Don Olson, of Oakland Township, poses for a photograph with his 1956 Ford F-100 Ford-O-Matic pickup truck, which is one of many Fords in his collection.

Don Olson, of Oakland Township, poses for a photograph with his 1956 Ford F-100 Ford-O-Matic pickup truck, which is one of many Fords in his collection.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Ford collection keeps cruising memories alive

By: Maria Allard | Metro | Published May 26, 2021

 Sandy Olson’s favorite car is the 1956 Ford Crown Victoria Skyliner.

Sandy Olson’s favorite car is the 1956 Ford Crown Victoria Skyliner.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 This is a brake light of the 1956 Ford F-100.

This is a brake light of the 1956 Ford F-100.

Photo by Deb Jacques

METRO DETROIT — Don Olson’s backyard is like visiting a Ford museum.

There’s a row of vintage Ford tractors in view, oversized gasoline pumps on display and a group of classic Ford models — reminders of Olson’s days cruising up and down Woodward Avenue in the ’50s and ’60s. Those were the days in which the Ford man met up with buddies to hang out at their favorite drive-in movie spots and restaurants.

“Mainly it was trying to meet girls,” the 1956 Hazel Park High School graduate said, laughing as he recalled his time burning rubber. “We were kids. Cars were kind of our life.”

The most popular stop was the Totem Pole in Royal Oak. Ted’s Restaurant on Woodward also was a hot spot. At the time, the car enthusiast owned a 1956 Ford Tudor Victoria hardtop, a 1932 Ford five-window coupe and a 1933 Roadster.

There were always adventures, like the time he and four other pals hopped into their friend’s souped-up 1950 Oldsmobile for a ride.

“The six of us were racing when the hood flew up,” Olson recalled. “All of a sudden, he’s hitting the brakes.”

Luckily, they could still see the road even with the hood up and managed to get to safety and fix the problem, but it was a close call.

The retired Ford Motor Co. product/new program analyst still revs his engines with a number of Ford models that date back several decades. The Oakland Township resident is always working on one of the cars. He knows every detail of the cars, and each one comes with its own story.

Olson’s current collection includes a 1936 Roadster with a rumble seat, a 1956 pickup truck, two 1956 Ford Fairlane Sunliner convertibles, a ’56 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria Skyliner (glass roof) and a 1994 Mustang Indianapolis 500 pace car.

Olson said the rarest thing about the custom cab 1956 pickup truck is that it’s a Ford-O-Matic. Ford’s first automatic transmission in cars came out in 1951 and in trucks in 1954, according to Olson. He also owns two 1968 Ranger F-100s.

“I love this truck,” Olson said. “I had been looking for a truck like this for two years, but most of them were hot rods.”

The 1938 station wagon — which is made of wood and fits eight passengers — also is a prized possession.

“In 1938, this was sold in the truck line. In 1939, it was back to being a car in the car brochure,” Olson said. “They were built in Iron Mountain, Michigan. All the wood was from forests in the Upper Peninsula.”

Always tinkering under the hoods, Olson has restored the cars over the years. The Fords only stay inactive during the winter.

“I drive them whenever I can, spring through fall,” said Olson, who was in the U.S. Navy for six months and the Navy Reserves for eight years. “I’ve always liked the ’56 Ford.”

While Olson doesn’t have a favorite, his wife, Sandy Olson, does: the Crown Victoria.

“I like the color. It’s a nice driving car,” she said. “We have a lot of fun with them. It keeps him busy. He loves what he’s doing.”

Over the years, Olson has made friends with other car buffs at all the local car shows. One spot to find the Olsons is at the weekly get-togethers on Tuesday evenings at Culver’s in Lake Orion. He’s always at the Woodward Dream Cruise, and in 2017, he won a blue ribbon at the EyesOn Design held annually at the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores. Olson also participated in the Concours d’Elegance in Rochester. He likes to check out the details of the other autos on display.

“I like all the cars — not just Fords,” he said.

One childhood memory that stands out was that his family never had a car.

“My dad never owned a car, so I’m making up for it now,” he said. His dad worked at the Ford River Rouge Plant in Dearborn and had to take more than one bus to get from the family home in Ferndale all the way to Dearborn.

Olson loaned two of his pickup trucks for display at the Dearborn plant May 18 when President Joe Biden visited.


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Do you own a vehicle that has an interesting history? Contact Staff Writer Maria Allard at allard@candgnews.com and you could be featured in an upcoming edition of Behind the Wheel.