Ford Motor Company enjoyed a good year for 1957. The Ford Division introduced thoroughly revamped cars throughout its line-up, and even offered supercharging for the first time ever as an option on Thunderbirds. Mercury models were also redesigned and moved up-market in preparation for the pending arrival of the Edsel division. Only the Lincoln and Continental remained mostly unchanged. Motor Trend was ready with all the details in the 1957 Auto Show Issue.
Ford also jumped on the longer, lower, wider bandwagon for 1957. The cars stretched 3.2″ to 9.2″ in length, dropped 2.1″ to 3.5″ in height and grew in width by 2.3″. Taking the larger bodies into account, engine output also grew, with everything from the inline-6 to the top V8 adding horsepower. While styling was all-new inside and out, Ford’s “Lifeguard Design” themes from 1956 continued to get some emphasis, with a deeper-dished steering wheel and limited protrusion of knobs being touted as safety features.
A nifty innovation that Ford trotted out for 1957 was the retractable hardtop body style. While the stow-away metal roof enjoyed only limited popularity during its three year run in the late 1950s, the idea resurfaced again about 20-years ago and still enjoys some popularity on open-topped cars around the world.
The best news for the Ford Division was that it beat arch rival Chevrolet in sales for the model year, earning the top spot as the best selling car brand in the U.S.
To my eyes at least, the third time–or in this case the third year–was the charm for the first generation 2-seat Thunderbird. The added length, bolder grill and subtle tail fins look just right to me. Performance was also significantly enhanced, with better handling and more powerful engines, including the 300 horsepower Supercharged Thunderbird Special 312 V8. Customers were pleased, as T-bird sales surged 37%, climbing to 21,380–well above the “other” American 2-seater from GM.
Lincoln marked 1957 by launching a new 4-door hardtop “landau” body style. This tardy addition to the line–both Cadillac and Imperial had offered 4-door hardtops in 1956–became Lincoln’s best selling 4-door. Styling enhancements included the de rigueur canted tail fins and new headlight clusters ready-made for the adoption of quad lamps in front.
The Continental entered its second (and final) year as the ultimate flagship model for the Ford Motor Company. The cleanly styled, carefully crafted luxury coupes did not fare so well for 1957, with sales dropping 83% from 1956. The market for ultra-luxury cars in the late 1950s was minuscule, and Continental’s $9,966 base price ($85,348 adjusted) was considered shockingly expensive. The proposed convertible, which might have sparked some additional sales, never officially materialized–apparently only two were ever built, essentially both were prototypes.
Mercury based its 1957 styling direction on themes established with the Turnpike Cruiser concept car of 1956. While much chunkier than Virgil Exner’s Chrysler Corporation designs, the Mercury was still very futuristic in the 1950s “dream car” idiom. In fact, beyond lending its looks to the ’57 Mercury line, the Turnpike Cruiser also became the newest top-line series, featuring Seat-O-Matic, a version of the “memory seat” (shades of the Cadillac Eldorado Brougham) and a retractable rear window on 2- and 4-door hardtops. In spite of the new style and fancy models, sales dropped 12%, but Mercury did not fare as badly as the medium-priced makes over at GM. These results were particularly remarkable given that Mercury was moving aggressively up-market into a higher price bracket, dropping low-line models and seeing average price increases of 23%.
Undoubtedly FoMoCo was pleased with their performance for 1957. The company took sales and market share away from behemoth General Motors while withstanding the onslaught from the flashy new Mopars.