MotorCities National Heritage Area
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By Robert Tate, Automotive Historian and Researcher
Images courtesy of the Ford Motor Company Archives
Published 12.4.2019

1959 Ford four door promotional shot Ford Motor Company Archives 1 RESIZED1959 Ford four door promotional shot (Ford Motor Company Archives)

The 1959 Ford models became popular designs when introduced in the fall of 1958. At that time, most consumers admired their great styling features. As a young kid, I still can remember seeing many 1959 Fords parked on Detroit neighborhood streets in 1969, ten years later.

The Ford division had a record year in sales in 1959. However, Skyliner model sales had slumped to 12,915 units, a three-year low, resulting in it being dropped from Ford’s lineup.

1959 Ford identified as the 50 millionth made Ford Motor Company Archives 21959 Ford identified as the 50 millionth made (Ford Motor Company Archives)

For the 1959 model year, Ford went to a single chassis, moving all its customs and station wagons to the Fairlane’s longer 118-inch wheelbase. Joe Oros, one of Ford’s great designers, was very involved with styling for the 1959 Ford models.

One of the main attractions for Ford in 1959 was the Thunderbird styling theme, used on the hardtop roof of the new Galaxie series. The Galaxie models were well-received, and many consumers enjoyed the styling. They offered new squared-off body panels and a changed inner structure.

1959 Ford Galaxie ad Ford Motor Company Archives 31959 Ford Galaxie ad (Ford Motor Company Archives)

The milestone 50 millionth Ford was introduced at the Ford Rotunda, along with one of the company’s first cars, a 1903 Model A, along with the futuristic “Levacar.” Company President Henry Ford, II announced that all three vehicles would go on a coast-to-coast publicity tour. I believe that the 1959 Ford Galaxie model that was a part of this display still exists.

1959 Ford advertising Ford Motor Company Archives 4 RESIZED1959 Ford advertising (Ford Motor Company Archives)

Interestingly, the 1959 Ford models received an award at the Brussels World’s Fair for styling elegance. Automotive historian and author Lorin Sorensen said, “Ford’s 1959 styling garnered the plaudits of the noted fashion authority, the Comite Francais de l’Elegance, which for the first time in history, bestowed a gold medal for styling on an American automobile at the close of the Brussels international exposition.”

1959 Ford Polica Car ad ford Motor Company Archives 51959 Ford Polica Car ad (Ford Motor Company Archives)

So, the 1959 Ford models were great looking cars. From an engineering standpoint, the 1959 Fords introduced a new two-speed automatic transmission as standard on many models, however, the previous three-speed version remained available on some models. The 1959 Galaxie Skyliner Retractable Hardtop was the most expensive model in Ford’s lineup, priced at $3,350, except for the 1959 Thunderbird convertible at $3,980. Ford’s advertising called the Ford Galaxie models the “Glamour Car of the Year.”

1959 Ford convertible demonstrating retractable top Ford Motor Company Archives 6 RESIZED1959 Ford convertible demonstrating retractable top (Ford Motor Company Archives)

Ford offered many other popular nameplates in 1959, including the Fairlane series and Custom 300 series, as well as the station wagons and the popular Ford Ranchero models -- which many consumers thoroughly admired. The 1959 Galaxie Town Victoria models had an interesting trim piece added on the rear door that entirely changed the appearance of the door area and styling. Finally, 1959 Ford models were also marketed for use as police vehicles and taxicabs as well.

1959 Ford convertible Ford Motor Company Archives 7 RESIZED1959 Ford convertible (Ford Motor Company Archives)

During the 1950s, station wagon models were at the height of their popularity. In 1959, Ford introduced five different models from the two-door Ranch wagon to the top of the line Country Sedan series.

In conclusion, the 1959 Ford models were very popular vehicles, and most consumers enjoyed their automotive styling. Personally, I remember in 1969 when our neighbor, Mr. Morris, traded his 1959 Ford Fairlane in for a 1969 Ford Falcon four-door sedan. I still have many fond memories of helping him wash his 1959 Ford, and he would sometimes even let me sit behind the steering wheel when the vehicle was in park.

1959 Ford station wagon Ford Motor Company Archives 8 RESIZED1959 Ford station wagon (Ford Motor Company Archives)

 

Bibliography

Sorensen, Lorin. “Ford’s Golden Fifties All the best from Henry II.” Silverado Publishing Company, 1997.

Dammann, George H. “Illustrated History of Ford.” Crestline Publishing, 1970.

Godshall, Jeffrey & the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide. “Designing America’s Cars the 50s from Drawing Board to Driveway.” Publications International, 2005.