Whats it Like to Drive a BIG AMERICAN CAR from the 1950's?
Most Expensive Ford You Could buy in 1957
The Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner was the top tier trim level for the Fairlane in 1957 that featured a new retractable folding hardtop. A new design for '57 that lasted through 1959. The Skyliner was several inches longer than a regular Fairlane 500 because it needed to hide an entire roof in the trunk giving the car an almost El Camino/Ranchero look. The car's rear-end looks like it should be selling makeup and starring on reality TV shows (Kardashian big!)
But what's it like to drive a baller whip from an era of lead based paint, Devil's rock n roll, and nuclear war paranoia?
The Ride Quality Can Out Roll a Rolls
This particular Fairlane 500 Skyliner had only 9,700 miles since being fully restored. The ride quality is better than a Rolls Royce Cullian! Because in a Rolls Royce you are constantly reminding yourself that the ride quality is suppose to be the best. It has to be! Because it cost half a million dollars and you need that BMW 7series to feel like its worth every penny.
Riding in the '57 Ford Fairlane is effortless comfort without the high expectations because its a 62 year old car. Driving this car was like sitting in a sofa surrounded by metal and chrome. Plastic seat covers made me think of grandma's house without the cookies, because nobody likes crumbs!
Yeah the interior has a symphony of squeaks and rattles but that's the way they were back in the day. There is no plastic in here just a cocktail of metals and vinyl so of course its going to make noise! A small price to pay for a ride quality that had me wondering if I could hold a full glass of wine while going over a speed bump.
Handling a 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Skyliner on the Road
The reason why we tend to call cars like this "land yachts" is because on the highway you have no feel at the wheel. NONE! There is about 3 inches of travel in the steering wheel before the car responds by wiggling its body as if it was dancing. Even in a straight line I was busy sawing at the wheel to correct the car's wandering. This car has a very passive attitude. It does not care about lap times, top speed, 0-60 times, or being practical in any way other than looking cool. However, once you get used to the Fairlane's dimensions and weight it is fun to aim this car into a turn and feel this 2 ton convertible surf along a bend on a two lane highway.
The 245 HP Thunderbird 312 cubic inch V8 under the hood sounded assertive with Captain America levels of confidence giving me all the low end torque I could ever want under 2,800RPM. I put my foot down to test its throttle reflexes, but the Ford just grunted as if to say, "I'll go when I'm good and ready! Get your boot off my gas and enjoy the ride you hooligan!" It will not do a burnout. (I checked). The car was built for cruisin at 12 miles per gallon.
The Fairlane still wore its original drum brakes all around which meant stopping distances had to be calculated. I found myself pressing down on the brakes with both feet most of the time. Pumping the brakes in an attempt to create my own ABS. I kept wondering if this car would do a handbrake turn if I had access to an airstrip to have the necessary space to get it up to speed. Maybe next time.
The WORST and BEST Thing About Driving a 1957 Ford Fairlane
The worst thing about driving this car was the fear fueled anxiety of being hit by a modern driver. A distracted driver snap chatting in a Honda CRV lip singing to whatever over-produced melody is currently playing on America's top 40. Yes, this Ford was built like a tank by people who probably drove tanks during WWII but old cars don't crash well. Basically, if that Honda CRV struck me head-on the last thing going through my mind would be the steering column followed by the V8 falling on my lap to tell me what it wants for Christmas. This is a car from an era where seat belts were an option. An option many people did not check off on a build sheet.
The best thing about driving a convertible from the 1950's is that you are officially the coolest Cat on the road. Doesn't matter if you roll up next to a new C8 Corvette or Tesla. The chrome titanic will outshine the competition making you the bigger peacock.