Tuesday, September 4, 2012

1955 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria

"This proud new beauty's 'crown of chrome' and low silhouette will set the styling keynote for cars to come. In addition, there are new two-tone combinations and carefully placed exterior trim that distinguish all the models in the Ford Fairlane series for 1955. Here, indeed, is the style-setter of the 'hard-tops'."

Design development at America's leading car manufacturers couldn't be more divergent in the 50s: while the autocratic Harley Earl presided over the decision-making process at the General Motors design department, design decisions at Ford were made by committee, involving different departments early in the development process. Thus, many new design ideas were already filtered by "naysayers" upon their maturation, and new Fords, albeit generally looking nice and dandy, rarely became immediate styling leaders. The 1955 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria was the exception to the rule. Perhaps many had to look twice when they first saw a brand-new Crown Victoria. With it's "chopped" low roof and "frenched" headlights, it looked almost like a Hot Rod straight out of the factory. This wasn't your average Ford anymore, but a complete departure from the carefully conservative look that Ford was known for.

If you were a Ford customer and in the game for a two-door hardtop, you could choose between two coupes with pretty different characters: the pillarless Fairlane Victoria hardtop and the Fairlane Crown Victoria. The former shared its roof with the Ford Sedans and thus stood quite tall at 60.1 inches overall height, while the latter sported the beautiful "bright metal roof transverse molding", as Ford's advertisers called it, and an incredibly low looking roof, that was three inches longer and a full inch lower than on the Victoria. The metal-bar roof treatment and the new chrome trim, starting at the headlights and sweeping down the flanks of the car, made for a truly elegant look. It's not a surprise that the Crown Victoria today is considered being one of the milestones of 50s car styling.

To make this fresh look possible at moderate cost, studio chief Frank Hershey and his team delved deep into the corporate parts bin. The Crown Victoria shared it's roof stamping with the Mercury Montclair coupe. To match the lower roofline, Ford's designers mounted the windshield of the Fairlane Sunliner convertible, which was shorter than the sedan's "standard" windscreen. You could order an optional transparent "sky-view" roof ahead of the metal bar to make the result of this "patchwork" look even more stunning. This tinted plexiglass roof was really innovative, but in a time when air condition was a rare and expensive extra, perhaps only enjoyable in northern states. The rest of the Crown Victoria: body, engines, transmission and even the suspension were standard Ford stuff.

Rather than selling in large numbers, the Crown Victoria fulfilled it's purpose by drawing many a prospective buyer into Ford's showrooms who finally drove away with a more modest version of Ford's 1955 lineup.

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