The Ford Fairlane 500, one of the last of the major Ford lines to keep its single headlight quite nicely fared into the front fender, was the epitome of the change that Ford had in attitude in the late 1950s. You could actually see some of the change coming in the 1956 Fairlane convertible, as it started to gain a lower look, but the real vision appeared in 1957 when the “longer, lower, wider” Fairlane 500 appeared.
It was quite an appearance, too, as the vehicle swept up from its chromed grilled and lower chromed bumper through a slight overhang that defined the front end and headlight line to the top of the fender that sweptback through the small finned rear end with its huge single taillights and large chrome center piece defining the rear end.
If you look at the Fairlane 500 from an oblique angle, the lines quite literally were swiped from the jet airplane industry as the front fenders featured lines that swept down in an offsetting color from the headlights to the line of the pillarless door. A new line was picked up at that spot and swept up to the rear and taillights and a rather longish bumper. The overall effect was quite dramatic. The overall design was tied together with a mid-level very subtle beltline.
The Fairlane 500’s most notable models were its convertibles as there were two offered – a standard ragtop (77,000 or so sales) and one with a retractable hardtop. Indeed, if you think today’s hardtop convertibles are recent developments, you can go back more than 50 years to find a working model Ford Skyliner (regular version was the Sunliner). It’s a top that for all the fears about the crankiness of all the gears, levers and pullies that were used, performed quite well. There was one small problem, though, when you removed the hardtop of the Sunliner, it needed a place to sit and that was the trunk so trunk space was very limited.
These were the models that caught the public’s eye but the Fairlane 500 series was actually made up of five models, the Town Sedan, Club, Sedan, Town Victoria, Club Victoria, Sunliner Convertible and Skyliner Convertible. Fairlanes were built on 118-inch wheelbases whereas Customs were built on shorter 116-inch wheelbases. Ford also added a new concept for the era, the car/pickup combo, “Ranchero.”
The standard powerplant of the Fairlane series was the 223-cubic-inch straight six that turned out 144 horsepower; stepping up a notch to the new Y-Block V-8s, the Fairlane offered a 272-cubic-inch model that churned out 190-horsepower, while a 292-cubic-inch version put out 212 horsepower. The top-of-the-line engine was known as the “Thunderbird V-8” and with a couple of tweaks it was massaged into a 312-cubic-inch V-8 that put out 300 horsepower. This was the real high-power of the engine group and it used not only dual headers it also had a rather unique camshaft and the cylinder head and intake manifold were also specially reworked for the “T-Bird V-8.”
The 57 Fairlane 500’s lines were to point the way for Ford styling well into the early 1960s.