Real Wheels: ‘53 Sunliner … the big banana

BELLE CENTER — Tucked away in Steve Bechtel’s garage near Indian Lake is a 1953 Ford Sunliner convertible. Who knows how long it will own a spot in his garage.

“This guy changes cars more than we change socks,” says Dave Semer, a friend of Bechtel’s.

That brings a laugh from Bechtel. Then he admits it’s true.

“I’ll pick up a car and drive it for about a year, then I’ll get something else,” said Bechtel.

It is hard to miss the Sunliner when he takes it to car shows. It has a bright yellow paint job, making it stand out like a big banana.

“It’s a DuPont color called a hot hue lemon drop. It’s not the original color,” said Bechtel. “The original color of this car was red.”

Ford used the Sunliner name on many of its full-sized convertibles through the 1950s and 1960s.

Bechtel, who lives in Belle Center, found his Sunliner in Phoenix, Arizona.

Bechtel noted, “A gentleman had this car custom built. He put 4,000 man hours in it at a cost of $200,000. Two days after he got it back, he died of a massive heart attack. The car had been sitting in a heated garage for nine years when I got it. It was rust free.”

The customized Sunliner has a Corvette suspension, a 392 Hemi five speed Tremec engine, a Thunderbird dashboard and Mercedes headlights and taillights.

After he purchased the car, Bechtel had it delivered to Miller’s Automotive Customization Shop in Findlay. “They had it for about three months and went through the whole car and got it back up and running for me,” he said.

Bechtel drove the Sunliner to the Fallen Car Guys Memorial show held in Lima each October. The event was put on by Tom Evans, owner of Tom’s Detailing, who calls it a “Cruise-in the Streets of Heaven.”

It’s been about a year since Bechtel originally purchased it. The Sunliner has only been driven 1,050 miles.

“I’m enjoying it right now,” he said. “There’s not another like it.”


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