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Perfect highway cruiser

Del Rio offers '50s styling, modern drivetrain and space rivalling many new SUVs

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The classy-looking 1957 Ford Del Rio Station Wagon is loaded with the styling cues that have made '50s cars stand the test of time.

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As big as many new SUV models, this station wagon not only looks cool, it is also very practical for summer highway cruises.

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A 1972 Ford 302-cubic-inch V8 replaced the original engine.

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The interior has been fully updated with modern components.

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The Ford Motor Company pulled out all the stops in 1957 with the introduction of a completely new car.

Longer, lower and wider than anything Ford had ever offered to the car buying public, it was available in two series. The Custom and Custom 300 sedans, station wagons and Ranchero rode on an all-new 116-inch wheelbase, while the Fairlane and Fairlane 500 models, including hardtops and convertibles, arrived on a longer 118-inch wheelbase. Highly styled with sculptured body panels, tailfins and bright trim, it stood out from everything else on the road.

Versatile and roomy, the new Ford station wagons became a solid hit with families and was available in five models. The top-line Country Squire four-door model came with faux wood trim and had room for eight passengers. The intermediate level Country Sedan four-door was offered in both six- and nine-passenger models, while the two-door six passenger Ranch Wagon was the entry-level model. For those wanting a bit more style, there was the Del Rio two-door wagon. With full Custom 300 trim, the Del Rio wasn't as posh as the Fairlane trimmed 1956 Ford Parklane wagon, but it outsold it three to one.

The Del Rio offered optional two-tone paint schemes, better quality interior and exterior brightwork, including anodized aluminium accents and higher-grade vinyl upholstery. Del Rio buyers also had their choice of either Ford's "Mile-Maker" 144 hp six or its "Thunderbird" 292 and "Thunderbird Special" 312 V-8 engines. With 46,105 Del Rios built, its production dwarfed the 6,103 Nomad wagons Chevrolet produced in 1957.

Today, the station wagon is enjoying a resurgence in popularity among auto enthusiasts and collectors. The extra room for people and luggage make it a perfect vehicle for travelling and the all-the-rage styling of the cars from the 1950s holds true today.

Flo and Jo Bremaud of Winnipeg searched Internet auction and vehicle sale sites for two years hoping to find a 1956 or 1957 Ford station wagon as a summer cruiser. A few times they came close, finding vehicles in St. Louis, Minneapolis and one in Ohio, but for various reasons they didn't meet with expectations or they were sold before a deal could be finalized. In June of 2012, while attending an auction at the Annual "Back To The '50s" weekend in Minneapolis, Bremaud struck up a conversation with fellow Fabulous 50's Ford Club member Bob Antonio. When Bremaud said he was looking for a wagon, Antonio told him about one in Minot, North Dakota.

The recently completed 1957 Del Rio had received a full body restoration that included a new Cadillac Yellow and Cameo White paint, along with matching custom-stitched Ivory interior upholstery with yellow trim. With a striking colour combination and very good build quality, the Del Rio was now on Bremaud's want list, so the following weekend they went to see the car.

Under the hood, the original Y-Block V8 had been replaced with a 1972 vintage Ford 302-cubic-inch V8, fitted with MSD electronic distributor, mild hydraulic performance camshaft, exhaust headers leading to a full custom dual exhaust system with Smithy's mufflers. It's backed by a four-speed overdrive automatic transmission and 3.25:1 geared Ford 9-inch rear axle. Bringing the restomod Ford into the 21st century included the addition of power front disc brakes from Master Power and a GM 605 power steering conversion. The updated powertrain means the Del Rio can now comfortably enjoy the open road at speeds of 70 to 80 mile per hour all day long and still deliver over 20 miles per gallon.

Rounding out the upgrades includes a tilt steering column from Classic Performance Products with wood steering wheel, Southern rods air conditioning, aluminium radiator, Alpine AM/FM/CD, satellite radio sound system, power windows, new Dolphin gauges in a billet aluminium dash cluster and tinted glass.

The Del Rio rolls on a set of chrome smoothies with bullet centre caps, shod with three-inch wide whitewall Diamondback radial tires. Keeping it glued to the road are a set of dropped front coil springs, larger front anti-sway bar and rear air adjustable shock absorbers.

There was no question this wagon was headed north to Canada, so the purchase was made and the following weekend Bremaud and his neighbour headed back to Minot and picked up the Del Rio. The trip was uneventful except for a double blow-out on the trailer, but fortunately no damage was done.

Since the car has been in Winnipeg, it has been at most local shows and cruise nights and already winning its share of awards. The Bremauds' future plans with the Del Rio include a trip to the Ford Museum and possibly a wandering trek through the Black Hills of South Dakota.

That 1950s styling, coupled with a modern drivetrain and space rivalling most new SUVs, makes this 1957 Del Rio a perfect highway cruiser.

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