Visiting Hot Rods by Dean to Check in on a Modern-Day Cruiser

By Brian Brennan   –   Photography & Video by the Author  –  Sponsored by Optima Batteries

Cody Barenz of HRBD] staff spends plenty of hours getting this 1956 Ford Ranch Wagon just right. Final color will be similar to the original factory blue and white.

Be it a Chevy, Ford, or Mopar, wagons are on the growing list of popular build material. The “Ford in a Ford” guys are really excited about a hot rod that more easily accepts a Coyote motor, making the wagon a good choice. On an earlier trip to Phoenix we stopped by to see Dean Livermore of Hot Rods by Dean (HRBD) to check in on various projects but specifically one we’ve had our eye on. It’s a 1956 Ford Ranch Wagon that’s getting the full build (chassis, modern powertrain, and loads of creature comforts) while maintaining its true mid-’50s appearance.

Where the project began. This 1956 Ford Ranch Wagon was in amazing shape to begin with, making this project a lot more straightforward of a build.

The East Coast owner found the car in Long Island, New York, where it was originally purchased and coincidentally it was in the same hometown where Livermore was born. This makes for an unusual connection between the car, the owner, and Livermore, making for a serendipitous occurrence. We mentioned earlier that the wagon was to get the “full build” and that includes the Art Morrison Enterprises (AME) chassis, a Roush supercharged Ford Coyote, TREMEC TKO six-speed, and a Strange-outfitted Ford 9-inch rearend with the AME triangulated four-bar.

Where the project began. This 1956 Ford Ranch Wagon was in amazing shape to begin with, making this project a lot more straightforward of a build.

All Fords received a “face-lift” for 1956 that generally enhanced the already-acknowledged clean lines of the 1955s. All Ranch Wagons were two-doors but the 1956 Ranch Wagon continued to be the most popular two-door wagon on the market, with numbers in excess of 105,000 sold. In 1956, the 292ci Thunderbird engine became the standard V-8 in all Ford wagons and Fairlane models, while late in the model year the Thunderbird Special 312ci V-8 became an option. The “Thunderbird V-8” front fender emblems signified a V-8 wagon, no matter the engine choice. The 1956 was also the first year of the 12V electrical system, earlier models were 6V.

The Art Morrison Enterprises (AME) chassis is called a Builders Platform, which is a custom chassis made for a specific model. This one has IFS, rack-and-pinion steering, and a solid rear axle.

Let’s begin with the chassis. It’s based on the AME Builders Platform formatted on mandrel-bent 2×4-inch tubing. Should you want to do something special, as AME may not make a frame for your build, you can provide AME with dimensional details, wheel and tire sizes, ride height of rocker-to-ground, and wheelbase. From here AME will configure the positioning of the engine and trans mounts or you can do that on your own. What comes back is a drawing (similar to a blueprint) that you use to go back and confirm your measurements one more time. (Do you remember the saying about, “measure twice, cut once”?) From here any changes are noted and then AME bends/welds up your frame. They can then provide you with the ordered suspension components to attach to the frame. The “outriggers” (optional body mounts) are supplied and you weld them on once you position and fit the body to the frame, along with any bumper mounting tabs or holes that need drilling. You will notice in the photos that new sheetmetal was used in each of the four footwells; this was done to replace rusted metal and not because of any body-to-frame fitment issues.

Strange adjustable coilover shocks are used at all four corners on this chassis package and are part of the AME option package.
The AME IFS is based on C6 IFS geometry and is used in conjunction with Wilwood rotors, aluminum hubs, and Dynalite calipers, all spinning on the AME (Wilwood) drop spindle.

In this case Livermore knew what engine and transmission would be used and opted to weld in the motor and trans mounts themselves. This covered the Coyote V-8, the six-speed with a Quick Time bellhousing, and the AME triangulated four-bar suspension fitted to a Ford 9-inch. The outriggers (body mounts) would be welded into position by the staff at HRBD as AME doesn’t make a specific chassis for this year of wagon … as of yet!

The AME IFS is based on C6 IFS geometry and is used in conjunction with Wilwood rotors, aluminum hubs, and Dynalite calipers, all spinning on the AME (Wilwood) drop spindle.

Looking around the chassis you will see a Wilwood brake disc system utilizing their rotors, hubs, GS compact remote master cylinder for the hydraulic clutch, and Dynalite calipers at the corners. AME also supplies the IFS based on C6 Corvette geometry, along with their spindles and rack-and-pinion steering. The Ford 9-inch housing comes by way of AME but the centersection (3.55 gears) and adjustable coilover shocks are optional Strange components.

You can see literally no changes to the stock sheetmetal and this is the plan. All of the modifications reside below the chassis line or inside in the form of creature comforts. There will be a rear third light added before the wagon goes off to the HRBD paint shop.

The exterior of the 1956 Ford Ranch Wagon will, with one exception, retain its stock appearance in the form of the third taillight. On new cars (1986) this is commonly called a CHMSL (Center High Mount Stop Lamp). (Should you find this interesting, look up the story from 1973 about the San Francisco cabbie who was rear-ended 12 times and decided it was time to do something about it!) Otherwise very little was required in the way of bodywork. The lower portion of the tailgate suffered some rust damage as did each of the four footwells, but once the metal men at HRBD were done the body was rust-free. With the finishing of the HRBD bodywork, the wagon was prepped for its final color. It would be painted in a factory blue and cream using PPG colors with factory trim. Factory-looking steel wheels and caps with modern radial rubber will round out the exterior appearance.

A TREMEC six-seed matched to a Quick Time bellhousing butts up to the Roush supercharged Ford Coyote.
The Roush supercharged Ford Coyote will provide the power. The inner fender panels were reworked to fit the Coyote width.

However, you don’t fit a Roush supercharged Coyote with a TREMEC six-speed underhood without some firewall sheetmetal changes. The major underhood metalwork can be seen in the highly modified firewall. The stock firewall was cut and recessed to allow for the engine and trans as well as provide additional room behind the dash and under the cowl section for such items as the Vintage Air A/C system, Wilwood clutch hydraulics, dual reservoir GM master cylinder, Classic Instrument restored and modernized original gauges, power wipers, all of the related wring, and under cowl Kugel Komponents pedal assembly, along with a Lokar drive-by-wire throttle system. Look at the photos and you will see that the stock steering column and factory wheel will be retained. Other underhood and interior modifications will include the relocation of the battery (Optima RedTop) from the engine compartment to far rearward on the passenger side rear quarter behind the rear tirewell and in the floorpan just in front of the tailgate. It will be alongside the spare tirewell, which was modified by taking depth out, now allowing for the use of a Goodyear T135/90D17 Convenience Spare (temporary use, 50-mph max) that measures 25.5 inches tall. By narrowing the spare tirewell some 3 inches it allowed a Rock Valley stainless steel tank (with an EFI in tank pump) that holds approximately 26 gallons, thereby fitting in the factory location without hanging down too far.

It shouldn’t be long when we will be featuring this wagon on the pages of Modern Rodding and then you can see how all of this workmanship came together. MR

Source
Hot Rods by Dean
(623) 581-1932
www.hotrodsbydean.com

Dean Livermore of Hot Rods by Dean (HRBD)
Cody Barenz of HRBD] staff spends plenty of hours getting this 1956 Ford Ranch Wagon just right. Final color will be similar to the original factory blue and white.
The Art Morrison Enterprises (AME) chassis is called a Builders Platform, which is a custom chassis made for a specific model. This one has IFS, rack-and-pinion steering, and a solid rear axle.
Where the project began. This 1956 Ford Ranch Wagon was in amazing shape to begin with, making this project a lot more straightforward of a build.
Where the project began. This 1956 Ford Ranch Wagon was in amazing shape to begin with, making this project a lot more straightforward of a build.
Strange adjustable coilover shocks are used at all four corners on this chassis package and are part of the AME option package.
The AME IFS is based on C6 IFS geometry and is used in conjunction with Wilwood rotors, aluminum hubs, and Dynalite calipers, all spinning on the AME (Wilwood) drop spindle.
The AME IFS is based on C6 IFS geometry and is used in conjunction with Wilwood rotors, aluminum hubs, and Dynalite calipers, all spinning on the AME (Wilwood) drop spindle.
While there are ample provisions for setting front alignment, please note the hardware and close proximity to the header tube. You will want to be careful, as this is the typical type of check and recheck that constantly goes on when building.
One of the tabs, front brake line junction from frame to caliper, that you will need to weld on once final fitment is accounted.
A TREMEC six-seed matched to a Quick Time bellhousing butts up to the Roush supercharged Ford Coyote.
The Ford 9-inch rearend housing comes with Strange adjustable coilover shocks, 3.70 equipped diff, axles, and is fitted with a Wilwood disc brake package, which are all options offered by AME along with their triangulated four-bar.
The Ford 9-inch rearend housing comes with Strange adjustable coilover shocks, 3.70 equipped diff, axles, and is fitted with a Wilwood disc brake package, which are all options offered by AME along with their triangulated four-bar.
You can see literally no changes to the stock sheetmetal and this is the plan. All of the modifications reside below the chassis line or inside in the form of creature comforts. There will be a rear third light added before the wagon goes off to the HRBD paint shop.
Here the modified firewall and behind-dash area is shown with all of the necessary brackets and patchwork to handle the brake and hydraulic clutch system.
The stock steering column is retained as is the stock 1956 Ford steering wheel.
Pictured here is the under cowl Kugel Komponents dual-pedal mount and bracket that also holds the GM-style dual reservoir master cylinder that’s filled through the OTB Gear remote-mounted reservoirs.
Pictured here is the under cowl Kugel Komponents dual-pedal mount and bracket that also holds the GM-style dual reservoir master cylinder that’s filled through the OTB Gear remote-mounted reservoirs.
Pedals are from Lokar Performance; note the drive-by-wire throttle for the Coyote motor.
Careful observation and you can see the e-brake braided cable, the stainless steel lines that transfer fluid from the under cowl master cylinder and hydraulic clutch system, the brake and clutch pedal arms, and how it all neatly fits against the firewall and around the stock steering column.
Careful observation and you can see the e-brake braided cable, the stainless steel lines that transfer fluid from the under cowl master cylinder and hydraulic clutch system, the brake and clutch pedal arms, and how it all neatly fits against the firewall and around the stock steering column.
Careful observation and you can see the e-brake braided cable, the stainless steel lines that transfer fluid from the under cowl master cylinder and hydraulic clutch system, the brake and clutch pedal arms, and how it all neatly fits against the firewall and around the stock steering column.
Wilwood’s GS Compact Remote Master Cylinders are rebuildable and feature a high-pressure die-cast aluminum body with a protective e-coat finish. Remote cylinders feature a standard 7/16-20 threaded inlet.
These floor sections, each of the four footwells showed signs of rust to varying degrees so the old sheetmetal was cut out and fresh metal was installed. Had the floors been good they wouldn’t have to be touched when placing on the AME chassis.
The Roush supercharged Ford Coyote will provide the power. The inner fender panels were reworked to fit the Coyote width.
There’s still time to determine what size wheel can work, but it’s looking like the steelies will come from Wheel Vintique, measuring 17×8 and 17×7 with Copper rubber 225/60R17 and 225/55R17.
OTB Gear has supplied the Triple Remote Reservoir (drilled and tapped for 1/8-inch NPT fittings) that’s pictured. The two on the left feed the under Kugel Komponents cowl master cylinder while the one on the far right feeds the Wilwood hydraulic clutch system.
Borgeson U-joints are used in conjunction with the steering shaft that links the factory steering column to the AME rack-and-pinion.
One of the body mounts (outriggers) that are obtained from AME, but HRBD opted to weld them on themselves to ensure a proper fit.
Inside from the tailgate looking forward the interior of the Ranch Wagon will appear to be stock but packed with the necessary creature comforts.
The spare tirewell was shorted 3 inches, allowing for the increased-capacity Rock Valley gas tank to fit in stock position without getting in the way or hanging too low. A Goodyear T135/90D17 Convenience Spare fits ideally into the well and provides additional options should a flat tire “appear”.
The battery was moved from the engine compartment to the rear of the wagon adjacent to the spare tirewell behind the rear wheeltub. The Optima RedTop fits neatly and is out of the way.

 

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