Tuesday, September 27, 2011

1956 Ford Fairlane Town Sedan

"In the Ford Fairlane Series for 1956 you'll find just what you want in a motor car, no matter how fine you expect it to be. You can be sure there's a distinguished Ford Fairlane model to match your own good taste. Here is true styling elegance, inspired by America's favorite dream car — the Ford Thunderbird. Your heartbeat will quicken when you see the long, low lines . . . the brilliant use of color . . . the new, wide chrome body moldings . . . the rich, inviting interiors . . . all the things that make these Fairlane models stand out in the most distinguished company.

Here is elegance in action, too! Beneath each Fairlane hood purrs a mighty power plant — the new Thunderbird Y-8 — the same basic engine for which the Ford Thunderbird is famous. You'll command a great reserve of power that gives you instant response . . . when instants count. And, for '56, Ford brings you the first significant contribution to driver and passenger protection in the event of an accident — new Lifeguard Design — a Ford first for 'Safety First'. Lifeguard Design is a new group of safety features that will give you and your family greater peace of mind . . . a new sense of well-being in all your driving."

This Ford Fairlane Town Sedan is one of the better examples of mid-50s car styling: quite restrained in its appearance and proportions, yet flashy enough to perfectly blend in the automotive landscape of that time, the Frank Hershey-styled Ford was an instant hit when it came out in 1955. The only problem for Ford was the equally new Chevrolet, now sporting a V-8 engine, too. The year 1955 soon turned into a sales-war between Ford and Chevrolet dealers, which ironically didn't do much harm to the two companies, but left behind the smaller "independents" as the real losers, because they couldn't cope with the aggressive discounts of the "Big Thee".

Next year, concluding the final year of an unusually long 5-year lifecycle, Ford had to add some "pizzas" to keep it's aging bodyframe appealing to the customers and to fight the competition from Chevrolet. This extra was "Lifeguard Design", and while it was honorable that a car company focused on passenger safety, the actual safety improvements were rather pathetic: reinforced "Double-grip" door latches, a dished "Deep-Center" steering wheel, recessed instruments and restyled door- and window handles formed the standard safety equipment, which could be topped by an extra safety package at additional cost. This safety package included seatbelts and padded instrument panel and sunvisors.

We don't know how many customers spent the money for this extra security, but at least in Cuba so far we haven't seen any Ford equipped with this package. Ford's safety campaign didn't pay off, and while 1956 was a difficult year for anyone in the car industry, Ford lost even more customers than its competitors.

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