The Ford Fairlane is an automobile model that was sold between 1955 and 1970 by Ford in North America. The name is derived from Henry Ford’s estate, Fair Lane, near Dearborn, Michigan.
For the 1955 model year the Fairlane name replaced the Crestline as Ford’s premier full-sized offering. Six different body styles were offered, including the Crown Victoria Skyliner with a tinted, transparent plastic roof, the regular Crown Victoria coupe with lots of stainless steel trim, a convertible Sunliner, the Victoria hardtop coupe, and traditional sedans. All featured the trademark stainless-steel “Fairlane stripe” on the side. Power options were a 223 cu in (3.7 L) straight-6 engine and a 272 cu in (4.5 L) V8. The 292 cu in (4.8 L) Y-block was offered as an option and was called the Thunderbird V-8.
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Ford Thunderbird (colloquially called the T-Bird) is a nameplate that was used by Ford from model years 1955 to 1997 and 2002 to 2005 over eleven model generations. Introduced as a two-seat convertible, the Thunderbird was produced in a number of body configurations through its production life, including four-seat hardtop coupe, four-seat convertible, five-seat convertible and hardtop, four-door pillared hardtop sedan, six-passenger hardtop coupe, and five passenger pillared coupe, with the final generation produced as a two-seat convertible.
The Ford Thunderbird began life in February 1953 in direct response to Chevrolet’s new sports car, the Corvette, which was publicly unveiled in prototype form just a month before. Under rapid development, the Thunderbird went from idea to prototype in about a year, being unveiled to the public at the Detroit Auto Show on February 20, 1954. It was a two-seat design available with a detachable glass-fibre hard top and a folding fabric top.
The Thunderbird was revised for 1957 with a reshaped front bumper, a larger grille and tailfins, and larger tail lamps. The instrument panel was heavily re-styled with round gauges in a single pod, and the rear of the car was lengthened, allowing the spare tire to be positioned back in the trunk. The 312 cu in (5.1 L) V8 became the Thunderbird’s standard engine, and now produced 245 horsepower (183 kW). Other, even more powerful versions of the 312 cu in (5.1 L) V8 were available including one with two four-barrel Holley carburetors and another with a Paxton supercharger delivering 300 horsepower (220 kW). Though Ford was pleased to see sales of the Thunderbird rise to a record-breaking 21,380 units for 1957, company executives felt the car could do even better, leading to a substantial redesign of the car for 1958.
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In 1954, Ford added a new niche model to the top-of-the-line Crestline series : the Skyliner. The car had a glass roof section over the front seats, made of blue-green tinted acrylic and letting a diffused yet filtered light through. Ford claimed that 60% of the sunrays were filtered out.
The Skyliner offered a very light interior, with a soft green glow : the perfect car for the drive-in cinema, and a a great view of the future’s past, developed in an era obsessed with Jet Age design features. The Skyliner was only in production for one year, and in total 13.144 examples were sold.
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In late 1965, Ford launched the third generation Falcon, based on a shortened Fairlane platform with revised styling. At the top of the line was the highly-trimmed Futura Sports Coupe, which featured chrome side window frames, giving this two-door sedan the look of a hardtop. It also featured a premium all-vinyl interior. Large “Sports Coupe” script on the “C” pillar was borrowed from the 1964–1965 Fairlane Sports Coupe.
The heater-defroster became standard. Brakes were 9-in for six-cylinder Falcons, and 10-in for V8s. The two-door hardtop and convertible were dropped, while the station wagon and Ranchero were moved to a larger platform shared with the contemporary Fairlane. The Ranchero left the Falcon line and adopted the Fairlane’s front sheet metal for 1967. The 1966 Falcon was used in the Trans-Am series. The 1967 models were mostly the same as the 1966 models, but more Federally-mandated safety equipment was added, including a dual-circuit brake system, energy-absorbing steering wheel with a large, padded center hub, 4-way flashers, soft interior panels, and mountings for front shoulder belts (which were available as an option). A reminder light was added for the seatbelts; 1968 was the first model year for the square tail lights.
1968 and 1969 Falcons got new side marker lights or reflectors, front outboard shoulder belts, and headrests for cars built after January 1, 1969. The basic body and mechanical specifications remained the same as 1966–1967 models.
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The revised model was initially offered as a hardtop, convertible, Sports Roadster with dealer-installed tonneau cover and wire wheels, and Landau with vinyl roof, simulated landau irons, and wood grain interior appointments. Total 1964 sales were excellent: 92,465, up nearly fifty per cent from the previous year, but with only 50 Sports Roadster kits were sold from the factory. The 1964 Thunderbird was the only car of this generation to have the word ‘Thunderbird’ spelled out on the front hood instead of a chrome Thunderbird emblem. The only transmission available was the Cruise-O-Matic MX 3 speed automatic.
The fourth generation of the Ford Thunderbird is a large personal luxury car produced by Ford for the 1964 to 1966 model years. This generation of the Thunderbird was restyled in favor of a more squared-off, “formal” look. The Thunderbird’s sporty image had by that time become only that: the standard 390-cubic-inch 300 bhp (224 kW) V8 engine needed nearly 11 seconds to push the heavy T-bird to 60 mph (96 km/h). The softly sprung suspension allowed considerable body lean, wallow, and float on curves and bumps. Contemporary testers felt that the Buick Riviera and Pontiac Grand Prix were substantially more roadworthy cars, but the Thunderbird retained its leading market share.
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Ford is introducing a new, eco-friendly electric four-door crossover. The Mustang Mach-E is making waves in the electric car community and will compete with Tesla for satisfied drivers. Some car enthusiasts challenge Ford’s decision to replace Mustang’s namesake 8 cylinder engine. But others argue a Mustang is a Mustang.
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As the Mustang line grew in size and comfort features, so too did the Shelby branded vehicles on which they are based. Never one to settle for standard, Carroll Shelby decided to take the already aggressive and bold styling of the 1969 Mustang even further. New front fenders, which included functioning brake ducts, were added which terminated in a big, full-width grill and bright chrome bumper set forward of this. Some other interesting design elements were included as well such as NACA ducts on the hood, rather than the traditional raised hood scoops.
While the 1969 Shelby cars focused much more on appearance than previous years, Shelby American still managed to create a better looking as well as a better performing platform, that lived up to the reputation their previous cars had garnered. Unfortunately, however, Carroll Shelby terminated his agreement with Ford in the summer of 1969, meaning no cars were built for the 1970 model year.
To read and see more: 1969 Ford GT350-H