• Remembering the 1957 Ford

      As an automotive historian and researcher, I have many fond memories of my parents 1957 Ford Fairlane 500. Back in 1963, when I was only five years old, my mother took my two sisters and I to visit a Ford Dealership located on Gratiot Avenue in Detroit, Michigan. During that time, my mother was in the process of purchasing a brand new 1963 Ford Fairlane model.

      I remember having an overwhelming feeling of sadness inside of me knowing that my mother was selling the 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 and purchasing a new 1963 Ford Fairlane. The 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 was the last vehicle my father had purchased before his untimely death. As a child, I remember sitting on the rear bumper of the vehicle and telling myself this car would stay in our family for at least the next fifty years.

      During the early days, it was a tradition that neighbors of one another would come out of their home and congratulate you on the purchase of your new automobile. When my mother and I drove up in our new 1963 Ford Fairlane, it was like a parade, all of our neighbors were there to see our vehicle for the first time.

      The 1957 Ford models started production on Monday, September 10, 1956. The advertising slogan, “A New Kind of Ford” was used to promote the new Ford. Mr. Joe Oros was the man mostly responsible for the new styling of the 1957 Ford models. Mr. Oros worked for Mr. George Walker’s independent styling studio at Ford’s design center. Both Mr. George Walker and Robert S. McNamara thoroughly enjoyed Mr. Oros's original sketches and soon thereafter, the rest became history.

      Ford's new styling included many features such as a wide-hooded headlight design, a forward slanting grille, streamlined wheel openings, and a big wrap-around windshield for better visibility. The models were lower, longer, and wider demonstrating to the customers that this was truly a fine prestige design available for the buying public.

      For the first time in automotive history, Ford started making two different size vehicles including the Custom and Custom 300 line which replaced the Mainline and Customline models. In 1957, Ford had many popular vehicles such as the Fairlane 500 series, the Fairlane Club Victoria, the Sunliner convertible, and Station wagons models. Although these models were highly popular, Ford’s most popular eye candy was the Fairlane 500 Skyliner Retractable hardtop.

      The Ford 500 Skyliner models were first introduced at automotive shows located in Detroit, Michigan and New York. The name “Skyliner” was first used by Ford on their 1954 transparent topped-Victoria models. The 1957 Ford Skyliner was a steel hardtop that was capable of changing into an open convertible by the touch of one button. An automatic folding mechanism retracted its top into the rear deck making it one fascinating feature to see while in progress.

      In 1957, Ford also introduced the Ranchero model which was a convenient way of combing a passenger car along with a light duty truck design. In 1957, Tennessee Ernie Ford, who had his own television show, became one of the sponsors for 1957 Ford models. Overall, 1957 marked one of Ford’s most successful years in which they surpassed Chevrolet in overall sales, the first time since 1935.

      Today, 1957 Ford models are great collector models and the Skyliner models are very popular with all generations. The 1957 series are truly Ford's Golden Fifties models in which will never be forgotten and always admired.

      A special thanks to Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher, for donating the story to the MotorCities Story of the Week program. Photographs courtesy of Robert Tate’s Personal Collection. (Bibliography: Sorensen Lorin . Ford's Golden Fifties. Silverado Publishing Company,ST Helena California 1997. Miller Ray. The Nifty Fifties Fords.The Evergreen Press Oceanside,California 1974.)

      Please do not republish the story and/or photographs without permission of MotorCities National Heritage Area. For further information contact Robert Tate at btate@motorcities.org. If you have a story that you would like to donate to be featured as a MotorCities Story of the Week, email Lisa Ambriez at lambriez@motorcities.org.