The first thing you notice about Chas Sydney’s 1958 Ford Del Rio Ranch Wagon is…
I’ve never heard of a Ford Del Rio. Never seen a picture of one. Never even knew they existed. And here is Chas’ beautiful ‘58 sitting right in front of me at the January Caffeine and Octane show.
“It was Ford’s answer to the Chevy Nomad,” Chas told me, “but they only made them in ‘57 and ‘58.”
That makes sense. It is a late 50’s two door station wagon after all. And Ford actually sold more Del Rios in 1957 than GM sold Nomads and its sister car the Pontiac Safari combined. But the Del Rio was dropped after sales fell off dramatically in 1958.
Chas has owned his Del Rio for a year now, after he saw it at a car show. “Cars present themselves to me,” he said. “This car parked next to me and I got to talking with the guy who owned it.” And next thing you know, Chas purchased it to go along with his 1955 Ranch Wagon (which is not a Del Rio).
But back to what I was saying… The first thing you notice about Chas’ wagon is that it’s drop dead gorgeous. Straight body, perfect jet black paint, beautiful interior.
The second thing that you notice is that it’s big. Really big.
According to the Internet, the Del Rio is:
- 203.5” long (about the same as a 2019 Ford F-150 XLT),
- 78” wide (about the same as a Hummer H2),
- with a wheelbase of 116” (about the same as an NHRA fuel funny car).
And it tips the scales a just a shade under two tons (which is a lot more than a NASCAR Monster Energy Cup series car).
The body work and paint had been completed when Chas got the Del Rio, so he’s been spending his time “sorting out the mechanical stuff” as he told me.
The biggest engine Ford ever installed in a Del Rio was a 352 cubic inch Y-block, but Chas has a 390 cubic inch Ford big block in his. It’s the high performance model of the 390, fed by a single four barrel carb. The engine is mated to a 3-speed automatic.
No doubt the 390 works hard in the Del Rio, so Chas has reworked the cooling system to help it out. He’s added a high capacity radiator and fan shroud to increase cooling capacity.
Ford’s original four wheel drum brakes have been replaced with disk brakes up front and new drums in the rear, which are activated by the dual master cylinders Chas added. Power, of course.
He’s installed a new steering box, also power assisted, and heavy duty sway bars front and rear. For a big car, Chas reports it drives really well.
The custom interior was in the car when Chas acquired it. He’s planning to make some changes, but in the meantime he’s enjoying the Vintage Air A/C and cruise control that are already there.
You certainly don’t run across Ford Del Rios very often, or, in my case, ever. It’s great to see that Chas has restored, improved, and still drives this classic. That’s good hot rodding.
When he’s not wrenching on the Del Rio, Chas is helping to run the Summit Racing Equipment Atlanta Motorama show at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Called a “celebration of anything with an engine,” the show on April 27 and 28 will have hot rods, rat rods, motorcycles, monster trucks, and perhaps a Ford Del Rio. For more information, go to atlantamotorama.com.
Photos by GHR
Click here to see the photos of Chas’ Del Rio.