- Hero image, art, text and errors by: Chris Breeden

Spotting Guide: Shoebox Fords

How to tell the difference between '49, '50 & '51, U.S. made, Ford cars

Shoebox Fords are becoming one of the most popular cars in the Custom world. They are numerous and can be picked up for relatively cheap prices. They do usually require a lot of rust repair and the cleaning up of previous owners poor repair work, but they are a good looking and easy to work on vehicle! I'm going to point out some of the major differences in the three years. We'll stick to the easy to spot things and skip the minor details.

1949 Ford

The most noticeable thing about the 1949 model is the F.O.R.D block lettering on the hood. Unfortunately, these letters were notorious for falling off, as a result most cars are missing them. Now lets take a look at the grill. The '49 and the '50 share an almost identical center bullet, grille surround and center bars. The difference is in the parking lights. Notice how they are in proportion to the flow of the grille bars on the above '49. Other small things include: '49 door handles were of the pull type and this was the only year to not have the fuel cap behind a door on the drivers side. Instead, the fuel cap is easily visible towards the rear on the drivers side of the car.


The 1950 model did not have the F.O.R.D block lettering on the hood, but instead had a badge. The easiest to spot difference between '49s and '50s happens in the parking/turn lights. On the '50 they are much larger and wrap around the side of the fender. In addition, '50s had push button door handles and the fuel cap was behind a door on the drivers side.


The '51 has the most distinctive grille out of all 3 years. The hood doesn't have a center curve for the bullet, but has a flat bottom at the grille opening. The grille includes 2 smaller bullets. '51 was also the first year Ford produced a hardtop 2 door sedan.

Photo courtesy of the Scenario tribe

Photo courtesy of the Scenario tribe

3-points of interest:

Point 1:

1949 was the first car Ford designed completely post World War 2. It featured an open drive shaft. Ford finally did away with the torque tube. It was also the first Ford design with an independent front suspension.

Point 2:

In 1950 Chevrolet would introduce the Bel Air hardtop. Ford didn't have a hard top design and would rush a different trim package to the 1950 model, called Crestliner (see above picture).

Point 3:

In 1951 Ford would release their version of a hardtop and would bring back the Crown Victoria name for it. This postless 2 door sedan featured a completely redesigned rear window, roof line and of course doors & 1/4 windows.

Additional Information:

Photo courtesy of the Scenario tribe

Photo courtesy of the Scenario tribe

Keep on Cruisin'!

In case you haven't noticed, our Call To Action card features a 1949 Ford! Art by: Chris Breeden

In case you haven't noticed, our Call To Action card features a 1949 Ford! Art by: Chris Breeden

About the Author:

"Chris Breeden is a Social Media content creator for Custom & Hot Rod Life on DRIVETRIBE, YouTube and Facebook. After spending 5 years in Southern California, a.k.a. Hot Rod Heaven, while serving as a jet engine mechanic in the United States Marine Corps, he moved back home to Tennessee with an even greater love for Hot Rodded Vintage Tin. Since then he has worked in retail sales and the transportation and logistics industry. In 2018, seeing a gap in Hot Rod and Custom Car coverage on DRIVETRIBE, Chris began advocating for their inclusion on the platform. During the summer months, he can be found all over the Tennessee region covering car shows, meets, and cruise-ins. During the winter months, he can be found in the garage working on his custom 1949 Ford two-door sedan and 1954 F100 truck."


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