Ford Fairlane Radiator

The 1957-1958

Ford Fairlane

500 was Ford's new top-line series in these feast-then-famine years. 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.

The 1957-1958 Fairlane 500s had bigger, weightier new bodies matched by a lower-profile "cowbelly" frame with a dropped rear floorpan and kicked-up aft side rails permitting a two-inch reduction in overall height. The suspension was improved via swept-back front lower control arms and longer rear leaf springs. All 1957 Fairlane engines were basically 1956 units tuned for more power (in the usual ways).

Facelifted Fairlane 1958s looked more elaborate and included: quad headlamps above a '58 Thunderbird-style bumper/grille, broader side trim, scalloped rear deck, four oval tail lamps, and longitudinal roof ribs (to strengthen those panels, a '57 weakness). Main mechanical advances for this vehicle were new "big-block" 332/352 V-8s and a more sophisticated three-speed Cruise-O-Matic self-shift transmission.

Ford beat Chevy in 1957 model-year production, then suffered much lower sales in 1958's flash recession, as did most everyone else. The 1957-1958 Fairlanes were not as well built as earlier Fords -- 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.