A few years back, Orange, California, resident Jim Bernhardt was perusing the aisles of the Pomona Swap Meet looking for a prospective buy that would "give him something to do." A swimming pool technician by trade, Jim always had a knack when it came to tinkering with cars, ever since his early high school days when he was introduced to hot rods by the older kids in the neighborhood. His father was also quite handy in the garage, so between these two influences, it was destined that Jim would eventually fall prey to the hot rodding hobby. And fall prey he has. Jim tells us he and a few old friends tried to figure out how many cars they had each respectively owned in their day, and Jim reports the number was more than 100. Not too shabby.
The 392ci Chrysler was prepped...
The 392ci Chrysler was prepped and assembled by Hemi legend Art Chrisman at his CARS facility in Santa Ana, CA. The engine is topped by a stock four-barrel intake and a Holley 780-cfm carb, flanked by a pair of modified finned valve covers Jim picked up at a San Diego swap meet some years back.
Given that kind of history, it's not surprising that Jim would turn out such a fine car as his latest, this '57 Ford two-door Ranch Wagon. What's interesting, though, is that Jim had no intention of ever building that particular car; he just happened to bump into it back at the Pomona Swap Meet. Thinking about all the Nomads and other wagons he'd seen at the local cruise nights and rod runs, and remembering how pleased he was owning one of the only '50 Buick sedanettes in the area, got the gears turning in his head. Jim knew there weren't too many '57 Ford Ranch Wagons running around, and he'd definitely be the only dog on the block if he did something fun like, say, drop a 392ci Hemi under the hood. And, that's just what he did.
The original A-arm and front crossmember assembly proved to be a problem when Jim initially attempted to shoehorn the big Chrysler in the Ford. He contacted Al Simon, and the two decided to install a complete '76 Torino subframe that was not only slightly wider in the engine compartment area, but would also upgrade the frontend to disc brakes and a more contemporary front suspension design-two birds with one stone. From there, the Hemi fit like a glove, and it and a Turbo 400 trans were dropped into place. Out back, a 9-inch Ford rearend was slung on a pair of new leaf springs. There was a hang-up, though, and that was getting the right wheel size to fit under the fenders and clear all the new Torino assembly. Jim gave Pro Wheels a call to see if the crew could help him figure out a way to solve his dilemma. They quickly sorted out a set of 17-inchers with the proper backspacing the wagon needed.
Pro Wheel Jet V wheels provided...
Pro Wheel Jet V wheels provided the necessary backspacing the wagon required and look great wrapped in Falken rubber.
While the drivetrain was sent over to CARS in Santa Ana, California, so Art Chrisman could work his magic on the engine and transmission, the rest of the car was being knocked straight as an arrow so Glenn at Orange Body & Paint could apply the Sikkens Black. From there, it went to Fountain Valley, California, where Pat Moynagh tackled the final fit and finish.
Art finished up the engine work, and the massive Hemi was once again placed between the wagon's framerails as Pat wired the entire car. Upon completion, it headed over to Fallbrook, California, where Jim Bailey stretched, rolled, and pleated German vinyl over the stock bench seats and fabricated and stitched up the various panels, carpet, and sprawling headliner.
The car has been finished for a few years now, and Jim reports he's just starting to get a chance to get out and enjoy the little Ranch Wagon. It's only showing slightly more than 1,000 miles on the speedo, but Jim promises that will change this year. And, we're hoping he's telling the truth, because there just ain't enough of these cars around, let alone one this nice, to keep them hidden from public view.
All the stock gauges were...
All the stock gauges were restored to working order, and a steering column from a '72 Pontiac was topped by a Nardi wheel. The stock seats also remain, re-covered in German vinyl by Jim Bailey.
Even with the back bench seat...
Even with the back bench seat up, the confines of the Ranch Wagon are spacious, to say the least.