Two Versions of Crown Victoria

The 1955-1956 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria came in two versions, with the bubbletop over the driver's compartment for $2,272, or with an all-steel roof for $2,202. Ford built 13,344 "Skyliners" for 1954, and 1999 Crown Victorias "with transparent roof" for 1955, then a mere 603 Crown Victoria "Skyliners" for 1956 (the quotes being official Ford jargon during those years).

1955 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria
"Elegant" describes this all-black 1955 Ford Fairlane
Crown Victoria featuring full-disc hubcaps and
wide whitewall tires.

The equivalent Mercury Sun Valley first appeared in 1954, and sold 9,761 copies. Little known is that there were also 1,787 Sun Valleys built with the Plexiglas roof for 1955. While the Merc carried the same body code as the 1955 and 1956 Ford Crown Victoria, the glass top was somewhat larger than Ford's, and there was no tiara. It has also been rumored that one or two 1956 Mercury Sun Valleys were produced, but none have ever surfaced.

While not expensive -- only $70 more for a 1955 Ford Crown Victoria with the Plexiglas top -- it wasn't a very brilliant idea as it cooked the passengers on even mildly warm, sunny days, and was intolerable in the Southwest. The top had a neutral blue-green tint that theoretically filtered out 60 percent of the sun's heat rays and 72 percent of the glare, to further keep out heat and glare. Ford added a nylon headliner that zippered in place. While optional on the Skyliner late in 1954, it was standard on the 1955-1956 Crown Vics. But, of course, it made little sense to order the see-through top only to zipper it up.

Little wonder that the bubbletop bombed in the showrooms, and soon after on used car lots. None of these models survived into the 1957 model year. Even today, cars so equipped do not demand near the prices that their sheer novelty would indicate.

What really knocked the public off its pastel pink socks in 1955 was the entirely new Fairlane series, which included two-and four-door sedans, Victoria hardtop coupe, the two versions of the Crown Victoria, and a Sunliner convertible. Total 1955 Ford Fairlane production was 626,250 units, or about 45 percent of total 1955 Ford production. The number of Crown Vics was 33,165, plus 1999 Skyliner versions. Victoria production, at 113,372, underscored a public preference for Ford's traditional hardtop, which had been around since 1951. In 1955, this model listed for $107 less than the Crown.

The 1955 Ford body, with its GM gold-fish-bowl windshield (nearly 1,100 square inches), wasn't as new as it looked. It was really an extremely clever rework of a now four-year-old body structure with the inner panels and framing changing very little. Ford had spent so much money correcting its 1949-1951 body mistakes with the all-new 1952 that the firm wasn't about to do it all over again for 1955-1956 -- nor was there really any need to.

While steel reinforced, the Crown's tiara was not a roll bar. Strength came from the standard frame of the Ford Victoria hardtop. All 1955 Ford frames were much altered from 1954 with a lower center section and more kickup at both ends. Sedans and wagons had a K-shaped center cross-member, but the convertible, Victoria, and Crown Victoria chassis got extra stiffness via an X-shaped support.

Ford's ball-joint front suspension -- introduced on the 1952 Lincoln and 1954 Ford and Mercury -- boasted a number of improvements for 1955, the most significant of which was angling the front wheel spindles forward by three degrees. This resulted in what was hyped as "Angle-Poised Ride," claimed to reduce road shock transmitted into the passenger compartment by some 15 percent.

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