Life in the Fairlane

BY Larry D'Argis. Sep 09 04:00 am

In 1955, Ford fully restyled its models, but continued to offer buyers ball-joint front suspension and its new Y-Block overhead-valve V-8 engine. A new model line-up — the Fairlane — appeared in six variations, including sedan, hardtop, station wagon and the convertible. Named after Henry Ford’s mansion in Dearborn, Mich., the Fairlane was warmly greeted by buyers and sold better than any models built after production resumed following the Second World War.

For 1956, Ford decided to leave the leading-edge styling alone and concentrated on moderate style upgrades, giving the cars more flash. Also added were even higher horsepower engines to compete with other marques, a 12-volt electrical system and the introduction of new safety features. “Life-Guard” body packages included front seat belts, dished steering wheel, padded dash covers and padded sun visors, offering occupants more protection in the event of a collision.

Even with an economic recession on the horizon, Ford sales exceeded 1.3 million by the model year end. One successful sales campaign was spearheaded by then sales executive Lee A. Iacocca with the company’s $56 for a ‘56 Ford campaign. With a trade-in or modest 20 per cent down payment, buyers could pay the balance of their new Ford purchase at $56 per month over 36 months.

For Pat Fletcher of Winnipeg, the 1956 Ford’s timeless style has always screamed the ’50s. “I’ve always liked them,” Fletcher said. “My wife, Donna, and I had one in the early 1990s that was a nice car with a great ride, and that we sold to a fellow in Wisconsin in 1996.”

Last fall, Fletcher was in Mississauga at a Collector Car Productions Auction when a 1956 Fairlane Victoria hardtop was crossing the auction block. An original California car that had recently received a full frame-off restoration, the Victoria was finished in a two-tone sunset coral and colonial white, with matching vinyl interior. Fletcher said, “I was stunned when I saw it and I was drawn to it like a magnet.” The bidding started out strong, but in the end Fletcher had the last bid and the car headed to Winnipeg where it spent the winter in storage.

Power for the Victoria comes from a 312 cubic inch Thunderbird Special V-8. Fitted with a four-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust, it produces 225 horsepower at 4,600 r.p.m. and is backed by a three-speed Ford-O-Matic automatic transmission. Options include Master-Guide power steering, pushbutton AM radio, rear mount antenna, back-up lamps, windshield washers, all rolling on 15-inch Coker wide whitewall radial tires, with full wheelcovers.

Since Spring the Fletchers have enjoyed their time in their ‘56 — even though it has been relatively short. “The weather this summer has been a challenge, with a lot of rain, so we didn’t get out to as many shows as we had hoped to,” Pat Fletcher said.

Today, the mid-fifties Ford Fairlane has been a strong seller in the collector car market and continues to increase in value. Its solid construction, powerful Y-Block V-8 engine and close ties to the Thunderbird styling will ensure it stays it in the limelight for decades to come.

Tonight, the fun kicks off with the Fabulous 50s Ford Club of Manitoba as it presents the 22nd annual Flashback Weekend Sock Hop, beginning at 8 p.m. at the Transcona Country Club at 2070 Dugald Rd.

The evening features The Twilights, playing live ’50s and ’60s music, and a huge silent auction in support of the Children’s Rehabilitation Foundation. Tickets are available from club members or by calling 204-453-4871.

On Saturday the weekend fun continues with a Scenic Classic Car Cruise. The cruise departs at 2 p.m. from the Garden City Shopping Centre’s south parking lot and heads to the Half Moon Drive Inn in Lockport. Prizes, games, burgers, hot dogs and fries are all on the menu. All antique, classic and special interest vehicles are welcome.

On Sunday make sure to check out the 22nd annual Flashback Weekend Car Show at Garden City Shopping Centre (south parking lot), 2305 McPhillips St. Manitoba’s largest FREE car show, it will feature more than 1,000 vehicles. Open to all, admission is free and the show runs from noon to 5 p.m.

There are more than 30 class awards up for grabs, dash plaques for the first 500 cars, live music provided by the Russell Lee band, a jacket draw, t-shirts, 50/50 draw in support of the Children’s Rehabilitation Foundation, kids entertainment, food and drinks on site. Fun for the whole family. Following the awards the show ends with a cruise to the Pony Corral Restaurant & Bar on Grant Avenue for Sunday Cruise Night. Rain date for the show is Sept 18.

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