When Ford finally introduced the first all-new car after World War II the styling was revolutionary. The front fenders had risen to meet the hood, and the grille opening now spanned the full width of the car. Rear fenders were non-existent as the quarter-panel and fender became one long smooth panel. All traces of a running board were gone and the resulting look was that of a modern, sleek car with all the wheels tucked neatly under the body. It was a remarkable transformation from the old-fashioned shape of the ’48 Ford; these new cars looked fast sitting still. And yet as dynamic as the styling was, there was also a certain slab-side appearance that won the ’49-51 Ford the moniker of shoebox Ford.

These cars were immediate hits with the general publicand that included both hot rodders and customizers. The demand for truly new cars after World War II meant strong sales and these new cars were constructed well so there were plenty of them on the used car market. Fifties and early ’60s high school parking lots were filled with these simple cars and it seems every hot rodder has a shoebox or two in the closet including this writer.

And so it is little wonder the shoebox Ford is enjoying a strong resurgence and like all things hot rod, the aftermarket is responding with great new products to improve suspension and power, along with reproduction parts to help complete the project.

The ’49-51 Ford employed independent front suspension and a solid rear axle with leaf springs and the chassis was strong enough to handle substantial power increases. The independent front suspension employed kingpins, coil springs, and a worm and a roller steering box, which was modern for the day, but hardly the crisp steering and handling we have become accustomed to over the years.

Due to the configuration of the ’49-51 Ford frame there is no simple way to upgrade the suspension to modern standards. There are disc brake kits and a late-model steering box will improve things a bit, but if a truly modern front suspension is in your plan you have three choices. Companies like Fatman Fabrication makes a front frame stub that can be welded to the existing frame and provide you with modern Mustang IIstyle suspension for an affordable price. You can find a late-model donor car and graft your own front clip to the car, or you can opt to buy a complete new chassis from a company like Art Morrison.

When John Kocsis decided it was time to build a contemporary custom he located a very nice ’51 Ford sedan that was nearly rust free, no small feat for a car that spent its entire life in New Jersey. Kocsis knew modern suspension was a must for the car, so he considered his options. In the end he decided he could sell the very nice ’51 chassis and Flathead driveline and recoup some of the cost of a complete new frame. This would solve both front and rear suspension problems and provide ample room for that new Chevrolet motor and transmission. A call was placed to Lobeck’s V8 Shop Hot Rod Parts and a new Art Morrison chassis was ordered and delivered directly to Kocsis’ door.

By ordering the full replacement chassis, the desired stance is built into the chassis using your specifications for final ride height. The mandrel-formed 2x4 framerails and associated crossmembers make for one very stout frame that will handle modern horsepower with ease. There is not rust to remove, no holes to patch, and no suspension to locate and graft, making this new chassis a prime candidate for powdercoating or paint without the expense of sandblasting or dipping an old frame. There are a lot of good things to be said about using an all-new frame.