A ‘48 Ford Brought to Life
In January of 1948, Warner Brothers broadcast the first color newsreel seen on American television (appropriately, it was for the visually stunning Tournament of Roses Parade and Rose Bowl). The same year, Ford Motors turned out a blasé, blend-into-the-beach-colored convertible that wouldn’t get an infusion of color until nearly 60 years later.
The way it looks today, that car would be the second story to lead off the 1948 colorized newscast, sleekly modified but still recognizable as the classic convertible cruiser it once was, thanks to the purposeful dedication of body shop owner Dan Tallant.
While running Tallant’s Auto Body and Hot Rod Shop in North Kansas City, Mo., with his father, Dave, it took Dan Tallant about five years to rebuild the all-original vehicle into the car he envisioned would carry his small family to car shows and cruise nights around town.
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The elder Tallant is a self-taught shop owner and artist who learned on his own about aluminum and chassis fabrication, glass and electrical work, plasma cutting, fiberglass repair, urethane paint and primer and color matching. He passed his bountiful knowledge on to Dan, who began working in his dad’s shop at 15 or 16 years old. “It’s the only job I’ve ever had,” Dan says today, some 17 years later.
Their shop does collision repairs of every kind on all makes and models, and it custom builds or restores whatever the customer’s minds, and theirs, can conceive. Of course, the family has daily drivers like few others do: Dan has a 1955 Chevy; his wife, Susan, drives a classically cool, 1967 Firebird; and Dave has a ’55 Chevy, a ’32 Ford Coupe and a ’51 Chevy that’s also the shop truck.
But the new family car (which, somewhat trying Tallant’s patience, is now at the upholsterer’s in the painstaking care of another craftsman who refuses to be rushed) is a custom color that has yet to be named. However, Tallant describes his PPG Global Systems creation as “a russet-orange color, burgundy orange that changes with the light.”
Highlights of the thoughtful modifications he made over the years would only scratch the surface (gasp!) of the ground-up rebuild: Tallant chopped the top five and a half inches, taking three weeks to make sure its folding, convertible top still worked and looked good, too; he changed the body moldings; he smoothed it out and shaved the door handles; he tucked the bumpers and reversed them front to rear; he welded and smoothed the body into basically one piece; and he hand-made the taillights and crafted a dash by hand.
Most strikingly different from its original counterpart — and what would have led on the “color news” broadcast of 1948 — the Ford sits about an inch and a half off the ground, once the air is let out of the complete air-ride chassis that Tallant also fabricated himself. Other personal touches were the addition of a big block Chevy motor and smoothing the front profile by installing Mercedes-Benz headlights.
With his nearly finished car soon to get custom upholstery, Tallant is almost like a child, circa 1948, waiting for a sent-away-for game piece to arrive in the mail.
“It’s like a big puzzle,” says Tallant, describing the livelihood that’s also a passion. “That’s what we tell our customers: It’s like a huge puzzle you work one piece at a time.”