1951 Ford X-51 Shoebox Coupe

1951 Ford X-51 Shoebox Coupe

If you could time travel back to March of 1958 and you happened to pick up a copy of Rod & Custom Magazine at your local newstand … what would you see? Right there on the cover was Ron Courtney’s 1951 Ford X-51 Coupe. Open that magazine up and the Shoebox X-51 show car was the center spread as well. You can imagine the impact such a space age design would have on the 1951 Ford X-51 in Rod & Custom Magazinecustom car hobby back then. But Ron wasn’t trying to create a custom car, he was just wanting to build a car the way he thought Ford should have done it. His custom 1951 Ford X-51 would be admired by hobbyists for decades. 

After years of being on display at car shows and museums, the 1951 Ford X-51 Coupe is now available for sale to the public through Specialty Sales Classics out of Fairfield, California. (Follow this link to see dozens of detailed photos.) West Coast hot rodders may need no introduction to this famous custom classic. In the late 1950’s this aero styled hot rod had no peer. Wrapped in Alfa Romeo red, the all custom interior made it the perfect package to exceed every hot rodders dream. The 1951 Ford X-51 Shoebox Coupe is a true one-of-one, taking home countless trophies, awards and more than a share of celebrity in its 65-year history. 

1951 Ford X-51 Comes To Life

It all started when Ron Courtney of McMinnville, Oregon bought his 1951 Ford 2-Door Coupe new from Fredericks Motor Company where he worked as one of the top body repair specialists in the state. By 1954 he had decided to fully redesign his ’51 from bumper to bumper. The work included sectioning the body and trunk by 5 inches, decking the body, shaving the door handles and exterior trim, building a completely one-off grille from scratch. The wheel wells were radiused, plus the front fenders were redesigned to mold in 1956 Oldsmobile headlights. His personal touch was the design of hand-made fins with huge built-in taillights. Scoops were added just ahead of the fins behind the doors. This was a two-year labor of love, and when his ’51 debuted on the streets in 1956, it was named the “X-51.”  

The engine Ron originally used for the X-51 was a ’55 Chevy 265 ci V8 with a McColloch supercharger mated to a Powerglide transmission. 

In the following years, Ron’s custom 1951 Ford X-51 continually won first place awards for Best in Class, Best Custom and many other categories.  This created quite a following for the one-off classic and it has also been featured in Rod & Custom plus dozens of other magazines over the years.  Ron finally sold his amazing Showbox in 1959 and it was used as a daily driver for several years by the second owner Bill Robinson.  Then this beauty virtually disappeared for almost 15 years.


In the Harrah’s Collection

In 1974, mechanic John Corno found this 1951 Ford on blocks with Ron’s supercharged engine removed and the trunk caved-in.  He fully restored it and added a 351 Windsor motor, plus power brakes and power steering.  He then sold this vehicle to its fourth owner- the National Automobile Museum to be a part of the Harrah’s Collection.

This one of a kind classic would change hands one more time as Bob Page acquired the car in 1986.  He fully restored it once again and rebuilt it the way it stands today.  You’ll find a balanced/professionally built Chevy 350 ci engine under the hood along with a Turbo Hydromatic 3-speed automatic transmission, and a Ford 8.8-inch rear end. 

After Bob’s passing in 2011, his wife Rene kept the car and its memories. More recently it was featured at the Peterson Museum in Los Angeles in 2013. This year she finally decided that it’s time to allow someone else to enjoy it as much as her family has.

Here is how the X-51 Shoebox looks and sounds today. Click the video window below:

Specialty Sales Classics tells us the 1951 Ford X-51 Coupe is still a notch above what we might consider daily driver quality. But you will note some minor blemishes and fading paint across it’s beautiful flowing body.  The interior and trunk area still presents at a very high level though, and the nicely sorted engine compartment needs just a little freshening to be ready to show once again. Amazingly, much of Ron Courtney’s original bodywork holds up and it has been maintained beautifully for over 65 years.

1951 Ford X-51 Shoebox Coupe

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