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The 1957 Ford Fairlane

The model helped Ford finally beat Chevrolet in sales.


The 1957 Ford Fairlane

1957 Ford Fairlane Skyliner

Michele Hamer

In 1957 the Ford Motor Company applied a series of innovative design principles to its automobiles. Spearheaded by the Chief of Styling, George W. Walker, the 1957 Fords successfully challenged the norm and won. In short, it was the impact of the company’s “equaflair” styling expressed in its most appealing Fairlane series that boosted Ford’s reputation as a leader in car manufacturing.

The blunt front-end incorporated a clean, full-width rectangular grille with subtle bits of chrome trim decoratively placed around the body. All of the refinements set forth in the new Fairlane helped to reassure buyers that they needn’t look elsewhere.

What's more, all '57 Fords were all new, dramatically longer, lower, and wider, with "dream car" styling that looked like something from another brand. With all this, Ford exceeded its 1955 sales record while out producing rival Chevrolet for the first time in decades, mostly thanks to the Fairlane.

The Fairlane took the car market by storm with its two and four door “thin pillar” models which had a plethora of trim lines starting with the base "Custom", "Custom 300", "Fairlane", and top-line "Fairlane 500". Aside from the additional cubic inches, the interior of the Fairlanes offered the “deep dish” steering wheel, an easier to read instrument panel and more supportive seats.

The 500 shared a new 118-inch wheelbase platform with standard Fairlane hardtops and sedans, two inches longer than that of junior Custom/Custom 300 models and a newly separate Station Wagon line. It was longer, lower, and wider in 1950s fashion, with many styling elements from the 1955 Mystere show car. With 37 different fabric color combinations and a selection of either standard nylon or optional vinyl upholstery, it seemed customers had more difficulty choosing a pattern than negotiating on the car’s purchase price.

But it’s Ford’s 1957 Fairlane Skyliner that was, and always will be, the most envied and sought after model. The Skyliner, whose name was borrowed from Ford's 1954-56 plexi-roof hardtop, was America’s first production convertible sporting a retractable hardtop. Offered like the Soft Top Convertible Sunliner in the new Fairlane 500 series, it was the sort of technical wonder Americans expected as the "space age" beckoned. At the touch of a button, a bevy of motors, relays, and wires raised a rear-hinged panel on an elongated deck, slid the top into a deep well, and then closed the deck over it. Though quite complex and far from foolproof, this system was more reliable than was once reported, and the top's stately passage up or down was a surefire crowd-pleaser.

There was also an extensive list of factory options and accessories that could be found on the Skyliner which includes:

About 120 Skyliner Retractable Hardtops were equipped with factory air and only 7 were produced with the Supercharged “F”-Code Engine Option as a special cylinder head had to be fitted to these engines to keep the compression ratio at 8.5:1 so that they could drive on regular pump gas. The “F”-Code engine was only available on the Skyliner as a factory option and could be ordered with either a manual or an automatic transmission.

Check out this YouTube Video of a 1957 Commercial of the Skyliner Retractable.

So here’s the down side, the 1957 Fairlanes were not as well built as earlier Fords and early rust-out was common. They were not widely recognized among collectors until lately so they are relatively scarce now, but still well worth searching for and quite a treat when you come upon one at a car show.

Suggested Reading:
The 1936 Ford - The Year in Review
Hail to the Ford Pinto - Our Hero

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