Often when stories start out with, “I learned to drive in that car” or “We dated in that car” they end with, “Yeah, that is the one that got away!” Fortunately, Brenda and Danny Berry, only the first half of that story is true. The car that Brenda first learned to drive in and dated her husband Danny in is still around today.
In the early years, this 1954 Ford Ranch Wagon belonged to the flower shop where Brenda’s father worked and served as the delivery vehicle for the business. It was retired and replaced in the late ’60s by a Volkswagen van and given to Brenda’s father as a gift. He used it to hunt and fish out of for a few years before deciding to sell it. Brenda found out his intentions and reached out to buy the wagon from her dad, at which time he simply handed her the keys and gave her the 1954 Ford to enjoy for herself.
(Photo Credit: Shawn Brereton)
After taking over ownership of the car, Brenda and Danny enjoyed it for several years and made more memories in the wagon including hauling their twin girls to school in it. It was on one of these trips that the left front wheel bearing froze up on Brenda and the car had to be towed home. A quick local search for a new spindle came up empty handed so the car was pushed into the barn out of site and out of mind. It was there that the car would sit for almost 20 years before the restoration process began.
With the help of Danny’s friend, Dave Doolin, the wagon underwent an extensive, seven-year restoration process, during which over 100 custom patch panels were installed to replace all the rust. You can follow the entire build, photo-by-photo, here. Long gone is the factory powerplant and in its place is a pushrod 5.0-liter engine with all the power accessories you would come to expect on a car built to be driven. It is backed by a modern, five-speed manual transmission to help keep the RPM down on those long cruises.
Danny admits that without the internet, sourcing a replacement spindle was no easy task. So the car sadly sat tucked away the barn for the better part of 20 years while awaiting restoration. Upon pulling the car out of the barn, Danny told his wife it was going to take a lot of time and money to restore her old wagon to which she replied, "Do I look like I care?" She did not have to tell Danny twice!
It looks good on those cruises, too. While keeping its existing white and green theme, the exterior of the car varies a little bit from its original look by featuring custom shade of green topped with Chrysler Vanilla. The interior of the wagon remains similar to how it was new with the exception of an upgraded radio and a few modern gauges.
After completion, the Brenda and Danny’s wagon logged thousands of miles across the country. They enjoy it every chance they get, and the car took top honors for Best Wagon at the recent 1954 Ford Convention in Novi, Michigan. If you see this unique wagon at a car show or cruise in near you be sure and stop in and chat with the Berrys and hear the cool story of this old wagon firsthand.