1957-1959 Ford Styling

1959 Ford Features and Specifications

Ford lowered compression ratios a bit for 1959, reacting to the economy-conscious market brought on by the 1958 recession, so all its 1959 engines would run on regular gas. The "Mileage Maker" six returned at 145 horsepower, but the 292 dropped to 200 horsepower, the four-barrel 332 was scratched, and the two-barrel version was down to a mere 225 horsepower.

The 352 still ran 9.6:1 compression, so its 300 horses probably weren't too happy on low-calorie feed. Not generally known is the fact that you could get the 350-horsepower Lincoln-Mercury 430 V-8 on the standard Fords as well as the Thunderbird this year, though it wasn't listed for the passenger models and was thus rarely ordered.

1959 Ford Galaxie Sunliner
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Engines for 1959 Ford models, like this Galaxie Sunliner from late 1959, were updated to run on regular gas.

More substantial engineering changes began with a heavier and stronger new frame bearing siderails bowed out almost to track width for extra passenger room. There were a number of suspension tweaks, including a link-type front stabilizer bar and variable-rate rear leaf springs, but nearly all were directed at a softer ride. The result was excessive body lean in sharp corners that brought squeals -- both literal and figurative -- from the motoring press. Cruise-O-Matic was only slightly modified, but the two-speed Fordomatic was completely reworked, becoming lighter, simpler (105 fewer parts), and cheaper.

Answering Chevy's "Positraction" limited-slip differential was Ford's own "Equa-Lock" axle, factory installed for just $38.60. Also this year, Dearborn took its first steps to extend service intervals and reduce maintenance costs, an area where it would continue to lead the industry in the Sixties. Standard for all 1959s were aluminized mufflers said to last twice as long as previous types, full-flow oil filters that upped oil change intervals to 4,000 miles, and "Diamond Lustre" enamel paint that wasn't supposed to need waxing.

1959 Ford Galaxie Sunliner
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The Ford Galaxie Sunliner from late 1959 was thriftier than 1957-1958 models, but its performance suffered.

Not surprisingly, the detuned 1959s couldn't match 1957-1958 performance, though testers appreciated their greater economy. Most motor magazines also commented favorably on the "hatbox" styling, but complained about the high-rise windshield, which was so poorly designed that wind buffeting was a problem even with the windows closed.

On a more positive note, the 1959 showed much better construction and assembly than Ford had the previous two years. In this respect, Motor Trend rated it above Chevy and Plymouth: "The outstanding feature of the Ford is the solid feel of the body. Doors close like bank vaults, and give the feeling of extreme rigidity and safety."

Greater thrift, better build, and more acceptable styling than either of its rivals helped Ford to a very good year as the industry began a general recovery in 1959. Chevy won the model year production race by a bit less than 12,000 units (1,462,140 versus 1,450,953), but Ford finished ahead in the sales derby by about the same margin. Division chief Robert S. McNamara was clearly correct in mandating more T-Bird style for the standard line, because the four closed Galaxies garnered over 405,000 orders -- better than 27 percent of total production -- despite their abbreviated selling season. Unfortunately for collectors, his emphasis on no-nonsense profit-makers had already condemned gimmick engineering, so the Skyliner would disappear for 1960, never to be seen again.

As you might expect, the Skyliner is the most collectible 1957-1959 Ford, thanks to low production (48,394 for the three years) and its gee-whiz "hide-away" roof. However, there can't be too many left to find, so what of the others? Well, any Sunliner would be a prize simply because it's a ragtop, but collectors overwhelmingly prefer the 1957, followed by the 1959 and 1958 -- in that order. In fact, that ranking applies to all body styles. Big-block V-8s, the superior Cruise-O-Matic transmission, and the 1959s' improved workmanship just can't overcome historical significance and prettier looks, even though early rust-out makes good 1957s as scarce as the proverbial hen's teeth today.

Perhaps it only goes to show that styling tells, whether you're talking new-car sales or collector-car values. It was ever thus.

On the next page, learn more about Ford's 1957-1959 Skyliner.

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