In 1956, brothers Frank and John Balzano of Bristol, Rhode Island, purchased a 1956 Ford Victoria. John worked in the body shop of the Ford dealership were it was purchased. He was a master metal worker.
After removing the hood chrome pieces, John added 1956 Buick portholes. He frenched the headlights, adding 1953 Frod Rings and hand formed sheetmetal hoods over the front and rear light assemblies. Taillights from a 1955 Mercury station wagon were installed as the rear taillights. Door handles were shaved and buttons were located beneath the hood and dash installed to open the driver’s side door and trunk.
Beautiful blue and white pleated Naugahyde upholstery (including a unique application on the interior headliner, exterior roof, dash and trunk) was installed by their uncle, Louis Malafronte, the owner of West End Auto Top in Brooklyn, New York.
They named the car “Stardust” and won 18 of 19 competitions on the East Coast show car circuit. ( By 1960 accumulating 53 trophies and awards). The brothers attended a total of 77 shows and won Best in Show, Best Paint & Best Interior (finishing second at the Nationals in Detroit).
John became known as one of the best body men in the country. He affixed two molded splash pans from a 1953 Studebaker to the front end to house two 1959 Edsel grille centers laid horizontally and divided by 1959 Buick rectangular grille knobs– then matched the rear with the same configuration as the front.
Painted Lincoln Metallic Blue, the car is truly magnificent. The engine is a Thunderbird V8 312 with three 2-barrel carburetors with a 3-speed floor mounted, manual transmission because John and Frank originally wanted to drag race the car, only later deciding to show it rather then race.
“Stardust” has been featured in numerous car magazines — in 1960 on the cover of Car Craft and 1961 in Customs Illustrated. Most recently in Kustoms Illustrated by Luke Karosi in 2009 (issues Nos. 10 and 23).
In 2006, the late Dana Pope, noted car collector and enthusiast, purchased “Stardust” because he believed it was the most majestic and beautiful custom he had ever seen.
It is currently owned and loved by me and has had a full mechanical restoration.
Vintage and modern radios plus a 45 record player add to the uniqueness of this car. The Lincoln Metallic Blue paint remains as gorgeous as ever. Rear wheel wells are covered by 1956 Buick skirts with Mercury spears. Two functioning spotlights and twin faux lake pipes enhance its beauty. Front and rear drum brakes with conventional steering complete the authenticity of “Stardust”.
— Dan Pollack, Riverwoods IL
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