Only in 1959 would this be considered the most conservative mainstream automotive choice. But in a field that offered the last of the Suddenly, It’s 1960! Plymouths and the Batwing Chevrolet, the Full sized Fords found themselves in a similar position to the 1957 Chevrolet.
They came to the market upright, with most of the teething problems from previous seasons mostly filtered out. In the year reeling from a decade of even more debaucherous vehicular access (some of them still in the Ford Extended Family showrooms), the 1959 Ford was an automotive Alka-seltzer that would wind up walking away with the ultimate sales prize by the end of the year.
This is all the more hilarious considering how glittery these cars actually are in hindsight. The face of the 1959 Ford full-size offerings is only ever so slightly more restrained than the face of the much maligned “Airborne” 1958 Buick.
True, it wasn’t as extreme as the canted headlamps that graced the 1959 Buick or Dearborn’s own 1958-60 Lincoln automobiles. The still upright greenhouse still allowed for less struggles with entry and exit and less clever “solutions” with floorplan placement. The basic design isn’t festooned with extreme fins like its two historic rivals.
Within those constraints thought, there’s still plenty of the brightwork that was the hallmark of American Automotive tastes at the turn of the decade.
Although this particular example sports some after market trim, enough of the standard trim makes for a study in convoluted shapes on a standard box with random bulges.
Compromises to shifting vehicular shape tastes and holding some semblance of continuity was the balance the 1959 Ford sought out. Huge afterburner tail lamps would remain a Ford staple well into the 1960s, but light and airy greenhouses were soon to be a thing of the past. In actuality the Fairlane 500 got dethroned as the ultimate standard Ford a few months after going on sale. A Thunderbird inspired blind C-Pillar was grafted to the body to create the faux-luxury trend setting Galaxie series, leading to advertisements declaring the 1959 Fords The World’s Most Beautifully Proportioned Cars.
Whether that was true is a matter of taste, but buyers found these Fords a smidge more tasteful than Chevrolet offerings this year. The ultimate irony is that this winner for Dearborn was totally tossed out on the trash heap for a very dramatic, befinned, 1960 Full Sized Ford that had far less appeal. A number of Ford fans actually deflected to the new, smaller Falcon, taking a healthy chunk of profitable large, well optioned Ford sales away from the flashy, if less chrome slathered 1960 models.
Engineering didn’t move as much as the rapid changes on the surface. There was still the “O-Matic” family of transmissions doing the thankless job of shifting for you without much question. There was still the variety of Mileage Maker Inline Six, Y-Block and FE block V8s that didn’t rev as freely or induce as much excitement as the small and big blocks at Chevy and Plymouth.
All in all, Ford went for a cushy staid standard that sought not to offend potential buyers. In high irony, Ford sought to make their big sedans, when well outfitted, much the epitome of the big sloth like marshmallow that the 1958 Buick actually was.
Perhaps that’s the point of success; not that the 1959 Ford was all that conservative or restrained, but that it offered a well assembled example of kitsch available at mainstream prices far south of the most gaudy of medium priced cars. It was a formula that worked for the 1958 Chevrolets, albeit, with their relative newness, without the solidity of a time tested platform.
How history interprets this mid century miracle of happenstance is a curious one. But one cannot deny that once upon a time, this buxom beast is what won the hearts of the majority in 1959, for better or worse.