1959 was a year of American automotive styling opulence. Large fins, tons of chrome, complicated and sometimes bizarre styling that was over the top even when the cars where new. Ford cars of the period were styled relatively conservatively by comparison. Take a look at Ford’s closest competitor, the bat-winged 1959 Chevrolet line up and you get the idea. Ford never really was comfortable with the whole finned styling craze, submitting to the fad with only small fins on their cars. The best example of a finned Ford may be the very attractive 1957 models. In 1958 Ford styling was attractive but becoming a little more cluttered. The 1958 Chevrolet styling was even more cluttered but had no fins. Ford decided to offer an alternative to the large finned trend with their conservatively styled (for the time) 1959 models.
Ford proclaimed their 1959 cars “The World’s most Beautifully Proportioned Cars”. Styling features included quad headlights housed in gull-wing headlamp brows, an aluminum “ Fashion Star” grill with floating stylized stars. The sides of the car are flat with a high belt-line separated by moldings flaring back into a small flaring back into a small fin housing the reverse lamps at the rear. The back panel styling consisted of a flying V and large round tail lights. Plenty of styling eye candy, but considered by many as tasteful by 1959 standards.
Convertibles were more popular than ever in the late fifties. American manufactures at the time offered their convertibles only in top of the line trim levels. For Ford, that line was the Fairlane 500, and the new nameplate “Galaxie” was added to the fanciest of Fairlanes. Chevrolet had only one convertible in 1959, the Impala. Ford offered three convertibles, the Thunderbird, the soft-top Sunliner featured here, and the Skyliner retractable hardtop, first introduced with great fan-fair in 1957. The soft-top out sold the retractable model by a large margin, perhaps due to the retractables $500 price premium. Other drawbacks to the retractable were a small luggage area in the trunk, accessible only with the top up, and the complicated system of arms, brackets and electric relays adding 500 pounds of extra weight. 45,868 Sunliners were sold, compared to 12,915 Skyliners. Chevrolet sold 72,765 Impala convertibles by comparison.
The 1959 Sunliner is often overlooked by collectors. Retractables and Thunderbirds gather the most attention today, but they were very popular when new. These are great looking and dependable automobiles, with interest and popularity on the rise for these cars as collectors take notice. The Sunliner is just as deluxe as the Skyliner and Thunderbird convertible, but without the complicated top system, and has a large, usable trunk.
The car featured here is an exceptional example. Painted from the factory in “Diamond Luster” Torch Red and Colonial White, it has had a full body-off restoration and it is a real head-turner. This car is enhanced with factory accessories that include the Flying Ellipse hood ornament, Sunray multi-colored wheel covers, bumper guards, chrome exhaust tips, fender skirts and two-tone paint. Power comes from a 200 hp, 292ci V-8 with Ford-O-Matic transmission and rides on a 118 inch wheelbase weighing in at 3,578 pounds. Other engine options were a 223 six cylinder and 332 V-8.
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