Searching for a special show car to call his own, Billy Poore knew a gem when he saw it, even if it needed to be shined a bit.
"Nearly everything on it needed work, but it ran. It wasn't near as good looking as it is now," said Poore, remembering when he first laid eyes on his 1951 Ford Victoria. "I looked around a bit more, but I couldn't find anything that compared to it. My wife thought I was crazy when she saw it."
Despite a less-than-impressive exterior when purchased, the Locust Grove resident knew what he was looking for in a show car project - a unique classic car that could serve as an everyday driver.
"When I was looking, I always planned on driving it," said Poore. "I just can't see having a car to tow around and rarely drive. I get kind of upset when I am at a car show and they give the long distance award to someone who towed their car in."
After making his purchase, Poore began making modifications to return the Victoria to the car's glory days as a comfortable, cool daily driver. One of his first alterations was to replace the aging manual gearbox with one of the most noteworthy transmissions in auto history, the original Ford-O-Matic, the first automatic transmission in a Ford Motor Company automobile.
"It's an interesting transmission and a piece of history," said Poore. "It was a three-speed overdrive when I bought it, but it's easier to hook up an automatic when you try to replace the transmission. It was the first year Ford made automatics."
Designed by BorgWarner, the Ford-O-Matic aided a paradigm shift in automatic transmissions. Leaving behind fluid-led transmissions, the Ford-O-Matic was the first three-speed torque convertor automatic and was used by Ford from 1951 through 1981 in various names, most well known as the Cruise-O-Matic.
And after restoring his Ford Victoria to road-ready status with a historical gearbox, Poore set out to drive his machine on a pilgrimage. With a year of dedicated work in his car and the original paperwork in his hand, Poore traveled to visit the plant where the car was produced and dealership where it was original sold.
"It was a fun trip," said Poore with a smile. "I drove it back to Tennessee where it came from and the dealership is still there, but now it's a used car lot. The car and I were even on the local news."
With a historic biography and unique status - Poore says his was one of just two hard-top Victorias in a recent car show with 6,000 entrants - the Locust Grove resident has a car with personality and a flawless finish, both factors in why Poore's Victoria recently claimed at top prize at Atlanta Motor Speedway's Friday Night Drag's Show-N-Shine. But, despite the car's current immaculate condition, Poore hasn't fully scratched the itch for modifying his machine.
"I still have plans for it," said Poore. "It's going to be a few years down the road, but I want to take the glass roof from an old ‘54 Ford and weld it on here. It's a special car to me. I've got a lot of time and energy put into it, but I'm not done with it yet."
Poore and his unique Ford-O-Matic 1951 Ford Victoria can be seen at Friday Night Drags, which runs each Friday night through August 22. More information can be obtained by calling 770-946-4211 or by visiting www.atlantamotorspeedway.com