The Ford Fairlane is among one of the most iconic cars of the 20th century. We unpack its 15-year history and find out what made it a legend.

The Fabulous Fifties

1955 Ford Fairlane -

1955 Ford Fairlane – |  Shop Ford Fairlane on

When we think of the 1950s we immediately go to poodle skirts, drive in movies, soda fountains, and of course the classic cars that began an era of speed and style. The iconic cars of the “fabulous fifties” were some of the fastest and most beautiful up until that point, and tailfins and chrome were in no short supply.

One of those iconic, head-turning cars was the Ford Fairlane. It came along in 1955 replacing the Crestline as Ford’s premier full-size offering. Taking its name from Henry Ford’s Dearborn, Michigan Estate—Fair Lane—this new automobile featured lots of chrome and character and would go on to be the biggest competitor of the Chevrolet Bel Air.

The Fairlane Stripe

1955 Ford Fairlane - Volo Museum Auto Sales on
1955 Ford Fairlane - Volo Museum Auto Sales on

Ford produced seven generations of the Fairlane in a time when significant changes were made to models year by year. In its debut year there were six body styles offered: two-door and four-door sedans and hardtops, a two-door convertible, and a station wagon.

All models featured what everyone now knows as the chrome “Fairlane stripe,” which ran front to back creating its signature two-tone models. Notable among those models was the Crown Victoria that featured a tinted plastic roof over the front seats.

These early models were powered by a 223-cu.-in., 3.7L straight 6-cylinder, and a 272-cu.-in., 4.5L V8. Eventually there would be an optional 292-cu.-in., 4.8L Y-block, known as the Thunderbird V8.

A Monumental Year 

1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner - Streetside Classics on
1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner - Streetside Classics on

1957 was a monumental year for Ford and the Fairlane. The second generation brought a new style that gave it a wider, longer, lower, and sleeker look with low tailfins. The new design and proportions were a hit, even causing Ford to outsell Chevy for the first time since 1935. Check out our Classic Comparison: Chevy Bel Air vs Ford Fairlane where we unpack all the details of the automakers’ 1957 offerings.

If that weren’t enough, a new model, the 500 Skyliner, was introduced, bringing new innovation to the convertible world. The Skyliner featured a power-retractable hardtop that with the touch of a button hinged and folded down into the trunk space. We look at all the details of this classic in our article, The Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner: A Remarkable Original.

Welcome to the Galaxie

1959 Ford Fairlane Galaxie - Frankman Motor Company on
1959 Ford Fairlane Galaxie - Frankman Motor Company on

The ’58 Fairlane got a bigger V8 engine as well as an improved 3-speed automatic transmission. By 1959, still in its second generation, a new top-of-the-line model was introduced, the Ford Fairlane Galaxie.

The Galaxie featured Fairlane and Galaxie badging and would eventually become its own model causing the Fairlane to lose some of its allure and position in the Ford lineup. The Fairlane became the entry-level, bare bones model geared toward fleet sales to taxicab companies and police municipalities.

Goodbye, Chrome

1963 Ford Fairlane two-door sedan -
1963 Ford Fairlane two-door sedan -

The 3rd and 4th generations in the early ’60s came with more design changes and some model maneuvering in the Ford lineup. With the Galaxie being Ford’s top full-size contender, the Fairlanes moved to bridge the gap between the compact Ford Falcon and the full-sized Galaxie. Its signature chrome stripe and two-tone paint jobs were morphing into a more monochromatic look.

Hello, Unibody

1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt - RK Motors on
1964 Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt - RK Motors on

The Fairlane eventually became a unibody car like the Falcon and a torque box was added to each corner to add strength to the frame. The Fairlanes, many of which had V8 engines, benefitted from the unibody frames smoother ride and better handling.

The fourth generation Fairlane featured four different body styles: a four-door station wagon, a four-door sedan, a two-door sedan, and a two-door coupe. In the same year, Ford joined the ‘horsepower battle’ by offering the big-block 390-cubic inch V8 engine available to the full-size Fairlane lineup in 1961.

1966 Ford Fairlane 500 station wagon -
1966 Ford Fairlane 500 station wagon -

In 1964 Ford created around one hundred Fairlane Thunderbolts, which were designed for NHRA Super Stock drag racing. These cars earned the automaker the championship that year, however the production of the Thunderbolts was eventually halted due to rule changes in the NHRA that didn’t make it financially feasible for Ford to keep producing the vehicles.

The Fairlane entered its fifth generation with another design change to match the full-sized Ford Galaxie and adopted vertically stacked dual headlights only to switch back to horizontal in its sixth generation. It also grew four inches in length and gained 200 pounds and the new top-of-the line Torino became the luxury badge for Ford’s immediate lineup.

It Was a Good Run, Fairlane

1970 Ford Fairlane 500 - The Throttlestop on

1970 Ford Fairlane 500 – The Throttlestop on |  Shop Ford Fairlane on

1970 found the Fairlane in its seventh and final generation. The Fairlane name was fading away from among the classic cars of the ’60s and ’70s and only the Fairlane 500 remained as the base trim model in what essentially became the Torino series.

The Falcon name was transferred from the compact model to the lower-trim version of the intermediate platform as a “1970 ½” model, but in 1971 the Falcon and Fairlane 500 names were dropped, and all the intermediate models took on the Torino name. Much like the 1959 Ford Galaxie, the Torino went on to have its own model series from 1968-1976.

1971 Ford Torino -
1971 Ford Torino -

The Ford Fairlane had a great 15-year run, changing its identity perhaps more than any other Ford model to date. All of those changes and facelifts only helped the Fairlane gain a loyal following in its prime and still remain a highly sought after find among classic car buffs and restomod enthusiasts. Thank you, Fairlane, for your contribution to a classic car era defined by unique style and technological breakthroughs that would forever change the car industry.

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Ben Hill

Ben Hill grew up seeing his neighbor restore classic MG cars. Soon, Ben was building his own model cars. Then, in high school, he started restoring early model Ford Mustangs. The combination of art and science is what first drew Ben to the automotive industry. He appreciates the engineering and aesthetics of a well-designed vehicle. Ben earned writing recognition as a writer Kentucky Young Author of the Year. Today, he uses his bachelor of arts degree from Furman University, writing car reviews, comparisons, and about automotive financing.

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