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.
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.
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.
The base V-8 in Ford
station wagons was now
a 292-cid mill.
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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