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Projects '55 Ford Courier-based ambulance

Discussion in 'The Hokey Ass Message Board' started by datac, Mar 27, 2019.

  1. datac
    Joined: Sep 21, 2006
    Posts: 11

    datac
    Member
    from Oregon

    Just picked this up last weekend, pretty much completely intact. Guy I got it from picked it up as a non-runner after long storage, swears the indicated 50k miles is actual, and I suspect he's right. 272 Y-block runs like a top. Thunderbird Blue on the firewall was the original color prior to being shipped from the dealer to the coachbuilder for conversion and paint.

    It's been going on 40 years since I've futzed with a 6v Ford, conventional wisdom back in those days was to convert to 12v- have the pros/cons changed on that front at all? Also, any ideas as to sources for the rear door seal for Couriers? Does the profile resemble a trunk seal?

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  2. Buddy Palumbo
    Joined: Mar 30, 2008
    Posts: 3,859

    Buddy Palumbo
    Member

    That's a neat project ! Can't wait to see it progress along.
    I'd switch to 12v without hesitation.
     
  3. lucas doolin
    Joined: Feb 7, 2013
    Posts: 346

    lucas doolin
    Member

    I have a (12 Volt) 1956 Victoria I've owned since 1959. I believe "back in the day" the east fix was to install an 8 Volt Battery. Don't know if you have to change the generator. Maybe someone will chime in about that. BTW, I love your ambulance. That's a real find. Enjoy!
     
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  4. tubman
    Joined: May 16, 2007
    Posts: 4,375

    tubman
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    An eight volt battery is just a lazy man's band aid solution. A 6 volt Optima and a wiring harness in decent shape is all you need. Just makes sure all the grounds and connections are clean and intact.

    I really like it, by the way. I'll bet you won't see another at the local car show.
     
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  5. Before I just dove in head first on a 12-V change over I'd assess everything electrical, then make that as an informed decision. 6-V parts aren't that hard to come by if you needed anything. To me the biggest issue is the overall condition of the wire in the car itself. Age is a Demon. Stock is Cloth wrap and if it's not healthy going 12-V would be a no contest. I would not go 12-V with the stock wire at all, period. If everything is in good shape and for no more than you'll drive it today I'd leave it alone.
     
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  6. Doublepumper
    Joined: Jun 26, 2016
    Posts: 444

    Doublepumper
    Member

    Nothing wrong with leaving it a 6 volt system. Although, one of the benefits to going 12 volt is the reduction of current draw through the original wiring and components.
     
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  7. scrap metal 48
    Joined: Sep 6, 2009
    Posts: 5,652

    scrap metal 48
    Member

    Super cool project.. Congrats....
     
  8. Oldioron
    Joined: Dec 12, 2018
    Posts: 921

    Oldioron
    Member

    If it were me I'd remove everything ambulance from it bake to pre conversion.
     
  9. wvenfield
    Joined: Nov 23, 2006
    Posts: 4,782

    wvenfield
    Member

    I'd want the siren to work. I suppose someone would know how to convert it to 12 volt and yes, a large number of people still would but as already noted, a 6 volt system in good shape will work just fine.
     
  10. datac
    Joined: Sep 21, 2006
    Posts: 11

    datac
    Member
    from Oregon

    All of the electrics work perfectly, even the siren and the original 2-way radio setup. I'm pretty amazed at the condition of the thing- it was started for the first time in a few decades just last week, nothing finicky at all about it. I'm tempted to leave the 6v as is, maybe add a stepup converter for running trailer brakes, etc.

    I definitely didn't start out shopping for an ambulance, was hoping to find just a decent wagon. Even if I were inclined to try and take it back to something closer to an as-delivered Courier (I'm not) it would be a significant job, given the faired-in lights on the roof, custom side windows and vents, lack of any stock Ford interior, etc., etc. Given how pristine and untouched the whole thing is, I don't think I'll do much beyond brakes, new door seals and floor mat, and a good wash.
     
  11. razoo lew
    Joined: Apr 11, 2017
    Posts: 288

    razoo lew
    Member
    from Calgary

    I don't think I'll do much beyond brakes, new door seals and floor mat, and a good wash.
    ...yes. do that!
     
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  12. 41rodderz
    Joined: Sep 27, 2010
    Posts: 3,230

    41rodderz
    Member
    from Oregon

    I guess I don't need to think about it anymore.:D Lots of room for a picnic basket and some swap meet parts .
     
  13. 62rebel
    Joined: Sep 1, 2008
    Posts: 2,488

    62rebel
    Member

    Definitely count me among the "keep it an ambulance " crowd. Cool find!
     
  14. mgtstumpy
    Joined: Jul 20, 2006
    Posts: 7,582

    mgtstumpy
    Member

    Love it, those Fords were popular down here however ambulances were coachbuilt and based on 4 door sedans or utilities with high roofs, no wagons or couriers were sold.
    Is there a build plate anywhere to indicate the manufacturer? If so look at the manufacturer over at www.coachbuilt.com. Keep it as an ambulance, where else will you see one!
    upload_2019-3-28_11-4-54.png

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    upload_2019-3-28_11-6-33.png
     
  15. jmerc
    Joined: Jan 7, 2016
    Posts: 5

    jmerc

    compaq files 2418.JPG compaq files 2418.JPG
     
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  16. Torkwrench
    Joined: Jan 28, 2005
    Posts: 2,393

    Torkwrench
    Member

    If you keep it 6 volt, be sure to have extra heavy gauge battery cables. 12 volt battery cables are far too light to use on a 6 volt system.
     
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  17. datac
    Joined: Sep 21, 2006
    Posts: 11

    datac
    Member
    from Oregon

    Yep, the coachbuilder is National Body Mfg. of Knightstown, Indiana.
    I haven't been able to find any photos or references of other Fords built by them- by the '50s they seem to be pretty much exclusively a GM shop.

    [​IMG]
     
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  18. mgtstumpy
    Joined: Jul 20, 2006
    Posts: 7,582

    mgtstumpy
    Member

    http://www.coachbuilt.com/bui/n/national_body/national_body.htm
    National Body Corp. is another know builder of Commercial bodies from the 1930s. National supplied Overland Dispatch, the 1930s descendant of the Butterfield Overland Dispatch, a firm commonly know as the "Overland Stage", with some huge high-capacity van bodies for extended Ford 1 1/2 ton chassis during the mid-thirties.
    (pp 135 - Wagner's Ford Trucks since 1905)
    National Body Manufacturing Corporation of Knightstown, Indiana was a firm that specialized in professional cars and airport limousines and is probably not the same firm.

    http://www.coachbuilt.com/bui/k/knightstown/knightstown.htm
    http://www.coachbuilt.com/bui/n/national/national.htm
    The Knightstown Buggy Company was formed in 1900 (1898?) by Robert L. Silver and Charles Walters to manufacture carriages, wagons and hearses for their Indiana and Ohio neighbors. It was located on Third Street between South Washington and South Jefferson and specialized in custom automobile bodies, ambulances and funeral vehicles until the firm was reorganized in 1922. Silver and Walter split at that time, each partner forming their own rival firms, both of which had Knightstown in their names.

    Silver formed the Knightstown Body Company and marketed his products as Silver-Knightstown coaches starting in 1928. Walters formed the Knightstown Funeral Car Company, marketing his products as Knightstown Galahads. Both firms survived until WWII when the bulk of their employees went off to war and they were dissolved.

    Upon his return from WWII service, former Knightstown Body Company woodshop foreman, Vernon Z. Perry purchased the plant of his former firm's competitor, Knightstown Funeral Car Company and staffed it with co-workers from the Knightstown Body Company. To avoid any further confusion, Perry named the firm National Body Manufacturing Co. and would go on to produce hundreds of Chevrolet and Pontiac-based professional vehicles.

    A one off commission build?
     
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  19. datac
    Joined: Sep 21, 2006
    Posts: 11

    datac
    Member
    from Oregon

    Got that straight. Previous owner hadn't had it long, put on some fresh 4ga cables just to get it running. They did fine as long as it was ice cold, but as soon as things warmed up under the hood it was all over. Old guy that I am I figured I'd just buzz down to the auto parts store and pick up some 1ga or 0ga cables right off the shelf, where I'd bought them for other projects over the years. Yeah, nobody's stocked those in 20 years, and apparently I didn't get the memo that 4ga is as heavy as it gets anymore. Rather than order the 1ga repro cables and wait a week or two, I had a local specialty battery shop make up some gorgeous custom 00ga while I waited.

    So, here's an obvious question- I do a bunch of electronic geekwork on the side, and I've always wondered what the downside would be to throwing in a 12v battery, alternator, voltage regulator, maybe starter, etc., and just splicing in a good-sized 6v step-down transformer for the rest of the harness, leaving everything else undisturbed. Is there a downside I'm not considering?
     
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  20. You can't transform DC power.... only AC. There are 'magic boxes' (electronics) that can do this these days, but one large enough will probably cost more than just converting everything to 12V...
     
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  21. alchemy
    Joined: Sep 27, 2002
    Posts: 14,285

    alchemy
    ALLIANCE MEMBER

    About a decade ago my Dad had a 57 Ford station wagon that was a conversion by the Amblewagon company. Basically is was a standard fordor wagon with a side-opening rear door like yours. Dad's wagon had a fiberglass rear door, and the handle/latch mechanism was off a slightly older model Ford, maybe a 55 like yours. The wagon was originally used by a fire-rescue service in Nevada IIRC. It had low miles and no rust, a very nice car. No raised roof or sirens on the outside, but it was fire engine red.
     
  22. Rusty O'Toole
    Joined: Sep 17, 2006
    Posts: 8,994

    Rusty O'Toole
    Member

    I've changed them to 12V in the past but today I would not bother. The 6V system works fine if it is in top shape. If it isn't find out what is wrong and fix it.

    Otherwise you go to all the trouble and expense of changing to 12V, then the faulty parts fail anyway. So you might as well just change the faulty parts to begin with and save a lot of time and money.

    I will also say, I know enough about electrics to do a changeover right. Most aren't. The half assed, hit or miss jobs are an ongoing nightmare that can only be cured by selling the car or getting someone who knows what they are doing to fix them. It is so much easier just to fix the 6V.
     
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  23. s55mercury66
    Joined: Jul 6, 2009
    Posts: 3,678

    s55mercury66
    Member
    from SW Wyoming

    Highwayman, who used to post on here a few years back, has a Ford and a Mercury from '55-'56. He gave the history of those in one of his posts, and one of them had a side-opening rear door like yours. Your 2 door is cooler though, no doubt.
     
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  24. datac
    Joined: Sep 21, 2006
    Posts: 11

    datac
    Member
    from Oregon

    Yeah, poor wording on my part, meant buck converter rather than transformer. Now that I think about it, it's probably a recipe for ground issues anyway.
     
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  25. datac
    Joined: Sep 21, 2006
    Posts: 11

    datac
    Member
    from Oregon

    All Couriers (sedan deliveries, which is what mine started life as) got the side-opening door, and I understand it was available by special order on other wagons as well. I wish I could find a source for the rubber seal for that door, I'm striking out thus far. It's got molded corners, but I may have to get creative with some generic trunk strip.
     
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  26. s55mercury66
    Joined: Jul 6, 2009
    Posts: 3,678

    s55mercury66
    Member
    from SW Wyoming

    That all makes sense, as the Highwayman has a lift gate on his other one, I believe. Both of his are four doors.
     
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  27. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 43,457

    squirrel
    Member

    There is your answer... why fix what ain't broke?
     
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  28. Rusty O'Toole
    Joined: Sep 17, 2006
    Posts: 8,994

    Rusty O'Toole
    Member

    I always thought panel trucks got the side opening door, station wagons got the tailgate, even when they were basically the same body. I'm not surprised both doors fit the same opening, and side opening door was an option on station wagons.
     
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  29. squirrel
    Joined: Sep 23, 2004
    Posts: 43,457

    squirrel
    Member

    Perhaps it's a sedan delivery, not a wagon?
     

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