 19, Issue 238)


Gary Wolcott has one outstanding custom in this 1951 Ford Victoria Hardtop, which he built entirely himself. It is the culmination of 60+ years of honing his skills, one car at a time. You see, Gary got his start back in the 1950’s while growing up in Olean, New York. Though the frigid winters brought snow that would sometimes drift up to the roofline of the house, Gary sought refuge in a garage that had a big oil stove in it. It was at that time he started tinkering with cars, and being the 1950’s custom cars were the big thing for him. While he didn’t know what he was doing at the onset, he soon enrolled in auto mechanics class in high school, which taught him the basics. However, nobody taught him how to paint, weld or fabricate....he just learned those skills by himself through doing it over the years. While starting out he didn’t have a lot of know-how, the best tools, or enough money, but he did have plenty of drive. So he improvised a lot, and if a mistake was made Gary just tore everything up and started over again.

His first project was an ambitious and unusual one, especially for the time. He took an old Volkswagen Beetle body, mounted it on the shortened frame of a Ford truck, and bolted in an Oldsmobile engine up front. It turned out pretty good, Gary drove it for a few years, then sold it for more than he had put into it. This formula has stayed with him in the 55 or so years since, as Gary has usually had one finished creation that he is driving, while working on another in his home garage. When the one in the garage is finished, he sells the one he had been driving for a profit to finance the next project, and upgrade his tools and equipment. Obviously his level of expertise has also grown with each project, which by now has been dozens of cool custom creations in those 60+ years.

His latest is the 1951 Ford Victoria Hardtop you see pictured here. As usual, Gary did all of the work himself in his garage. It is an amazing custom car, and is even more striking in person.....where you can more fully realize just how low the roofline is as you stand beside it.

The low look is the culmination of many modifications, which also give it sleek styling. The roof was chopped 4-inches, shortened 10 inches, and the 3-piece rear window roof section was replaced with a coupe section and glass. The rear deck was extended, and a 5-1/2 inch section was removed out of the body to help give it that low profile. The front fenders have been extended 3-1/2 inches, have ‘53 Mercury headlight rings frenched into them, and the rear quarter panels were modified to fit ‘56 Olds taillights with ‘52 Ford trim. A Mercury style grille opening was fabricated, with a modified ‘54 Chevy front bumper over ride used for the grille bar. Custom made flush mounted fender skirts were added, the hood corners were rounded, and the antenna frenched. Once Gary got everything laser straight, PPG light metallic pewter paint was applied, accented by ‘55 Chevy 210 side trim, and a set of ‘53 Caddy hubcaps with Diamond Back whitewall tires. The bumpers are ‘49 and ‘50 Ford units, with the rear utilizing a ‘55 Pontiac rear bumper over ride, and the exhaust tips exit through the rear bumper.

Underneath the stock frame was notched in the rear, and utilizes 4-bar suspension. Up front the frame was Z’ed and uses an S-10 clip, with air ride suspension at all four corners allowing the car to sit extremely low at rest, yet be raised for safe driving. Gary has been using late model drivetrains for many years now, so that he has the peace of mind that while traveling long distances to some car shows he can always pull into a dealership if repairs are needed. This car is powered by an LS-1 engine fitted with custom fabricated exhaust manifolds and Smithy glass packs. A Lokar shifter is mated to the 4L60E overdrive automatic, giving the car long legs on the highway.

Inside you will find black leather and vinyl upholstery, and a custom fiberglass headliner. Gary used 2002 Trans Am seats, and fabricated a custom fiberglass console to go between them. The dash is a modified ‘55 Olds unit, now fitted with Auto Meter gauges, and the steering wheel is a cut down ‘55 Chevy piece. The cabin is cooled by a Vintage Air system, and filled with the sounds of music thanks to a Custom Autosound radio.

The project took 4 years to complete, working 4 days a week. Every panel on the body has been modified, and the results are simply amazing. It recently took an award at the Goodguys Spring Nationals in Kissimmee during April of 2014, and that is certainly not the only time it has received recognition at a car the way of an award, or admiring onlookers. Gary told us that this is probably his last project....but he has said that before, too. Only time will tell if he will craft another great automotive creation in that garage of his, but we certainly do know that he is enjoying this one to its fullest! CN