The ability to find anything you could possibly ever want to think about on the World Wide Web is both a blessing and a curse. Who hasn't spent mindless hours adrift in front of a computer looking and clicking on the most inane subjects? (What are those town names between Amboy and Essex in the Mojave Desert?) But the web is also one of the best ways to find something you really want, such as your next vehicle.
Gordon McGilton, it's safe to say, owns a lot of cars, and in the course of the various builds he's been through with them he's had occasion to meet and become friends with one of the best upholsterers in the country: Paul Atkins. Atkins did the interior work in a few of McGilton's rides, and when Gordon was at Atkin's shop in Cullman, Alabama, Paul took him around and introduced him to other rod builders in the area, one of whom was Jesse Greening, of Greening Auto Company.
Greening burst on the scene a few years back after building a Ridler award-winning coupe (owned by Atkins) and has since built his name up by offering some of the best-looking, finely crafted hot rods anywhere. It doesn't hurt that Greening was named Trendsetter of the Year by the Goodguys Association in 2006 either, but trust us: This guy knows how to build a hot rod.
After Atkins introduced Gordon and Greening, the two started on '67 Nova project. It's a high-end deal, and the result will no doubt test the limits of what you can do with a '67 Nova when it's completed. Knowing the project would take some time to complete, Gordon thought he'd like an interim car built-something simple, but nice.
McGilton remembered a wagon Fat Jack built years ago, and even saw it once driving around at the Long Beach Swap Meet in Southern California, and the concept for the car (lowered, nice wheels, not a lot of money) has always stuck with him. Gordon began looking in earnest for a wagon (in particular a '57 Ford) but none could be found to his liking.
After looking for some months he was able to track down a suitable candidate while surfing the web one day-a low-mileage cruiser that he'd found in Alabama, so he bought it and had it delivered to Jesse for a redo. He asked only two things of Greening: that it be black and the headlights be frenched (using '56 Ford F-100 headlight hoods). Greening began the tear down, which meant the car was going to bare metal and readied for the rotisserie. As the build progressed, a few other additions came along, such as having the gas filler lid hidden. Now some folks might just move the filler to behind the license plate or some other easy fix, but Jesse took the opportunity to relocate the filler to behind the driver's taillight, which necessitated making a new flip-out taillight housing. And while he was at it, Greening also not only created new taillight lenses but the trim ring as well.
The engine, a 390 V-8, ran well when it came into the shop, so in keeping with the lesser-cost theme, it wasn't disassembled but rather just cleaned up. But Gordon wanted an overdrive for his wagon because he drives all of his cars so, instead of going the all-Ford route, Greening backed a 4L60E trans up the big-block by way of an adapter from Wilcap. Jesse also added a few custom touches to the engine along the way, too, including milling a vintage Thunderbird logo into a set of Edelbrock- finned aluminum valve covers. The air cleaner is a one-off piece, too, as Greening machined it from a 4-inch block of billet and designed it so it would hold a K&N air filter.
The suspension was improved with a set of Fatman Fabrication dropped spindles and springs, and a set of 18- and 20-inch Schott wheels were bolted to each corner. The wagon eventually got its black paintjob (thanks to Greening's dad, Jeff, plus Josh Cook and Ted Dobkowski) and the interior went red thanks to the talents of Atkins, who used leather throughout the cavernous interior.
When you check out the interior, it looks mostly stock, but in reality the front seat was lowered slightly while the rear seat was modified at its base because of the transmission. On the outside the bumpers were smoothed up and moved closer to the body, and even the "Ranch Wagon" nameplate was recreated on a CNC machine before being added to the end of each rear fender.
With the wagon finished, Gordon was able to climb in and drive it to Pleasanton, California, from his home in Clayton, North Carolina (a one-way distance of more than 2,800 miles). Driving them is what it is all about for Gordon, but he does have a backup plan. Since it was so hard to find a wagon when he originally wanted one, he has since bought three more, two of which still have their original paint! That just goes to show how good the Internet can be for locating your next project. And though Gordon may live 100 miles from the nearest beach, just by surfing the web for his wagon he can truly call it a "surf wagon."
The original 390 engine that...
The original 390 engine that was in the car was left alone internally, but it was dressed up with a set of Edelbrock valve covers that have been machined by Greening with the Thunderbird logo. GAC also machined their own air cleaner from a 4-inch block of billet, and designed it to hold a K&N air filter. Other additions include a front runner belt system from Billet Specialties, an MSD ignition system, a SPAL electric fan, and the headers were coated by Performance Coatings.
There's obviously more interior...
There's obviously more interior to deal with in a wagon, but upholsterer Paul Atkins wasn't put off by it. He used red leather throughout and covered the stock seats with the pleated material.
The command center features...
The command center features a Lecarra wheel bolted to an ididit column, Classic Instrument gauges, an Alpine stereo system, and controls for the Vintage Air A/C system.
Greening not only made the...
Greening not only made the trim ring and taillight assembly, he also devised a trick way (and a custom tool) to open the hinged unit to get to the gas tank filler neck.