1955-1956 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria

Inspiration for the Crown Victoria

It could be argued that the original inspiration for the Crown Victoria was the Lincoln XL-500 fully operational show car done by Bill Schmidt and Elwood Engel for Ford's 50th Anniversary in 1953. It had an all-fiberglass scarlet body and an all-glass (or Plexiglas) roof with a tiara of stainless steel.

It could also be argued that the immediate inspiration for Ford's Crown Victoria was the Mystere. This was a non-running fiberglass styling study/show car that went completely into the astrals and back to incorporate numerous styling cues for 1955 and later FoMoCo production cars -- but in far more extreme versions than ever made it to anyone's driveway. Joe Oros, who worked for George Walker's outside styling group at the time and later became director of Ford styling, claims that the Mystere did not directly inspire production automobiles. Oros contends there were a number of styling "themes" being developed at the time that were carried out on the Mystere, as well as on many production automobiles.

Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria
Red and white was a popular color choice for the
1955 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria.

Some of the stylists who worked on the Mystere were Bill Boyer, L. David Ash, Frank Hershey, and John Najjar. They were all experimenting with styling themes that would appear on a number of advanced designs and production automobiles. The 1955 Fords were done under Frank Hershey, who was fired by George Walker as soon as he took over Ford's growing styling department in 1955. Assisting Hershey were Bob Maguire and Damon Woods, both now deceased, and John Najjar and Art Querfeld, both now retired in Florida.

Interiors were done primarily by the late L. David Ash, whose claim to fame was the peek-a-boo transparent top first seen on the 1954 Ford Skyliner and Mercury Sun Valley. Ash should also be credited with the famous V-spear (or "check mark") body-side chrome, which was executed on both the Mystere and production Fords.

Ford stylist John Najjar repeated the peek-a-boo theme on the '54 Ford "Astra-Dial Control Panel," which was continued on the '55s, although the speedometer was slightly flattened to reduce reflections in the windshield. The base of the Astra-Dial carried turn-signal arrows, idiot lights for generator and oil pressure, and gauges for fuel and engine temperature. MagicAire heater, radio, and clock were set in three large circles in the center of the dash. A stem-wind clock was standard on Fairlanes, an electric clock optional. Both the heater/ventilator and radio controls took some getting used to.

According to the late Dave Ash, who had as much to do with the Crown Victoria as anybody, the model began life in 1953 as a full-size clay with a "noticeably lower roofline and more sloped rear roof than the standard Victoria hardtop." It originally carried the name "Special Victoria."

Among a group of young product planners who dazzled engineers and management with this car was Donald E. Petersen, who in later years would become President of Ford Motor Company and then Chairman of the Board. Petersen convinced management that a car with a low roof profile could be built without sacrificing interior headroom.

Just prior to this project, Ash had developed the Plexiglas roof concept for the '54 Ford. From there, he was assigned the task of participating in the full-size clay modeling of the 1955 Special Victoria. Ash then became a key figure in working out the details of the "Crown" and the Plexiglas top on the 1955 (though he never did take full credit for the design). Art Querfeld did most of the Crown Vic's unique interior trim design.

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