Frank Tetro's 1955 Ford Sunliner with a 427 SOHC
(from Volume 19, Issue 219)

Frank Tetro has been involved with cars since he was a small kid, starting with when his dad had service stations. He bought his first hot rod, a 1956 Ford F-100, way back in 1976, and things just progressed from there over the years. As the owner of Harbor Auto Restoration, founded in 1983, he is no stranger to producing top quality cars. So it is no surprise that when he turned his attention to building his latest project the results would be nothing short of outstanding.

Frank first heard of this 1955 Ford Sunliner convertible when it was in Bobby Alloway’s shop in Tennessee, where it had undergone a rough mock-up. Ken Wester was the owner, but he wasn’t going to build it up, so it was offered to Frank. The body had been acid dipped, and while it had an Art Morrison frame, there were no floors. However, the big kicker was that it came with a very rare 427 cubic inch, SOHC (single overhead cam) motor. So a deal was struck, and it was brought to Rockledge, Florida for the guys at Harbor Auto Restoration to dig into it. The team included Jason Magnum, Randy Hadwiggen, Clay Deen, Will Tetro, Frank Tetro and Frank Tetro Jr. Local designer Erik Brockmeyer did the design work, and over the next three years the car would be totally transformed into what you see now.

As nice as every aspect of the car is, the focal point is probably the very rare 1966 Ford 427 SOHC “Cammer” motor that was shoehorned in place. Mylon Keasler of Keasler Racing did the machining and assembly, with items including Crower rods, CP pistons with a 10.75:1 compression ratio, a Crower reground camshaft with 636 lift, and Holman-Moody rockers. Dual Holley 550cfm carbs are covered by a custom built Mylon air cleaner, while a set of custom headers route the spent gasses through a custom exhaust with Flowmaster mufflers. Power is routed through a Keisler 5-speed transmission with a Hurst shifter back through the Winters aluminum 9-inch rear end housing with Strange Engineering axles. The Morrison chassis has a Strange coil over suspension, rack and pinion steering, and 13-inch Wilwood disc brakes with polished calipers all around.

The exterior of the car obviously wasn’t spared its fair share of attention either. That included being nosed and decked, and smaller ‘55 T-Bird door handles were swapped in for a leaner look. 1956 Ford items were also used, including the grille, parking lights, and taillights. The convertible top had 3/4 of an inch chopped out of the center bow, lending a lower and sleeker look. The guys at Harbor Auto Restoration spent countless hours making sure the body was straight as an arrow, then Jay and Josh laid down the smooth black paint. Both the front and rear bumpers were tucked in closer to the body, and have no seams or exposed bolts for a clean look. The elegant and swoopy stock stainless steel side trim is accented nicely by the Boyd aluminum wheels (17x7 inch up front wrapped in 205x70x17 BFGoodrich rubber, and 20x10 inch out back with 275x55x20 BFG’s).

On the inside you’ll find a 1956 Mercury dash, with stock looking Classic Instruments gauges. The one-off steering wheel, which incorporated the Harbor Auto Restoration logo in the center, was designed by Eric Brockmeyer and built by Jesse Greening. The seats are from a ‘64 T-Bird, and the lipstick red leather upholstery was done by AJ at Street Seats.

Without a doubt the whole package came together incredibly, and it is a real head-turner. We saw it at the recent NSRA Southeast Nationals at the Tampa Fairgrounds in October, and shot pictures right there on the grounds over the weekend. Of course it is really no surprise that Frank’s latest personal project to come out of Harbor Auto Restoration is so outstanding, given the shop’s track record for top-quality craftsmanship. The only thing left to wonder is, what is he going to build next? CN