CCOTY 1956: I Nominate The 1956 Ford Sunliner

1955 Citroen DS 19

[We’ll start of with a nomination from one of our Contributing Editors–but don’t let that stop you from nominating your own choices.]

On a strictly intellectual basis, I would posit that the 1955 Citroen DS 19 was the car of the century. In terms of engineering, design and driving dynamics, it was. Nothing else in the world came close. That said, it was a piece of crap that set new standards of unreliability and was almost impossible to keep running on a daily basis, even in France.

1955 Dodge Royal Lancer

But when I opened a copy of the Saturday Evening Post in 1954 and saw advertising for the 1955 model year cars, I was blown away by the stunning two-tone paint jobs and vibrant colors. At least in my own estimation, such things had never been seen before, and they were far more interesting to my seven-year-old mind than something as abstruse as a DS 19.

1956 Olds 98 Holiday Coupe

General Motors went beyond the competition by giving unique side chrome treatments to different trim levels within each of its model lines. I remember going along to the Olds dealership when my father was negotiating for his 1956 Olds, and being blown away by the dealer sales tools I saw. Flip books with transparent sheets and spot colors made it possible to simulate every paint combination available in each trim level. Psychedelic. Not only could you cruise at 90 mph all day long (provided the heat didn’t get to you), but also look good doing it. Damn! Life was good…and all with just 324 cubes and a two-barrel carb.

1956 Ford Sunliner and Victoria

But my uncle Ed beat my dad to the punch; he bought a 1956 Ford Sunliner, in the same Calypso Coral (orange) and Victorian White combo illustrated in the Victoria above–sorta like a Dreamsicle from the ice cream truck. I don’t recall seeing many solid-color exteriors (shown on the yellow Sunliner) that year.

Its white-with-orange inserts interior treatment mirrored the exterior paint scheme, and under the hood was the 312 Thunderbird V8.

Is this a CCOAL? Perhaps not by the editor’s standards. Even so, to this day I can’t think of any other car that’s rung my bell like Uncle Ed’s ’56 Sunliner. I’m still on a high.