Car Restoration Projects
A Star is Reborn
Like a Phoenix from the ashes, NSW Southern Highlands Ford enthusiast Rod Anderson brought this Star model Ford V8 cruiser back to life, in original condition. Remarkably it was only a 10-month journey to restore it to 1959 factory condition.
Rod located this Star model Customline in a shed at Castlereagh, on the outskirts of Sydney in October 2008. It was in a completely disassembled condition and had been stored since the late 1960s.
The then-owner had sent it for restoration and got it back with the electrical wiring and interior stripped out, as well as the engine and transmission removed. It was a rolling shell and that’s the way Rod bought it after some negotiation as to a fair price.
Rod said: “When it arrived on the back of a truck in our backyard, my wife Marie looked at it and said, ‘I reckon that pile of junk should go straight to the local tip!’
“I was so keen to start work on it, that as soon as we rolled it into the shed, I got started,” said Rod. “I attacked the interior first.
“The headlining had been removed and was originally glued to the roof, so it took me three days of scraping and sanding to clean off the dried adhesive and get back to the bare metal.”
After he’d completely cleaned the interior, he rust-proofed it, as well as inside the doors and boot area. There wasn’t any rust in the body, only the steel cradles that connect the window winders to the side glasses showed any sign of rust.
Rod renewed the bailey channels and says it was an overwhelming task to shape and fit them correctly.
Rod must have had restoration fever, because he said: “Some mornings I would wake at four, make breakfast and be in the shed and started work by five.
“I’d stop for lunch with Marie and some nights not down tools until nine o’clock.”
He then set about checking the engine’s condition, but it had to be cleaned first. A pressure cleaner made no impression on the build-up of grease and grime that had hardened and baked in the dry, hot tin shed where it sat in solitary for a couple of decades.
So, he had to revert to the time-honoured method using several scrapers and a lot of elbow grease: a week passed before it was clean.
Off with its head
With the laborious scraping and sanding completed, it was time to take a good look inside ol’ Henry’s mechanicals.
Rod said: “I pulled the cylinder heads off; lapped the valves and checked the bores and to my delight they were fine.
“I replaced the rear main oil seal and the majority of gaskets.
“Then with a coat of Ford engine blue it began to look like a Ford V8 engine should.
“We strapped it down on a cradle and, with my neighbour drip-feeding the fuel, we fired it up.
“Just like Rip Van Winkle it awoke from its long sleep, coughed and then thundered into life.
“We then checked the compression and got a reading of 100psi on all eight cylinders.”
The Fordomatic transmission was a different story: it was full of water, so a complete rebuild was in order.
Rod had been looking high and low for a genuine workshop manual to no avail. Marie suggested trying the Saturday ‘Buy, Swap and Sell’ program on the radio, but Rod didn’t give it much hope. However, shortly after the request had been announced, the phone rang and the voice on the other end described a set of manuals for an OHV Customline.
Rod couldn’t believe his luck, because from the description they were exactly what he was looking for. The majority were genuine Ford factory manuals in fairly good condition and he only wanted 100 bucks for them.
“I couldn’t get to the guy’s house quickly enough,” Rod exclaimed.
“I soon put them to good use and they were invaluable with the transmission rebuild,” he said.
“The wiring had been removed and had come, with the car, in a cardboard box.
“ I thought I’d have to get an auto electrician to sort it out, but I was able to do it all myself, by following the wiring diagrams in the electrical section in the manuals.”
Next came the brakes that were comprehensively overhauled, with new fluid lines, stainless steel-sleeved master cylinder and new wheel cylinders and brake linings.
Rod also replaced the universals and the diff pinion oil seal.
The boys at Leumeah Smash Repairs prepared the body for painting, with the final preparation blocking it and then letting it sit for two weeks.
Much to the dismay of several of his friends Rod chose a pink, grey and white tri-colour blend, as it was a standard retro hue.
Determined to bring the ol’ girl back to life in exactly the way a standard Star model would have left the Ford assembly plant, he approached several trimmers to reupholster the interior: inlaying the extruded star that was originally in the door trims.
Two said it was too hard, but a third – Peter Woodland at Mount Annan – was only too happy to accept the challenge.
The glorious period bumpers and other ornamental jewellery were re-chromed to a high standard by Pioneer Plating in Moorebank.
Rod then personally, as he had with the entire project, completed the fit up. The coupe de grâce was a set of whitewall tyres!
After a 10-month intense labour of love and the reborn Star was ready to hit the road.
Since pre-WWII years, Ford Australia had always sold North American V8 sedans and their derivatives. When the overhead valve V8 engine became available in the 1955 Customline, with its excellent acceleration – able to cover the standing quarter mile in less than 20 seconds, with a 95mph (153km/h) top speed – it was marketed as a six-seater performance sedan that was priced within the reach of the average family man.
It returned around 20mpg (14L/100km) and 16mpg (17.6L/100km) when ‘lead-footed’.
In 1956 the electrical system was upgraded from six-volt to 12-volt and it was optioned with Ford’s automatic transmission.
The Customline model range ended in 1958, with some carry over into early 1959. (The ‘tank’ Fairlane followed in late 1959.) It became known as the Star model, because it picked up the Canadian Meteor’s four-pointed star grille, as well as its side trim.
The tricolour was featured on the Fordomatic version, but the much less popular manual transmission variant had one less chrome side strip and therefore had either two-tone or monotone paintwork.
Engine: Colloquially known as the Y-Block
Type: Eight cylinder – 90º vee – overhead valve
Displacement: 272 cu in
Bore & stroke: 3.62” x 3.30”
Compression ratio: 8.6: 1
Max torque: 270 lbs ft at 2700rpm
Transmission: Fordomatic or optional three-speed, manual column shift
Rear axle: Live with banjo type diff centre and semi-elliptic leaf springs
Front suspension: Double wishbones and coil springs