Just the Facts
Owner: Tony Miller
If you've been reading car magazines for a while, you've probably seen some of the other custom cars and trucks Tony Miller has designed. If you ever collected Hot Wheels, you may have owned some of them. Tony has retired from his position as VP of Design at Mattel, but he is still dreaming up—and building—amazing custom cars.
"I look at cars and see things that the original designers could have done better. Sometimes I buy such a car and make the changes I've imagined."
This 1956 Ford Victoria is the most recent custom to be treated to modifications from Tony's imagination. Tony bought it from West Coast hot rodder Lynn Bird, who had mildly customized the car in the early '80s. Bird had driven the nosed and decked 1956, powered by a Ford 289 engine and C4 transmission, for a few years before turning it over to his kids, who drove it for several more.
Tony has always liked 1955-56 Fords, but favored different parts from different models. He prefers the 1956 Victoria roof, the 1955 grille, and 1955 Customline side trim. The 1955 Vic had a taller roof and Ford never built a Customline Victoria in 1955. He combined the best parts from the two years to mildly customize it to a 1960s look.
Bodyman Gary Minor in San Leandro, California, was asked to customize the car. In addition to swapping the 1955 parts and shaving a lot of trim, he did some subtle reshaping of the front and rear fenders to accept the 1955 Olds headlights and 1955 Mercury wagon taillights.
The low-key paint—Nissan Altima Mystic Emerald, sprayed at Gilbert's Body & Paint in Hayward, California—complements Tony's concept for the car, maintaining a classic look that doesn't distract from the all the custom modifications.
The car was lowered as far as possible without bags or hydraulics. Instead, Jamco 4-inch lowering leaf springs and 1-inch lowering blocks were added to the rear to bring down the stance. Fatman Fabrications 2-inch drop spindles and 2-inch lowering springs were mounted to the front, along with a pair of Bilstein shocks. The impartial opinion of Don Dillard at Highway 99 Hot Rods in Tulare, California (who helped with the powertrain work), is that even with the reduced suspension travel "the car rides like a Lexus". An 8-inch rearend, transplanted from a 1965 Mustang, runs 3.80:1 gears. Mustang drum brakes were installed at the rear; front brakes have been upgraded to Ford Granada discs.
After trying a combo of Crown Vic alloy wheels with skinny whitewalls, Tony switched to 205-series Diamond Back wide whites on 15-inch Rally America Smoothies with 1956 Lincoln Premier hubcaps. While the bodywork and other customizing was taking place, the 1956 continued to run under the power of the 289 engine and C4 installed by Lynn Bird 25 years earlier. While driving to the Lonestar Round Up in Austin in 2010, it became apparent that the old 289 was very tired. It was replaced with a warmed-up 351W and a 4R70W electronic AOD transmission, and is a much livelier car now.
The 0.030-over 351 was machined and assembled at Engine Machine Service in Inglewood, California. "Warmed-up" components include an Engle cam and Airflow Research aluminum heads. The fuel/air charge is delivered by a Holley 650 carb and Edelbrock Performer intake, lit by an MSD ignition. Exhaust exits via cast-iron K-code 289 HiPo Mustang manifolds and a pair of 30-inch glasspack mufflers.
The 4R70W, built at Hiro's Transmissions in Gardena, California, features a Baumannator TCS electronic control system; Tony can make shift-point adjustments using a laptop.
The 1964 Thunderbird four-place interior has been finished with white vinyl seat covers from Larry's Thunderbird Parts in Corona, California. A 1963 Galaxie center console extends the theme. Door panels were painted white to match and the stock steering wheel and dash were freshened with Polo Green paint. Green low-pile carpet from Concours Parts covers the floor. The factory radio is enhanced by a Sirius satellite receiver. Stereo installation and all wiring was handled by Hot Rod Electrical in Laguna Hills, California.
The modifications are highly imaginative and almost countless, and required tons of work, but are so right-on-the-money that to the layman, they might be invisible. Tony intended that. "I like to do customs that are plausible—that look like the factory could have done them that way." Of course, fellow custom fans see and appreciate everything about the wildly reworked 1956. In its first few years after being finished, the Vic won an award from customizer Lee Pratt at the Lonestar Round Up, and another couple of prizes at the West Coast Kustoms Cruisin' Nationals in Santa Maria, California.
Right now, Tony is enjoying driving his custom-designed 1956 Vic, but we know he has more designs in his imagination and more cars in the works. He's not done yet.
The dash, gauges, steering wheel and shifter column, and pedals are factory ’56 Ford. The
The wide 351 Windsor engine doesn’t leave a lot of room in the engine compartment. It’s ba
When these ’64 Thunderbird front buckets and rear wrap-around seats became available, Tony