“You’ll have more fun in a ’57 Ford.”
This rings very true for Mark and his family, who will be creating memories in this family cruiser for years to come. Mark wanted an easy car that looked as though it would fit into a scene on American Graffiti, but what he got ended up being so much more. Now he knows he could never part with it.
“This one is a keeper. My kids helped me build it, so it was a family project. [The] sentimental value is [worth] more than the car would ever get if we sold it.”
Wide, Low and Sleek
In 1957, the Fairlane 500 was very successful, due to new proportions and more modern styling, making it the best-selling car in America, overtaking its rival Chevrolet for the first time since 1935.
The Fairlane 500 was the top-line model (others included the Custom, Custom 300 and Fairlane) and it was longer, wider, and lower by 2 inches, with a sleeker look than previous models. With a single headlight front, unmistakable long flanks, chrome trim and low tailfins, the Fairlane 500 grew quickly in popularity and is widely recognized, even today.
The name ‘Fairlane’ came from Henry Ford’s Fair Lane mansion in Michigan, and credit for the car’s popularity can be largely attributed to Henry Ford II. The popularity of the car led to it’s feature in many films and TV series of the time which has contributed to it’s ongoing recognition alongside Thunderbird and Chevrolet.
Early commercials highlighted the strength and sturdiness of the vehicle, showing an airplane pilot comparing its power to his plane. But with all the power of the V8 engine, a 1957 ‘Popular Mechanics’ survey of Ford owners showed only 6.2% ordered seat belts!
When Mark saw the Fairlane advertised on eBay in 2007 he knew he had to have it. “[I’m a] bit of a full-sized Ford man and the 4-door pillarless as well as the rear fins on the car appealed to me. I hadn’t really seen anything like it going around at the time so decided it was something I was keen to build.”
The Know-How Needed
The car was originally imported into Queensland (from the USA) in early 2004 and “went through a few Australian owners with none really knowing how to start the build. I just pulled the car apart and went from there.”
Mark’s ‘family project’ went through a full strip and rebuild. There was “no rust in the floor so [I] never took [the] body off [the] chassis, but at one point the car consisted of a roof and two rear quarter panels sitting on a chassis.”
The Fairlane Car Restoration Journey
Mark took the car back to basics, completing “a very [classic] looking rebuild.” for their family cruiser.
“Everything was taken back to metal, rust repairs completed and painted. [The] engine [was] rebuilt with mild cam and electronic ignition but otherwise [I kept it] standard. [The] cooling system [was] upgraded with a custom aluminum radiator, [and the] stereo hidden in the glove box, so the dash appears standard.” Finally, Mark added “twin 2-inch exhaust to give the car a nice note.”
The Fairlane was built as a family cruiser with black vinyl interior. The rest of the car was left with standard parts. “I have had performance [cars] in the past, but when you drive performance cars in hot weather you have overheating problems, and I didn’t want that this time. We love the car to cruise around in and listen to music.”
Mark’s family will surely be creating memories in this car for years to come – combining both nostalgia and dreams for the future. “It’s just easy… it cruises along. It has that real old-school look and feel.”
The Fairlane’s original marketing certainly rings true here, “you’ll have more fun in a ’57 Ford.”
Check out other amazing car restoration stories at Ryno.