Spaceliner

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There was a time when bubbletop concept cars were all the rage, both in the design studios of Detroit as well as on the hot rod and custom car show circuit. They ranged from mildly modified factory cars to one-off, completely fabricated show machines with exposed engines and wild paint jobs. Guys like Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, Darryl Starbird, and Dean Jeffries made a name for themselves building these wild show cars in the late ‘50s and well into the ‘60s.

Scott Wiley was inspired by those builders and their machines and knew that he would have something similar for himself one day. After owning a variety of hot rods and muscle cars, he finally decided that it was time to scratch this itch that had lingered for so many years.

One day, while watching an early episode of The Andy Griffith Show, Scott took notice of the 1960 Ford police car that Sherriff Taylor was driving. He liked the swoopy lines and the horizontal tail fins of the big sedan and thought it would make a good jumping off point in the quest to build his own bubbletop concept car.

Once a suitable candidate had been located and brought home, work began almost immediately. Scott removed the entire roof, windshield and all, from the 30k mile, all original Ford and actually drove it around, sans roof, for the first summer. Imagine the looks he got in that thing! Thankfully he moved beyond that point and set forth to create what you see here.

Scott enlisted the help of Cody Burghdorf, whose Michigan shop was just a hop, skip and a jump from his Warsaw, Indiana, home. Cody set about fabricating the tilt-up, twin canopy roof. While the original intent was to have the canopies custom fabricated, it proved to be far more reasonable to use these actual aircraft pieces. Two electrically actuated cylinders raise and lower the roof smoothly and quietly.

To make the car just a bit more interesting, the passenger side doors were welded shut and all the gaps filled and smoothed, giving that side of the Ford a completely seamless appearance. As Scott likes to say, it is a two door. It just so happens that both doors are on the driver’s side.

Adding to the jet-age inspired design, the taillight panel was completely reworked and filled with no less than ten 1959 Cadillac taillights. A bullet from the nose of a 1951 Ford was then modified and molded into the center of the taillight panel as a “jet thruster.”

Once the fabrication work was finished, Cody covered the whole thing in Roth Metalflake Trippin’ See Sic Blue.

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The interior takes on a jet like persona as well, with four individual bucket seats replacing the two factory benches. The rear package tray was also eliminated and molded into the body.  The interior can be given a decidedly custom appearance by covering the white door panels seen here with panels draped in three inch, baby blue angel hair fur, a definite nod to the wild show cars of the early ‘60s.

Mechanically, the “Spaceliner” remains largely stock and original. The Mileage Maker inline six and Ford-o-Matic transmission that were born with the car still take up residence and provide adequate power and reliability, along with excellent fuel economy, for the time being. Airbags in the rear and cut coil springs up front are the only deviations from the stock suspension and the original drum brakes at each corner do their best to bring her down from cruising speed.

Scott has certainly succeeded in his quest to create his own version of a bubbletop car from the heyday of the custom/concept car craze. He has managed to balance factory concept car design with just enough influence from the custom bubbletop show car world to make for a very interesting, and very different ride.  I, for one, can’t wait to see what he does next!

By Dan Podobinski

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