1950-1959 Ford Country Squire

The era of the wood-bodied station wagon was just about over when Ford made an important change to its family hauler and gave it a new name -- the Ford Country Squire. Then, when all-steel wagons became the norm, the Country Squire kept alive memories of the past, mixing postmodernism and practicality.

Classic Cars Image Gallery

1950 Ford Country Squire
When Ford added a fold-away middle seat to its
station wagon in mid 1950, it began advertising
the two-door, eight-seat car as the Country Squire. See more classic car pictures.

It was in January 1991 that many automotive journalists got their first look at the 1992 Ford Crown Victoria. At the time, they were told that production of the full-size 1991 Ford would end that February.

The new design was offered in just one body style, a four-door sedan. Noticeably absent was a model that had become something of an American icon over more than 40 model years: the Country Squire station wagon.

Long before the minivan was a twinkle in any Detroit product planner's eye, the Ford Country Squire established itself as the archetype of a new kind of status symbol. Perhaps no other name was as synonymous with that chariot of "baby boom" suburbia, the station wagon.

The Country Squire reached this level of fame by the curious trick of making a seeming virtue of the very thing that had previously held down wagon sales: the expensive, maintenance-intensive wood body.

At the start of the 1950s, automakers were rushing all-steel station wagons to market, cars without so much as a matchstick's worth of wood on them as a clear signal to customers that "all that" was a thing of the past. Ford, too, was preparing to embrace the new trend.

But just as the last of the genuine "woodies" was about to depart the scene, Ford brought out a wagon decorated with big swatches of simulated wood. Reserved for its plushest and most-expensive hauler, the look preserved the old image of the wagon as plaything for the leisure class but with no loss of modern convenience. Plus, Ford kept at it year after year.

As the consistent leader in the wagon market, its successes were bound to be imitated by rivals. In time, most every other brand that offered wagons had one with woodgrain decals on its sides. (Ford even copied itself, putting the Country Squire touch -- and name -- on station wagons it brought out as part of new car lines introduced in following decades.)

Find a brief history lesson on Ford station wagons in the next section.

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Station wagons dated to the dawn of motoring, where they were also referred to as cargo wagons and depot hacks. They generally featured aftermarket bodies mounted on a car or light-truck chassis and were primarily used for what their name implied: going to a railway station to fetch passengers or cargo and delivering them to a customer, a business, a luxury resort, or hotel.

Ford produced its first factory-built station wagon -- basically a wooden box with four doors -- with the 1929 Model A. Those first Ford station wagons were effectively marketed as light-duty commercial vehicles.

1951 Ford Country Squire rear view
Early station wagons were marketed as
light-duty commercial vehicles, with plenty of
cargo space for hauling goods.

Other manufacturers soon followed Ford's lead, and the idea of factory-authorized wagons gradually caught on. Amid the tough economic times of the 1930s, Ford became the sales leader in this new market niche.
Still, production never amounted to much more than a footnote in overall output, even at Ford.

Early haulers were often drafty, always creaking, and combined with the normal external road noise, made for a less than peaceful journey. On top of this, ride and seating comfort often left much to be desired.

Then, too, wagons often were the costliest cars in the lineup, and the bodies required time-consuming upkeep. A few comfort and convenience improvements were made little by little, but by in large, station wagon construction methods remained unchanged through the early post-World War II years.

After the war, growing families started to look to station wagons as the perfect answer to being able to get mom, dad, Fido, and the kids from point "A" to point "B" in just one load. As early as 1947, Ford began promoting the station wagon as a "Family Utility" vehicle, offering suggestions in its advertising for different seating and cargo-carrying arrangements. However, it would take a new generation of Ford cars before people would begin heeding those notions in considerable numbers.

Ford's first all-new postwar car was planned for the 1949 model year. For a company struggling to right itself after years of turning out increasingly antiquated products, the success of the 1949 was crucial, and the path to its creation was difficult.

Initial thinking for a postwar Ford was scrapped in 1946 and a new design program hurriedly begun. But one concept managed to survive fairly well intact, a two-door metal-and-wood station wagon that chief stylist Eugene Gregorie had thought up and Ross Cousins had rendered in 1944. It was in this design that the Country Squire got its start.

The new wagon body was to be shared with Mercury. Indeed, it would go on to serve both makes in the 1949-1951 period. In an effort to give the station wagon its hoped-for quiet ride, Ford started with a steel body capped by a solid metal roof. This acted as a framework into which were set mahogany plywood panels edged in maple or birch (harvested from Ford's own forests) that had a light golden finish.

The tailgate was constructed entirely from wood. It worked in unison with the upper liftgate, a stamped metal framing that held two glass panes. The result was what Ford described as a "traditional station wagon appearance."

The steel bodies were assembled in Dearborn, then shipped to Ford's Iron Mountain facility in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. There, they were painted and made ready for the mounting of the wood trim, which required an extensive process of bonding and pressing thin layers of wood to form the specially shaped framing pieces. Once completed at Iron Mountain, the bodies were carefully wrapped for shipment to various assembly plants around the country.

Like other 1949 Fords, the station wagon shared in the groundbreaking (for Ford Motor Company) shift to independent coil-spring front suspension, Hotchkiss drive, and longitudinal rear leaf springs that delivered more modern ride and handling characteristics.

The new Fords were introduced in June 1948. Their contemporary slab-sided styling and many improvements were well received. During an 18-month selling season (production ran through December 1949), Ford produced 1.1 million cars, 31,412 of them station wagons. In the roughly 18 months the prewar-style 1947 and 1948 Fords were on sale, 25,016 of the boxy, four-door "woody" were run off.

With the concept of the station wagon well proven, Ford enters 1950 with the Country Squire. Learn more on the next page.

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Sales brochures proclaimed that the 1950 Ford station wagon was "50 Ways Finer." Some of the improvements were extremely minor, but given the success of the 1949 model, they could afford to be.

The station wagon incorporated many of the engineering refinements and minor styling alterations ordained for the 1950 model year, but otherwise, it picked up pretty much where the previous year's wagon left off.

1951 Ford Country Squire side view
Starting in 1950, the lower tailgate on the Ford
Country Squire was metal, despite its "woody" look.

At introduction time, the car was advertised as the Custom DeLuxe station wagon, a member of Ford's top-rung model range. But come spring, advertisements began touting "The new Ford 'Country Squire' station wagon" (though the name did not appear anywhere on the car).

This move toward giving the Ford wagon a separate identity had a little more going for it than just a copywriter's whim. The debut of the name accompanied an important change in the car.

Up to then, station wagons had a fixed front seat, plus middle and rear seats that had to be unbolted and removed when more cargo space was needed. This obviously took time and limited passenger capacity until the seats could be reinstalled.

With the Country Squire, Ford switched to a fold-down center-seat arrangement. To attain the largest possible floor space, the third-row seat still had to be fully removed, albeit without the use of tools. Then, the middle-row seat cushion was pivoted on its base and rotated forward before the seatback was lowered to fill the gap. (Ford claimed the whole process took less than three minutes to complete.)

With the seats laid flat and the tailgate lowered, a linoleum-covered cargo floor 109 inches long was achieved. Maximum width was 62.5 inches, but there was a loss of a full 18 inches around the rear wheelhouses. The Country Squire could hold up to eight people, the same as before the switch.

Like most other 1950 Fords, the Country Squire was available with a choice of standard 95-horsepower 226-cid inline six-cylinder engine or an optional 100-horsepower V-8, both L-heads. The only transmission choice was a three-speed manual, but it could be ordered with extra-cost overdrive.

Among the 50 improvements Ford claimed for the year were alterations that made the V-8 run quieter, a new torsional stabilizer for the front suspension, and an upgraded steering linkage.

Station wagon buyers had nine paint colors from which to choose, which brightened up the outside of the Country Squire, but little was done for the passenger compartment, continuing with the tan leather and vinyl seating arrangements as seen in the year before.

Upholstery wasn't the only thing that separated the station wagon from other Ford passenger cars. Rear springs had two additional leaves, rear-wheel track was wider, the brake-lining area was greater, a 19-gallon fuel tank replaced the 16-gallon tank seen in sedans, final-drive ratios (3.92:1 standard, 4.27:1 with overdrive) were more aggressive, and wider 7.10×15 six-ply tires were used.

Prices actually fell for the 1950 model year, dropping to a starting price of $2,107 with the V-8. Then, too, the price difference between the V-8 and six had been reduced, allowing the economically equipped Country Squire to promote a base price of $2,028.

There were a few other changes that helped keep down the tab for Ford's most expensive model. At the start of the model year, the tailgate-mounted spare tire was left to face the elements as the painted metal cover used in 1949 was deleted.

In April 1950, a running production change brought in a painted stamped-metal tailgate to replace the wooden unit. Also, the bright molding around the windshield was replaced by a plain rubber seal.

Ford had good reasons to cut costs. Like a slingshot, demand for the all-steel four-door wagon from Chevrolet far surpassed Ford by more than 7-to-1 for 1950. On top of it all, the six-cylinder Chevy DeLuxe Styleline wagon was listed at $1,994. Plymouth, too, was posing problems with its metal-bodied two-door Suburban, which debuted in 1949. A fancier Special version was added for 1950; together they accounted for 34,457 sales. (Plymouth also ran off 2,057 of its last four-door wood-body wagons.)

Model-year production of the Ford station wagon fell to 22,929, although that was in a more normal 12-month selling season. But despite seeing an actual monthly increase in production, the station wagon accounted for about 1.9 percent of Ford's total output for the model year because gains for the other Ford models had been more dramatic.

See what improvements Ford made to the 1951 Country Squire on the next page.

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With Ford locked into a three-year body-shell rotation, exterior changes for the 1951 Country Squire were headed by a "dual-spinner" grille design in place of the former central spinner. The hood ornament and bumper guards were new, and deep headlight bezels gave the lamps a recessed look.

While all other 1951 Fords received a splashy new dash and instruments, the Squire had to make do with a slightly retrimmed recycling of the 1950 design. It did accept the new steering wheel with delta-wing hub, though.

1951 Ford Country Squire interior view
All other 1951 Fords got a flashy new dashboard,
but the Country Squire made do with a wood-toned
version of the previous year's panel.

Engines got a waterproof ignition system and steps were taken to quiet the six, but horsepower was unchanged. The big powertrain news was in the transmission department.

Starting in February 1951, Fords could be ordered with the Ford-O-Matic three-speed automatic transmission developed by Borg-Warner. This $164 option was declared by many to be the best "clutchless" shifter on the market, but very few wagon buyers selected this item; it's estimated that fewer than 2,000 units were installed.

Other linewide improvements for the 1951 Ford Country Squire included "Automatic Posture Control" -- a front seat that raised when pulled forward and lowered when pushed back -- and "Automatic Ride Control" that included new shackles for the variable-rate rear springs and self-regulating shock absorbers.

Another major change was directed at cutting costs. Complete station wagon bodies had been coming from the Iron Mountain facility since the late 1930s -- and preshaped wagon-body parts even earlier than that. However, for 1951, Ford turned to the Ionia Body Company to build both Country Squire and Mercury station wagon bodies.

Ionia had long experience turning out woody wagons for General Motors. It was simply cheaper to outsource the labor-intensive work to a company set up to do exactly this kind of job.

An entirely new type of Ford station wagon was in the wings. As such, 1951 proved to be the end of an era at Ford. Never again would its wagons have wood sections integral to the body construction.

While Ford's total production was down this year by approximately 100,000 cars, Country Squire orders rose to 29,017 units. That was good enough to surpass Chevrolet, which witnessed a dramatic decrease in wagon sales to 23,586 for the year. (Plymouth production figures were combined for 1951-1952 and it's unknown how many of its 76,520 wagons from this period were from a specific year.)

Check out the next section for details on the 1952 Ford Country Squire.

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Beginning in 1952, the Country Squire would be a Ford station wagon, not the Ford station wagon. That's because there were now three of them, all with steel bodies: the two-door, six-passenger Ranch Wagon; the four-door, eight-passenger Country Sedan; and the four-door, eight-seat Squire. Respectively, they each brought a wagon to the Mainline, Customline, and Crestline series that replaced the former DeLuxe and Custom.

The completely redesigned 1952 Fords were new from nose to tail. Up front, the single-spinner theme returned to the grille, accompanied by headlights mounted in body-color rings that projected from the fenders. Between them sat a flatter hood. At the rear were protruding round "jet-ray" taillights -- a touch destined to be used in one form or another on Fords into the mid 1970s.

1952 Ford Country Squire front view
Di-Noc panels now simulated the look of wood
for the 1952 Ford Country Squire.

One design element that might have seemed like a step back was the addition of a raised accent panel on the rear quarters (and rear doors of four-door models) to simulate fenders in the otherwise slab-sided body. All models sported a broad "Curva-Lite" one-piece windshield and shared a 115-inch wheelbase that was an inch longer than in previous years.

Once the basic design of the two- and four-door sedans had been established, there was a question of what to do for the station wagons. The answer came from the Body Development Studio under the direction of Gordon Buehrig, the onetime Cord designer who came to Ford in 1949.

With the goal of maximum interchangeability of parts with the sedans, Buehrig's small team took the basic shape and added an elongated one-piece roof. An ingenious counterbalanced hinge system combined with a pair of scissor-type hinges automatically locked the liftgate in its upright position.

The fold-down tailgate was also easily put into position and everything was operated by means of a simple pushbutton handle. The spare tire was moved inside and out of the way under a panel in the cargo floor.

1952 Ford Country Squire
A tan-and-brown interior
color combo was the only
choice for the 1952 Squire.

The Country Sedan and Country Squire were identical in many ways, right down to their shared use of "smart new Mahogany and Milan Straw" vinyl upholstery. But where the Country Sedan had Customline-style chrome trim on its sides, the Squire instead boldy invoked the woody look most of the rest of Detroit was desperately seeking to abandon.

Specially developed Di-Noc woodgrain transfers simulated a rich, grained mahogany effect in an area from just ahead of the front doors to the rear quarters and on the tailgate. These areas and the lower-body accent line were edged in real wood -- preshaped and laminated birch and maple.

In addition, a simulated light-wood finish was also applied to the side window frames and the liftgate. Except for the genuine wood accent trim, which would be replaced soon enough, the "modern" Country Squire was born.

Wagons measured just under 198 inches from bumper to bumper, making them a full 10 inches shorter than their predecessor. Unfortunately, this reduction affected interior capacity; in the four-door models, full load length to the tailgate was down to 102.4 inches. Maximum interior width also suffered a 3.5-inch loss.

Rear tread was reduced to the same 56 inches seen on all other Ford passenger cars. At 74.3 inches, the Country Squire was fractionally wider than other Fords due to its side trim.

While the Country Sedan was offered in a full spectrum of 10 factory colors and three two-tone combinations, the Country Squire was limited to just six solid shades specially selected to complement the woody look.

This year, wagons shared the same new dash design as other Fords, meaning they were finally able to offer key starting, a feature that had debuted on coupes and sedans in 1951. Suspended brake and clutch pedals were another new feature found in Ford interiors.

Ford trotted out an all-new 101-horsepower ohv six for 1952, but it wasn't available in four-door wagons. Their lone engine was the Strato-Star V-8, effectively the same 239-cid flathead as before, but now advertised as producing 110 horsepower thanks to a compression boost. Three-speed and overdrive-equipped wagons got new axle ratios, again higher numerically than in other Fords.

The broadening of choice did wonders for Ford station wagon sales. Production shot up to 49,919, but two-thirds of that was sown up by the price-leading Ranch Wagon. Of the remainder, just 5,426 were top-end Country Squires, still the most expensive Fords. Their $126 premium over fundamentally identical Country Sedans might have given some shoppers pause -- for the time being.

Find out about the 1953 Ford Country Squire in the next section.

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The little-changed 1953 Ford Country Squires fared even better than the 1952 model. With the "police action" in Korea starting to wind down, all government restrictions on raw materials had been lifted by that February. This meant formerly restricted production schedules could be boosted to meet customer demand for new cars.

1953 Ford Country Squire rear view
A cosmetic update for 1953 included
a revised grille and taillights.

Overall model-year production of Fords shot up to more than 1.2 million. Orders for the Ford Country Sedan more than tripled from 1952, and the Ford Ranch Wagon and Ford Country Squire both did better than twice the business they had the year before, the last accounting for 11,001 deliveries.

Styling changes for 1953 Fords were minimal. The most obvious was a simplified horizontal grille bar featuring a bullet-shaped central "spinner." New rectangular parking lights were placed at the lower corners of the grille opening and taillight-lens diameter was increased.

To mark Ford Motor Company's 50th anniversary, every passenger car received a special commemorative steering-wheel-hub button. Armrests were added to the rear doors of Country Sedans and Country Squires. Power steering was a new midseason option for V-8 models.

To the casual eye, the 1954 Fords certainly looked like direct continuations of the 1953s. The basic body shells were the same as in the previous two seasons, with the obligatory grille and trim alterations. Under the skin, though, there were numerous significant improvements that would have more in common with Fords yet to come. Find out more about them on the next page.

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The major engineering story for the 1954 Ford Country Squire was the demise of the venerable flathead engine in U.S.-market cars. (Canadian Fords persisted with the L-head V-8 for 1954.)

Its successor, a modern ohv "Y-block" V-8, displaced the same 239 cubic inches but was vastly superior to the old design, producing an honest 130 horsepower at 4,200 rpm. Meanwhile, the Mileage Maker Six was bored out to 223 cid. With the extra displacement and a slight compression hike, it was boosted to 115 horsepower.

1954 Ford Country Squire front view
The 1952-vintage design of the Country Squire was
carried over into 1954, again with another new grille.

Ford's chief engineer, Earle S. MacPherson, had been unhappy with his car's antiquated king-pin front suspension. Frequent lubrication and adjustments were needed, and harsh steering was the rule of the day on rough roads.

MacPherson's solution -- first used in the 1952 Lincolns but now extended to the Ford -- was a revolutionary ball-joint system combined with coil springs that made steering smoother and easier to manage. With sealed fittings, less-frequent servicing was required, too. Wheelbase was nudged out to 115.5 inches.

Inside, an "Astra-Dial" speedometer sat atop a new dashboard design. The back of the semicircular speedo was a window that let in light by which the numbers could be read by day. Below it was a broad, bright panel with an engine-turned surface that contained other gauges and controls. Oil pressure and generator function were now monitored by red warning indicators -- "idiot lights."

The 1954 Country Squire incorporated all these changes and more. Fiberglass was coming to the fore in the auto industry, most notably serving as the body material for the Chevrolet Corvette and Kaiser Darrin sports cars. Ford found this durable material a very cost-effective alternative to the real-wood framing that had graced the 1952 and 1953 Country Squires. Covered with a maple-grain transfer, this new material saved time in manufacturing and cut installation and replacement costs.

The Squire continued to share interior trims with the Country Sedan, but the single color scheme of the past was out in favor of a choice of colors. Woven-plastic upholstery in either blue-and-white, green-and-white, or red was now available, keyed to the exterior paint. In the case of the Country Squire, that amounted to a choice of 12 hues.

Given the increased horsepower of the Mileage Maker Six, it was made standard for all 1954 Fords in order to rein in base prices. For the Country Squire, this meant that its starting price dropped to $2,339. The new V-8 was a $76 add-on. Other notable new options available for the Squire included power brakes ($41) and a four-way power front seat ($64).

1954 Ford Country Squire side view
Until 1953, the light trim on the sides and tailgate of
Country Squires had been real wood,
but starting in 1954, the trim was made of
fiberglass covered by a maple-grain transfer.

Nineteen fifty-four was the year of the great Ford/Chevrolet sales-supremacy war -- waged to a standoff, it turned out, with Ford triumphing for the model year and Chevy posting the best calendar-year results. Station wagons were in the front lines of the battle. (Ford even called up reinforcements, adding a Customline Ranch Wagon as a two-door companion to the Country Sedan. By 1956, Ford was offering six wagons in different trim, door, and seating configurations.)

With the spread of prosperous, growing families, wagons were finding a larger audience than ever. In the 1954 model year, of the 1,165,942 passenger cars that came off Ford assembly lines, 141,582 of them -- 12.1 percent -- were station wagons, including 12,797 Country Squires.

Check out the next section for details on the 1955 and 1956 Country Squires.

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While Ford's biggest news for 1955 was the birth of the sporty, "personal" Thunderbird two-seater, the company's dependable profit makers usually had four doors and perhaps a tailgate. All 1955 Ford passenger cars had radically updated sheetmetal that completely disguised the fact that down deep, these were carryovers of the 1952-1954 cars.

The most drastic change to 1955 Ford station wagons was a switch to a full wraparound windshield with vertical A-pillars. Up front, an anodized aluminum grille with a concave check pattern was flanked by a large pod on each end that housed the parking lights and turn indicators. Headlamps were more deeply hooded.

1955 Ford Country Squire side view
The new look presented on the 1955 Fords extended
to the Country Squire, which adopted a new
"plank" look for its simulated wood trim.

At the rear, "Jet-Tube" taillights grew a little larger in diameter and moved a little further down the body. The Astra-Dial speedometer was retained, but it was perched on a fully redesigned instrument panel. Fords were still offered in three trim levels, but the Fairlane series replaced the Crestline at the top.

To better meet new V-8 competition from Chevrolet and Plymouth, Ford enlarged its Y-block engine to 272 cid, good for 162 horsepower in its base form or 182 horsepower with a four-barrel carburetor and dual exhaust.

Also available to Fairlanes and station wagons was the 292-cid, 198-horsepower Thunderbird V-8. The standard six saw its horsepower rating climb to 120 thanks to a slight compression boost. Transmission offerings were the same, but Ford-O-Matic now incorporated the capacity for low-gear starts.

Though they wore external trim that matched the sedans and coupes, Ford station wagons were now grouped in their own series. At 197.6 inches long, they were about a half-inch shorter than previously, while height was reduced by a bit more than 1.5 inches when carrying a normal load. Interior dimensions for carrying cargo stretched out to 104.9 inches in four-door models and to 60.5 inches across at the widest point behind the front seat.

The 1955 Country Squire was distinguished by revised faux wood side trim. An interesting "planking" effect was added to the Di-Noc appliqué that gave the top-line Ford wagon the appearance of a wooden speed boat, the owners of which the company probably wouldn't have minded seeing lining up to buy Squires. The fiberglass framing encompassed a larger area, and a finger of it projected toward the front of the car.

The three returning interior color combinations from 1954 were joined by an all-vinyl ensemble of white bolsters and trim with vertically pleated red inserts. For added convenience, power windows could now be ordered for four-door wagons.

Only the new little Thunderbird had a higher starting price tag than Ford's 1955 station wagons, which topped out at $2,492 for a Country Squire with the basic V-8. Customers were flocking to Ford dealerships in record numbers to buy wagons, securing the marque's title as the wagon master.

Four-door wagons were rapidly gaining popularity, outselling Ranch Wagons for the first time. Chevrolet surged back ahead in overall model-year sales in this banner year for the industry. Still, Ford produced 209,459 station wagons to 161,856 for Chevy, its closest competitor. Country Squire assemblies rose to 19,011.

1956 Ford Country Squire side view
Demand for the Country Squire rose to 23,221 units
in 1956, even though the base price had
crossed the $2,500 line.

Even though total Ford car production figures retreated for 1956, station wagon output was up by about 5,000 units, meaning wagons now represented more than 15 percent of Ford's business. The 1956 Country Squire saw a solid increase in numbers, with 23,221 coming off the assembly lines (despite price increases that put even a six-cylinder Squire over the $2,500 mark). In just two years, while demand for all Ford wagons grew by 51 percent, Country Squire orders rose 81 percent.

Safety was made a selling point of 1956 Fords. "Lifeguard design" featured improved double-grip door latches and a force-resisting dished steering wheel. For even more security, shoppers could order optional seat belts and padding for the sun visors and dash top.

1956 Ford Country Squire engine view
The base V-8 in Ford
station wagons was now
a 292-cid mill.

There was more power, too. For starters,
the six newly came in at 137 horsepower. Wagon buyers who wanted a V-8 now got nothing less than the 292-cube job, where horsepower stood at an even 200 (202 when equipped with Ford-O-Matic). Available only by special order was the new 312-cid "Thunderbird Interceptor" V-8 at 215 horses with a stick shift or 225 with an automatic.

Even electrical power was more abundant. Keeping up with the rest of the industry, Ford switched to a 12-volt system. That made it possible for factory air conditioning to join the options list. Key details of the year's styling facelift were a grille mesh made up of large rectangles, horizontal parking lights, and an instrument panel with round gauges clustered under an arched hood.

Learn about the 1957 Ford Country Squire in the next section.

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Aware that the market was ever-changing, Ford embraced a dramatic restyling from the ground up for 1957. The Country Squire and the rest of the station wagon family were not overlooked.

Wraparound windshields made use of a reverse-canted A-pillar, while the side-glass area was larger and allowed for better vision. A wider, curved liftgate was employed, and for the first time, two- and four-door wagons had equal amounts of load capacity as all portions of the middle seats now folded flat. The rear seat in the Country Squire and three-seat Country Sedan still had to be removed when not needed, but when in use, both wagons now held nine passengers.

1957 Ford Country Squire
A new frame design accompanied the totally restyled
1957 Ford models, including the Country Squire.

A modified version of the 1955-56 Country Squire's fiberglass framing was employed, but the wood-toned Di-Noc shed the horizontal plank look. Side-window frames and the upper tailgate continued to copy the look of wood grain.

Inside, the Country Squire featured four interior color combinations, again shared with the related Country Sedan: blue or tan "Silver Tweed" woven plastic with white vinyl bolsters, or all-vinyl in dark green-and-white or red-and-white pleated patterns. The new instrument panel featured a contrast-color band through the middle and a fan-type speedometer with fuel and coolant temperature gauges built into the ends.

Ford really offered two kinds of cars in 1957. The Fairlane and new Fairlane 500 rode a 118-inch wheelbase and sprouted bold blade tailfins that rose out of the midsection of the car. Custom/Custom 300 sedans and the station wagons shared a 116-inch wheelbase and more-modest fins.

The bumper-to-bumper measurement of wagons grew by more than five inches to 203.5. Height was cut to 58.9 inches on nine-passenger wagons, 58.7 on six-seaters. Contributing to these decreases were the use of smaller-diameter 14-inch wheels and a new "cowbelly" frame. The latter's underslung cross-members and bowed-out side rails allowed floor pans to nestle in between and lower the car.

Other new chassis features included revised ball-joint front suspension and outboard-mounted rear springs. Wagons used an extra sixth leaf in the rear springs, and nine-seaters rolled on wider 8.00 × 14 tires.

One benefit of the new measurements was increased wagon load capacity. With the tailgate lowered and the center seats folded, a 106.5-inch-long cargo area was realized. (Ford claimed 34 square feet of floor space.)

1957 Ford Country Squire rear view
The upper liftgate of the 1957 Country Squire
now wrapped around to the sides of the car.

One area that did see a reduction was the floor-to-roof measurement, which dropped from 37.4 inches to 34.6. A two-stage latch now served to unlock both the liftgate and tailgate, and a new type of hinge allowed the tailgate to open fully flat. (One-piece tailgates with a retractable rear window were starting to come into wider use, especially among the Chrysler Corporation makes, but Ford would retain a two-piece style for several more years.)

Under the new front-hinged hood, the base Mileage Maker Six engine maintained its 223 cid, but horsepower was further tweaked to 144. The 292-cid V-8 with two-barrel carb developed 212 horsepower. The 312-cid job made 245 horsepower with one four-barrel carb, 270 with dual fours, or 300 with a centrifugal supercharger.

Ford's 1.6 million units for 1957 were enough to wrest model-year sales honors from Chevrolet. That included an all-time record 321,170 station wagons, a substantial 19.4 percent of all full-sized Fords made that year. Country Squires made up 27,690 of those wagons, a total that wouldn't be bested until 1965.

Find details on the 1958 Ford Country Squire in the next section.

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While the 1957 Fords are considered by many to be among the sharpest lookers to have ever come out of Dearborn, lots of the same critics feel that everything went wrong with the following year's products.

For 1958, a simulated scoop was inset into the hood. Quad headlights sprouted over a garish, protruding, open-mouth grille/bumper assembly. At the rear was a departure from what had, in a few short years, become a traditional Ford look: Four oval taillights -- two to a side within large, bright moldings -- took the place of two red circles.

However, Ford's big news for 1958 was the introduction of a new family of V-8 engines. While a 145-horsepower Mileage Maker Six again appeared in all models as the base engine, V-8 wagons bypassed the 292 Y-block and went directly to this new generation of show-stealing engines.

Developed jointly between the Ford and Edsel divisions, it was known to both mechanics and future engine builders as the "FE." The "baby bear" of the family displaced 332 cubic inches and used a two-barrel intake to produce 240 horsepower. Its use was restricted to wagons. A generally available four-barrel version made 265 horsepower. (In a Motor Life test, a nearly 4,000-pound Country Squire with this engine, automatic transmission, and 2.91:1 axle did the 0-60-mph run in 12.7 seconds.)

However, the big gun was the "Interceptor 352 Special," advertised as belting out a rather healthy 300 horsepower from its 352 cubic inches, four-pot carb, and high 10.2:1 compression ratio.

The transmission roster grew, too, with the addition of Cruise-O-Matic, a more flexible three-speed matched to a numerically lower axle ratio for the sake of fuel economy. Its use was limited to the two most-powerful V-8s. The three-speed stick, overdrive, and Fordomatic all remained available.

If that wasn't enough new engineering for one year, there was this: Ford-Aire, a very complicated air-suspension setup that was Ford's attempt to join the industrywide fascination with such systems that reached its peak in 1958. Much of the testing and marketing of this factory-supplied "load-leveler" had been for the station wagon market, with projections that up to 10 percent of Country Squire owners would opt for it. The marketers were wrong.

In addition to the new basic styling cues, station wagons featured their own version of the "Slipstream" roof that appeared on all fixed-top Fords. The longitudinal "ribs" impressed into the top weren't just decorative; they added strength to the roof stamping.

Another subtle change was a switch to ratchet-style liftgate supports in lieu of the screw-lock system used in 1957. Squires displayed a slight alteration in their side trim, with a dip in the maple-grain framing carried into the rear doors. In back, the simulated wood sat lower but stretched out beyond the tailgate.

Unfortunately, all those new selling points ran up against a recession that hit America in the pocketbook in 1958. Car sales were off by as much as 60 percent for some brands. Ford was down by 40 percent, which meant that all models, except the newly launched four-passenger Thunderbird suffered declines.

A total of 184,613 station wagons, including 15,020 Country Squires, rolled off the Ford assembly lines. The retreat was sufficient to let Chevrolet pass Ford in wagon production for the model year, albeit by only 2,450 cars.

Learn about the 1959 Ford Country Squire on the next page.

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To close out the 1950s, Ford returned to more traditional styling, characterized by a set of nice, big, round tail-lights, and a restrained grille and front bumper. Then, too, there was a return to a single wheelbase. All 1959 models now rode on the 118-inch stretch formerly reserved for Fairlanes.

1959 Ford Country Squire
Graced with pleasing new styling and an
improved economy, Country Squire sales rebounded
in 1959 from a sharp downturn the previous year.

In the wagon lineup, the 1959 Country Squire looked as regal as it had at the start of the decade. Bodysides and tailgate continued to be swathed in mahoganylike Di-Noc bordered by lighter-grained fiberglass sections. Missing, however, was the simulated woodgrain treatment around the windows. It was replaced by polished stainless steel.

The Squire and nine-seat Country Sedan finally overcame the issue of third-seat convenience when a folding unit was developed. Before the load floor could be extended, the third seat's cushions had to be removed and kept in the car. ("[T]hey're wonderful as mattresses or picnic cushions," the station wagon catalog advised.)

A new kind of upholstery material, "Radiant Sof-Textured" vinyl, appeared for seat bolsters in Country Squires and Country Sedans. Overall length gained another 5.3 inches to 208. Most of this added room was devoted to the cargo compartment, with a new length of just over 116 inches with seats folded and the tailgate down. Total cargo space was rated at 92 cubic feet.

The essentially unchanged six remained standard equipment. Next up was the return of the 292-cid, 200-horsepower Thunderbird V-8. A single 332-cube big-block was offered in 1959, a 225-horsepower Thunderbird Special with two-barrel carburetion. The Thunderbird 352 Special returned with its 300-horse rating. When equipped with a V-8, the 1959 Country Squire became the first Ford wagon to break the $3,000 ceiling.

1959 Ford Country Squire interior view
A new dash design and a stowable rear seat
characterized the interior of the 1959 Squire.

With the recession past, automakers' sales bounced back to life. Ford passenger-car production surpassed 1.4 million for the model year. Wagon output warmed up to 269,378; the Country Squire did its part by attracting 24,336 customers.

After the 1950s, the Country Squire continued to thrive for another three decades. Ford consistently led the wagon market, and the Squire was its flagship. Years later, when the fictitious Griswold family drove cross-country in the film comedy National Lampoon's Vacation, their heroically decorated over-the-top "Family Truckster" was made from a Country Squire. Nobody needed to ask why.

Check out specifications for the 1950-1959 Ford Country Squire in our final section.

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The 1950-1959 Ford Country Squire experienced a great deal of changes throughout this decade -- some of them good, some of them not so good. Throughout it all, one thing remained -- a high-quality station wagon with plenty of room for a family and all its "stuff." Find specifications for the 1950-1959 Country Squire in the following chart.

1950-1959 Ford Country Squire Specifications

Model Wheelbase (inches)
Weight (pounds)
Price Production
1950 2d station wagon, I-6
114.0 3,491 $2,028 22,929*
1950 2d station wagon,V-8
114.0 3,531 $2,107
1951 2d station wagon, I-6
114.0 3,510 $2,029 29,017
1951 2d station wagon, V-8
114.0 3,550 $2,110
1952 4d station wagon, V-8
115.0 3,640 $2,186 5,426
1953 4d station wagon, V-8
115.0 3,609 $2,203 11,001
1954 4d station wagon, I-6
115.5 3,563 $2,339 12,797
1954 4d station wagon,V-8
115.5 3,684 $2,415
1955 4d station wagon, I-6
115.5 3,471 $2,392 19,011
1955 4d station wagon, V-8
115.5 3,605 $2,492
1956 4d station wagon, I-6
115.5 3,495 $2,533 23,221
1956 4d station wagon, V-8
115.5 3,638 $2,633
1957 4d station wagon, I-6
116.0 3,571 $2,684 27,690
1957 4d station wagon, V-8
116.0 3,693 $2,784
1958 4d station wagon, I-6
116.0 3,672 $2,794 15,020
1958 4d station wagon, V-8
116.0 3,799 $2,901
1959 4d station wagon, I-6
118.0 3,758 2,958 24,336
1959 4d station wagon, V-8
118.0 3,859 3,076

*Includes early Custom DeLuxe wagons with removable middle seat and late Country Squire wagons with folding middle seat.

Sources: Encyclopedia of American Cars, by the Auto Editors of Consumer Guide®, Publications International, Ltd., 2002; Standard Catalog of Ford 1903-1998, 2nd ed., Ron Kowalke, editor, Krause Publications, 1998.

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