1956 Ford Fairlane Sunliner Convertible
The Fifties were famous for automobiles with outrageous styling, extravagant use of chrome and all manner of fins evoking jet planes and rockets. Competition for customers in the explosive post WW II car market was fierce. An extensive array of fantastic style and power combinations were used to lure buyers into the showroom. But, in the competition for the carefree sports minded buyer none stood out like the 1956 Ford “Sunliner”. The “understated” Thunderbird inspired styling was “subdued” compared to the competition. Nevertheless, Ford was the hands down winner in the glitz and glitter department, leading the way with a bewitching assortment of color choices and combinations. Ford put buyers in a tropical mood offering 19 exotic pastel colored paints like Peacock Blue, Mandarin Orange, Golden Glow Yellow and Sunset Coral along with 14 tutone combinations coordinated with upholstery ensembles featuring new all vinyl tutone interiors.
Ken’s “southern” car was built at the Ford assembly plant in Dallas Texas and eventually found its way to Glencoe OK where it came into the possession of Robert Kuehn of Stanton NE. In February 2010 Ken purchased the car from Mr. Kuehn in relatively rust free condition. He immediately commissioned Mr. Kuehn to undertake a complete bolt by bolt restoration to his exacting standards. After 15 months of painstaking work, minute attention to detail and using NOS (new old stock) parts installed with expert craftsmanship the car was brought back to showroom condition.
Although Ford made 58,147 Sunliners in 1956, over the years the harsh elements took their toll on these beautiful convertibles making them very hard to find. But, rare and beautiful don’t begin to describe this car. Resplendently finished in glowing Sunset Coral** over shimmering Raven Black paint the tutone scheme is beautifully separated by chrome side trim that starts at the taillight and curves up and over the front fender ending at the headlight bezel. The new for ’56 tutone vinyl interior matches the exterior theme.
With Thunderbird inspired styling dressed with just the right amount of chrome embellishing the bumpers, grill and side accents ending in subtle tail fins, Ken’s ’56 oozes charm. Heavily optioned, the car boasts rare Factory Air Conditioning, power steering, brakes, windows, seats, the (new for ’56) Lifeguard Design safety package, a nine-tube ‘Town and Country’ signal-seeking push button radio and Continental Kit. And how about those dual chrome spotlights with integrated rear view mirrors! It is impossible to cast your eyes on an example that is more “take your breath away” gorgeous. Just thinking about sitting behind the wheel in this beauty conjures thoughts of a “White sport coat and a pink carnation” and of balmy nights with a breeze blowing thru the palm trees. Sunglasses are the recommended eye wear to protect against the radiant dazzle reflected from this Ford “Sunliner”, even on a cloudy day.
Performance comes by way of the famous “Y” block 292 cubic-inch ‘Thunderbird’ V8 engine with a Holley 4 bbl carburetor rated at 200 horsepower. A column mounted 3-speed stick with overdrive transmission ads to the driving excitement. Dual exhaust with special cutouts in the rear bumper for the chrome exhaust tips completes the package. The Kelsey Hays inspired wire wheels with whitewall tires finish off the fabulous look.
Ford’s top-of-the-line Fairlane Sunliner was America’s best-selling convertible in 1956. Although the basic styling was similar to the 1955 model, the 1956 Ford received wide publicity for a new optional *Lifeguard Design safety package, which included double-grip door latches, an energy-absorbing steering wheel with a deeply recessed hub, plus optional front seat belts, padded dash and padded sun visors. Motor Trend Magazine recognized the Lifeguard Package as the year’s ‘most significant advancement. Unfortunately the buying public was unresponsive to the Lifeguard package, prompting Henry Ford II to say: “McNamara is selling safety, but Chevrolet is selling cars”. The demand for seatbelts, however, was so high that Ford’s suppliers couldn’t keep up, so only about 20 percent of the 1956 Fords got them. Other enhancements for 1956 included the adoption of a 12-volt electrical system and bolder ‘Fairlane stripe’ side trim. The optional air conditioner, which remained expensive and thus a slow seller, was totally revamped; the compressor was now housed beneath the hood and the cooling vents were moved to atop the dashboard. At just $2,459 a copy without options the “Sunliner” was an eye catching convertible everyone could afford.
This beauty is equipped with the following factory authorized NOS accessories:
Additional Options Include:
* The big news at Ford for 1956 was its Lifeguard Design safety features. In conjunction with major universities, police departments, leading medical groups, and other experts, Ford participated in studies that showed many injuries were caused by doors that opened on impact in an accident, or hard objects such as dashboards, sun visors, steering wheels and columns, upon which they were thrown during an impact. As a result of these studies, Ford introduced several optional Lifeguard Design options, including a padded dashboard cover, padded sun visors, and seat belts. Included as standard, however, were Ford’s Lifeguard Design deep-dish steering wheel and double-grip door latches, which Ford called Lifeguard Door Locks. The optional items weren’t big sellers, although the safety belts were the more popular of the choices offered.
**Sunset Coral (Y) was a “spring time” color offered for the first time on April 1st 1956. For Style Tone combinations code YA specified a Raven Black top, Sunset Coral mid color (above the side molding) and Raven Black bottom (below the side molding). Note: Style Tone Sunliners were painted in the reverse of the Hardtop Fairlane.
V8 (Serial No. Code M):Cast-Iron, Overhead valve design
292 cubic inch displacement
Compression rato: 6.4:1
200 brake horsepower @ 4600 rpm
202 brake horsepower @ 4600 rpm w/Ford-O-Matic
Bore: 3.75 Stroke: 3.30 inches
Holley four-barrel carburetor
5 Main bearings