1954 Ford Country Squire
The major engineering story for the 1954 Ford Country Squire was the demise of the venerable flathead engine in U.S.-market cars. (Canadian Fords persisted with the L-head V-8 for 1954.)
Its successor, a modern ohv "Y-block" V-8, displaced the same 239 cubic inches but was vastly superior to the old design, producing an honest 130 horsepower at 4,200 rpm. Meanwhile, the Mileage Maker Six was bored out to 223 cid. With the extra displacement and a slight compression hike, it was boosted to 115 horsepower.
The 1952-vintage design of the Country Squire was
carried over into 1954, again with another new grille.
Ford's chief engineer, Earle S. MacPherson, had been unhappy with his car's antiquated king-pin front suspension. Frequent lubrication and adjustments were needed, and harsh steering was the rule of the day on rough roads.
MacPherson's solution -- first used in the 1952 Lincolns but now extended to the Ford -- was a revolutionary ball-joint system combined with coil springs that made steering smoother and easier to manage. With sealed fittings, less-frequent servicing was required, too. Wheelbase was nudged out to 115.5 inches.
Inside, an "Astra-Dial" speedometer sat atop a new dashboard design. The back of the semicircular speedo was a window that let in light by which the numbers could be read by day. Below it was a broad, bright panel with an engine-turned surface that contained other gauges and controls. Oil pressure and generator function were now monitored by red warning indicators -- "idiot lights."
The 1954 Country Squire incorporated all these changes and more. Fiberglass was coming to the fore in the auto industry, most notably serving as the body material for the Chevrolet Corvette and Kaiser Darrin sports cars. Ford found this durable material a very cost-effective alternative to the real-wood framing that had graced the 1952 and 1953 Country Squires. Covered with a maple-grain transfer, this new material saved time in manufacturing and cut installation and replacement costs.
The Squire continued to share interior trims with the Country Sedan, but the single color scheme of the past was out in favor of a choice of colors. Woven-plastic upholstery in either blue-and-white, green-and-white, or red was now available, keyed to the exterior paint. In the case of the Country Squire, that amounted to a choice of 12 hues.
Given the increased horsepower of the Mileage Maker Six, it was made standard for all 1954 Fords in order to rein in base prices. For the Country Squire, this meant that its starting price dropped to $2,339. The new V-8 was a $76 add-on. Other notable new options available for the Squire included power brakes ($41) and a four-way power front seat ($64).
Until 1953, the light trim on the sides and tailgate of
Country Squires had been real wood,
but starting in 1954, the trim was made of
fiberglass covered by a maple-grain transfer.
Nineteen fifty-four was the year of the great Ford/Chevrolet sales-supremacy war -- waged to a standoff, it turned out, with Ford triumphing for the model year and Chevy posting the best calendar-year results. Station wagons were in the front lines of the battle. (Ford even called up reinforcements, adding a Customline Ranch Wagon as a two-door companion to the Country Sedan. By 1956, Ford was offering six wagons in different trim, door, and seating configurations.)
With the spread of prosperous, growing families, wagons were finding a larger audience than ever. In the 1954 model year, of the 1,165,942 passenger cars that came off Ford assembly lines, 141,582 of them -- 12.1 percent -- were station wagons, including 12,797 Country Squires.
Check out the next section for details on the 1955 and 1956 Country Squires.
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