By on September 24, 2009

sometimes beauty needs to be in the eye of the beholder

Welcome to the Thursday edition of Curbside Classics. Tuesdays is for the big winners (and losers), the exceptional, the unexpected. Thursday will be for the more modest and prosaic finds. Any car a quarter century old or more still plying the streets of Eugene is worthy of our respect. Along with a helping of disdain, as needed. The 1959 Chevy Curbside Classic ignited lingering embers of the old Chevy vs. Ford (and Mopar) wars. My apologies to the younger readers who are probably bored to tears over this. I promise I’ve got something much newer and more voluptuous next Tuesday. But no less than geeber asked if a ’59 Ford could be the subject of the next CC. Be careful what you wish for, Fordophiles, because what I find sitting on the street is what you get. So here it is: a delectable Courier wagon. Now let the debate begin: was the ’59 Ford better looking than the Chevy?

tow away, please!

I get to go first: No. And not just because of this particular specimen. Yes, the Chevy was garish and over the top, but lets face it, GM did that better than anyone, when they put their mind to it. The more successful ’59 and ’60 GM cars (not the ’59 Olds and Pontiac) simply reflected a higher quality of design skill. They manage to have an organic wholeness and a certain surface tension, despite the thematic excesses. And the details, for better or worse, are well executed. They really do manage to look like they’re floating on a cushion of air, and just about to lift off at the end of the driveway.

The ’59 Ford has one redeeming quality: the roof of the Galaxy Coupe. It looks exactly like the one they went back to using in ’62 and ’63, including the mid-size ’63 Fairlane Coupe. Good job! But outside of that, the ’59 Ford was atrocious, stylistically.

CC 31 038 450These Fords always looks like the original clay models got too hot and started shrinking and sagging. The whole greenhouse looks too small and narrow, and already partly melted into the body. And the lower body manages to look like its lacking structural integrity, sagging in the middle. And the whole car droops over its undersized undercarriage. Let’s just say that these Fords look very slow and earthbound, unlike the GMs’ tendency towards levity, of more than one kind.

The Ford’s proportions are off. And the front end is almost a dead ringer for the ’58 Chevy. That ridiculous tubular bulge running along the sides to the rear look like someone strapped on a couple of sewer pipes at Home Depot. They don’t work. At least GM and Chrysler fins go somewhere, they have a sweep or movement, and they resolve themselves at a point in space, literally. The Ford’s strap-ons go nowhere, except to clutter up a messy rear end.

Let’s sum it up this way: do you prefer over-the-top fins and jet engine intakes and exhausts, but well done in their execution; or conservative, boxy earth-bound semi-realism, done badly?

Shall we talk engines? If you’re a Ford man, probably not. CC 31 034 450The six was a serviceable unit. But the Y block V8 was utterly obsolete one year after it appeared in 1954, thanks to Chevy’s revolutionary small black of 1955. A huge, hulking, heavy lump, it only managed to outdo the high-winding deep-breathing Chevy with more cubes and a slapped on belt-driven supercharger, which no one really bought anyway.

Ford knew it had an anchor on its hands, and had to spring quickly to bring out a whole new V8 generation, the FE. I know there’s a lot of FE lovers out there, but, with a few exceptions, they were stones. They just didn’t breathe, and were also heavy and inefficient. A well-running 283 Chevy could cream a 332 FE, and keep up with a 352. They made great truck engines, though: gobs of torque and hard to kill.

The new-in ’58 Cruise-O-Matic three-speed automatic was a tough and reasonably smooth beast, but had the lowest efficiency of the Big Three slushboxes. I read somewhere that the later C6 could suck up to sixty horsepower from the engine driving it. If true, there was probably a CJ 428 or a big-block Lincoln spinning the input shaft. But the C6 combined with the FE was a notorious gas hog.

Enough ragging on the big Fords of that era. I did like the ’63.5 fastback.  And I was a sucker for ’61-’63 T-Birds, and liked the clean styling of the early Falcons. Not to mention the Lincolns. Ford’s strength in this period was its innovation in new niches: the ’58 T-Bird, Falcon, Fairlane, and Mustang. Look for them on Tuesdays. But their big cars generally left me stone cold; Thursday CC material, with a few exceptions. Your turn.

CC 31 036 450

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63 Comments on “Curbside Classic: 1959 Ford Courier...”


  • avatar
    Juniper

    Paul
    I agree completely, but you probably knew that.
    I’m just glad that pig isn’t parked across the street from my house. Even in 59.

  • avatar
    new caledonia

    Actually, the ’59 Ford never bothered me much, except for the cheap look of the stamped grille and taillight pie plates, and the cheap-looking instrument panel. Otherwise, the Chevy looked a lot more fun, the Ford a lot more practical.

    And fair is fair — I’d love to see a crash test of an ’09 Ford Fusion hitting a ’59 Ford head-on.

  • avatar
    case

    Drove one as a summer camp vehicle in the late sixties, even with half the body cutoff it still couldn’t run with the 55 Jeep station wagon we kept
    If you think the fins make it ugly imagine it without the fins, the design is inherently unbalanced front to back and the fins actually help it achieve a lesser degree of ugliness than would otherwise be possible. In the fifties after the 1949/50 model Ford slavishly followed GM’s lead in styling, but could not consistently integrate the styling elements. the 55/56 was as good as it got, but the next five years were atrocious. Our family 1960 full size was every bit as outlandish as the 59 chevy with none of the redeeming charm
    I agree, when not copying the GM stylebook Ford created classics, but were terrible at the me too. The Earl and Exner styles benefited from a strong personality imposing a unity of design elements rather than design by committee
    this trend seemed to continue throughout Henry II’s active stewardship and it wasn’t until the Tempo/Taurus era that Ford started leading the way in domestic design

  • avatar
    rpol35

    Paul:

    Great article on a mostly forgotten car. Two-door station wagons are always wierd units in my book. Hardly convenient but somewhat cool at the same time.

    Briefly, my father always bought GM, first Oldsmobile and then Chevrolet. He needed a business car in 1959 and he about fell over when he saw the derriere the new ’59 Chevy. For the first and only time in his life, he acquired a Ford, specifically a Custom 300 four door sedan in the same color as this Courier, a pale gray. I recently found a picture of it taken under a blanket of snow, somewhere in the early ’60’s in Baltimore. So here’s one real life example of the Chevy styling being a little too over the top for ’59. In retrospect, I remember him saying that he didn’t really like the Ford too much compared to the engineering and build quality on the Chevy; it was just those rear fins, yikes!

    We also, ironically, had a ’58 Chevy at the same time. I never realized how similar the ’59 Ford front clip is to that of the ’58 Chevy until you mentioned it. Biggest difference is that Ford had that goofy reversed hinged hood.

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    I have never ever understood the fashion of two-door full-size Station Wagons. As a lifestyle vehicle, sure. The Chevrolet Nomad is made out of Awesome, as they say. But practical family haulers? I don’t get it…

  • avatar
    geeber

    Mr. Niedermeyer,

    Thank you, even if our opinions on the 1959 Ford differ. An excellent write-up that states your case very well.

    Now, perhaps you will do a story on the final member of the low-price three for that year – a 1959 Plymouth? (Or even a 1957 or 1958 model?)

    I wonder whether that will be a Tuesday or a Thursday car.

  • avatar

    As always, any of those big old wagons would be great with a fairly modern diesel dropped in…and yeah, the Falcons were a delight! I still remember the souped up Sprint pulling big wheelies in the parking lot at high school.

  • avatar
    buzz phillips

    If I remember correctly, 59 Fords outsold
    59 Chevys significantly!

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    geeber, You’re a gentleman. That’s about as hard to find on the internet as a late-fifties Plymouth on the streets of Eugene. This Ford came and disappeared overnight. But I assure you I will be vigilant, and I’m hopeful.

    • 0 avatar
      Ron

      Paul,
      Posted a response to Shaker re ’50 Ford. My Uncle Bob, who worked at Ford as an Engineer, delivered to my Dad a black ’59 Country Sedan Station Wagon. What we didn’t know was the car had been built to order for some State Police and the order for this car was cancelled. It had the Police Interceptor package. When I drove it in High School, the kids made fun of me driving a station wagon, but it became known as the “Draggin Wagon”. This was in 1965. The only problem with the car was keeping the back end from swaying too much.

  • avatar

    Even in its current state, I think that Ford is a beauty. This is my absolute favorite full-sized Ford of all time. It’s baroque, to be sure, and lacks the artistic integrity of the ’59 Chevy (Thanks, Paul, I never realized that before), but it’s Florentine in its baroqueness. Anyone who wants, I’ll happily send a photo I took of the tail light, which has been shown at several photo exhibits. Email me at motorlegends@aol.com.

    And anyone who hasn’t already read it, be sure to read PN’s Maserati Dreaming, which is absolutely wonderful.

    @Geeber: I think any Ply from ’57-60 would be fine for a CC to go with this and the Chevy. That should make it easier to find one. Although they were junk, so even then it may be difficult.

    A story: I moved back to my childhood home in 1999, after nearly 30 years. Two doors up, back in the ’60s, the Wischusens had had a 1960 Ply wagon. I had taken a photo of one just like it, a few years earlier. So after I moved back, I mailed the Wischusens a photo of that, used my old DC address for the return address, adding the name of a bogus company, The Car Finders. I wrote that after all these years, we had finally found the Wischusens old Ply in Virginia (where i had photographed the look-alike), and did they want us to bring it up, or would they like to come and get it? About a week later, I bumped into Fred and Rena, and I asked them if their old car had ever been found. They looked at me in great surprise, and I explained I’d sent the letter. They then talked about how they had a lot of fun after they got the letter and the photo, reminiscing with their kids about the trips they’d taken in the car. Then, as we parted ways, Fred turned to me and he says, “That car was a lemon.”

  • avatar

    I think the front of that Ford looks more like a ’58 Pontiac than the Chevy

  • avatar
    mikey

    @ Paul you folks are very fortunate,to have so many survivers around. Here in Ontario,we have lots of older cars.Mostly carefully restored,garage queens.

    That old Ford looks like it could be a runner. How cool is that? Though I’m with juniper,I wouldn’t want to see it parked on my street.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    I had a 59 Ford wagon given to me about 1968.It was grey and had the 6 in it. I had a pair of pickups with the same 6. It was a great engine. The Y block V8 was essentially a factory version of the Ardun OHV hop-up to the 239 flathead block.

  • avatar
    h82w8

    Arguing what’s better looking between a ’59 Ford and ’59 Chevy is like arguing whether Susan Boyle or Judy Cornwell cuts a fairer visage. I mean, come on…

    IMO, nothing from that era of Detroit automotive styling excess can be described as having “surface tension” or “integrity of line.” A 427 Cobra has surface tension, and a Lambo Miura has integrity of line (and surface tension); nothing from 1959 has either. Integrity of chrome, tail fin, and bad proportion, yes. They all had all that.

    These cars were what they were – big, sloppy, ugly, under-engineered oafs – from a more innocent era when the American mass market didn’t know any different or better.

    How things have changed…. Or have they, based on the number bloated, overweight, under engineered automotive design travesties (can you say SUV/CUV?) that have been foisted on American consumers in recent years?

  • avatar
    fincar1

    Courier was the name that Ford gave to their sedan delivery model starting in 1955. Through 1958 they were actually sedan deliveries with no rear side windows, but in 1959 they just made it more obvious that a sedan delivery was a station wagon without back seats by not bothering to make a windowless version. The Post Office had a lot of these rigs in their then-new red/white/blue color scheme. I believe that 1959 was the last year for the full-size Courier; it, like the Ranchero, migrated to the Falcon line.

  • avatar
    supremebrougham

    geeber:

    Now, perhaps you will do a story on the final member of the low-price three for that year – a 1959 Plymouth? (Or even a 1957 or 1958 model?)

    I wonder whether that will be a Tuesday or a Thursday car.

    From what I have always heard of the awful build quality of those cars, it will probably be a Monday or Friday car…

  • avatar
    nikita

    I have never ever understood the fashion of two-door full-size Station Wagons. As a lifestyle vehicle, sure. The Chevrolet Nomad is made out of Awesome, as they say. But practical family haulers? I don’t get it…

    Dad bought the 2-door Nomad version of the Chevy Brookwood in ’59 because he was scared that us kids would fall out if we accidentally opened a rear door while in motion. This was before the days of child guard or power door locks. After ’57 the Nomad was not a sporty edition, but just an ordinary 2 door wagon.

    Style-wise, the ’59 Ford looks too much like the ’57. Chevy and Plymouth had moved on and Ford was just too conservative. I happen to like the much-hated ’60 Ford. It was a cleaner style that in its own way a preview of the spectacular ’61 Continental. It did look particularly goofy with fake wood siding in Country Squire trim. Ford and Chevy fans for some reason needed round taillights. Chevy only deviated in ’59 and Ford in ’60.

  • avatar

    “…My apologies to the younger readers who are probably bored to tears over this…”

    Don’t you dare feel that you need to aplogise. Keep “THIS” coming. This is my kind of stuff. Don’t cater to demographics : )

  • avatar

    RE the two door wagons: nikita has refreshed my memory. I remember the rear door of the ’57 Chevy flying open on a corner, for no apparent reason. Probably on more than one occasion.

  • avatar
    postman

    Screw the younger readers. I love these articles!

  • avatar
    baabthesaab

    Nikita has it just right. In the days before seat belts and child restraining seats, 2-door cars were considered safer for the kids, to the extent anyone thought of safety at all. I once fell out of the left rear door of a ’59 Country Squire, and the memory of that speeding rear wheel, as I clung madly to the door, is with me still. My mother liked a 2-door wagon, but I recall an aunt driving a Ford wagon with the rear inside door handles removed and covered over.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    At the time (and as a kid), I was more excited about the Chevy design due to the airplane influence of the design, but as an adult I find that I like the Ford better, even tho it is awfully mundane. The Chevy fins and eyebrows are just too excessive as design elements.

  • avatar

    @ClutchCarGo,

    the unusual taillights/fins construct is the best element of that car. I think they did an excellent job with that, in an otherwise underhwhelming car, although Paul’s description has boosted my appreciation for it considerably. But the face is the worst I can think of from what I consider the classic era.

  • avatar
    mfgreen40

    Andy D
    The ford flat head had 3 main brgs.and two water pumps The Y block has 5 brgs.and one pump. The Ardun had hemispherical combustion chambers, Y block ordinary chambers. they both did have 8 cyls.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Damn! I get so little done at work on Tuesday afternoons, now Thursday is shot too!

    I have to admit that this 2 door wagon in this trim level and this color does not have a lot of curb appeal. Ford was plainly a conservative car in that era. I was always amazed that Fords steering columns were still sporting exposed shift tubes thru the 62s. I never drove one of these, but was told that they were hard-riding and not particularly quiet.

    I am surprised that nobody has yet mentioned Ford’s one-year-only use of this body shell, which was cribbed from the 57-58 Mercury. I believe that the upper rear quarter bulges were part of the package that stylists “inherited” from the Mercury shell. Compared to the competition, this was certainly a square, blocky car, with some late 50s splashes thrown in. However, we could say in hindsight that Ford may have actually been more out in front of this styling trend than the competition, as the blocky look took over in the 60s. Particularly the wide C pillars as seen on the Galaxies (from the 58 TBird) Myself, I always liked the look, particularly after that awful 58 Ford. If the subject car had been a black Galaxie hardtop, the lines and proportions would have been a lot better.

    I also agree with you on the engines. Has Ford ever really been an engine company? (Duck and cover!) To this day, GM and Chrysler put out engines that will run rings around Ford. I think that the 59 Ford’s success came from what it wasn’t: It wasn’t the way-out look of the Chevy, and it wasn’t afflicted with the horrid (and deserved) reputation for build quality of the Plymouth.

    @h82w8
    nothing from 1959 has either. Integrity of chrome, tail fin, and bad proportion, yes. They all had all that.

    You, sir, have plainly never seen a 59 DeSoto, which may have been the best looking US car built in 1959. I will, however, cede the point that good taste was hard to come by in cars that year.

  • avatar

    What’s not to love about both of them? Some have questioned the period look but I lean towards celebration of Detroit iron from the Ike years. http://www.mystarcollectorcar.com/

  • avatar
    h82w8

    @jpcavanaugh
    ’59 Desoto? I dunno…. Forced to choose I’d have to go with the ’59 Vette, and I’m not even a ‘Vette guy. Otherwise the ’59 Ford F-series pickup. A lot of interesting-looking cars from that time, maybe even a few that are kind of “handsome” in their own weird way, but none I’d call well-designed.

    As for GM and Mopar engines running rings around Ford motors to this day… I think you’ve just started WWIII among the TTAC Blue Oval vs. Bowtie vs. Mopar camps. Duck and cover? Better dig a hole to China.

  • avatar
    Monty

    Safety concerns…that’s a good one!

    I fell out of the back seat of my dad’s ’60 Valiant, and then a few years later again out of the back seat of his ’63 Fury. I blame that when I exhibit any stupidity.

    It was never a problem with my mother’s cars, as she first had a 55(?) Riley Saloon, but I was too small to be in anything other than a baby bassinet, and then it was two-doors all the way. A ’58 Rambler American, a ’63 Envoy Epic, a return to Rambler for a ’63 American, and then joy of all joys my mother finally got a brand new car for the first time ever and got a 1970 Ford Maverick (straight from the Ford plant in Windsor Ontario, as the Ford plant was a customer of my dad, so it was at a discount, and we got it before anybody had heard of the fricken things, like August or September 1969).

    All of our friends moms who drove always had two-door cars, whether they were wagons or sedans. So the kids didn’t fall out!

    My Uncle Ken traded a ’59 Mercury (Colony Park?) wagon for a brand new ’63 Volkswagon Beatle. That friggin Mercury was giant inside, or at least it seemed at the time to us kids. No problem shoehorning 4 kids and 5 adults into it!

  • avatar
    geeber

    Mr. Niedermeyer,

    It’s always interesting to read a review of a car by writer who has a view based on actual knowledge of the product, along with informed criticism, instead of just mindless hate or cheerleading.

    Another interesting Curbside Classic series would be stories on all five domestic compacts available in 1960 – the Chevrolet Corvair, Ford Falcon, Chrysler (not yet Plymouth) Valiant, Rambler American and Studebaker Lark.

    Or one on a 1960s Lincoln Continental sedan, or a first-generation Mustang, or a 1963 Falcon Sprint, or the first of the four-seat Thunderbirds, or…

    David Holzman: I think any Ply from ‘57-60 would be fine for a CC to go with this and the Chevy. That should make it easier to find one. Although they were junk, so even then it may be difficult.

    I always liked the styling of the 1957-58 Plymouths, even with their gigantic tailfins. It’s just that the quality was so terrible. Believe it or not, I’ve seen unrestored originals at the various Carlisle Chrysler events, and the build quality is just awful, even for the 1ate 1950s. Chrysler’s 1957 models were a terrible execution of a great idea.

    The 1959 Plymouths, weren’t quite as attractive (although I’ll take them over that year’s Chevrolet), and the 1960 Plymouths were completely unattractive. Virgil Exner went off the deep end after 1959.

    jpcavanaugh: I also agree with you on the engines. Has Ford ever really been an engine company? (Duck and cover!) To this day, GM and Chrysler put out engines that will run rings around Ford.

    Ford has built great engines, but they seem to be lost among a roster of engines that move the vehicle and not much else. The “big” I-6 of the 1960s is supposedly indestuctible, and the 260-289-302 V-8s were excellent.

    But Ford never really had a top-notch mid-size V-8 until the 351 arrived in 1969. By then, it was playing catch-up with Chevrolet, Pontiac and Mopar. I don’t believe that Ford ever did come up with a big-block muscle car V-8 that equalled the various big blocks used by the GM divisions or Dodge and Plymouth.

    From what I’ve read, the Ford modular ohc V-8s are much more durable than the Cadillac Northstar V-8, although the Cadillac unit provides better performance.

  • avatar

    Geeber,

    I’ve seen ‘em at Carlisle, too, although all my trips to Carlisle were in the ’90s, when I still lived in DC. My parents had a ’57 Ply. I learned to shift gears on that thing when I was 9. it had a monster clutch, and I bucked it like crazy. It also had an amazing case of body rot, and they had to get a new engine when it was somewhere around 50k (they bought it used, maybe a year before the new engine). It did handle better, and at least on the second engine had more power than the ’57 chevy (both sixes).

    I do love the Chryslers of the late ’50s, though, stylistically.

  • avatar

    The ’59 Fords make an interesting contrast with the ’59 GM line. The 1957 Ford was a big hit; it outsold the comparatively dated-looking ’57 Chevy by a fair margin. That success put the Ford design staff into the old “make it look the same, only different” bind. By comparison, GM’s Design staff was running scared when the ’59 cars were designed, reeling from the ’57 Chryslers, and there was a lot of pressure to innovate at all costs.

  • avatar
    geeber

    David Holzman,

    There used to be an original 1957 Belvedere sedan that appeared regularly at the Carlisle Chrysler show – salmon pink with a white roof. Very nice car from western Pennsylvania (how it survived intact after spending its life in western Pennsylvania is one of life’s mysteries, given the heavy use of salt and cinder in that area during winter). I haven’t seen it for the last 2-3 years. Very sleek for a four-door sedan.

  • avatar
    Terry

    The transmission in that car is the cast iron Cruiseomatic, not the aluminum case C6 which came out in ’66.
    I had a ’65 Galaxie 352 cruiseomatic, the engine and transmission weight alone made for one heavy pendulum.

  • avatar
    h82w8

    Okay all you late ’50s Detroit iron lovers. This song’s for you… Enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NS_vlEdBK4

  • avatar
    wmba

    Much preferred the look of the ’59 Ford to the Chev, and it handled much better as well, despite the leaf spring rear axle. Seemed like an honest car, whereas the Chev was a flight of fancy and a wobbler on the highway. In any case, the ’59 Ford looked way better than the ’57 or ’58.

    The Chevy 235 six seemed smoother than the 223 Ford, but the Ford had a better manual shifter and the engine seemed much more spirited and eager to rev.

    The 1959 Cruise-O-Matic tranny was not the C6. The latter came out in 1966 and was a Torqueflite clone with the Simpson planetary gearsets. The Cruise-O-Matic had Ravigneaux gearsets, and D1 and D2 positions. It had 3 speeds compared to the Powerglide’s two, and was way ahead of the Turboglide non-geared tranny in the Chev, which was a variation on the Buick Dynaflow. Any bad gas mileage has to be laid at the feet of the Ford V8 itself.

    When I first went drag racing in 1964, no doubt about it, 352 Fords were eaten alive by 327 Chevs, which would keep up with the 390 big block Ford. I’m talking 4 speed manual trannies here.

    Anyway, great write-up. Keep them coming. Don’t think you’re going to find a ’58 Plymouth running around. In 1961, a friend of our family accelerated away from a parking spot after taking the family to the movies, and the front seat tore out of the floor, leading to his hitting a taxi, while staring at the headliner. Rusted right out in 3 years!

  • avatar
    rudiger

    There were a few 1959 models that weren’t horrendous. I’d give the nod to Bunkie Knudson’s wide-track Pontiac as the best, followed by Chrysler (primarily the 300) and Buick.

    But, by in large, 1959 was a low-point for all domestic auto styling. There really wasn’t anything available that year that could be considered a truly beautiful, timeless, classic. Many built both before and after were better.

  • avatar
    Paul Niedermeyer

    My bad about the Cruise-O-Matic. Thanks.

    Jim Sutherland: “What’s not to love about both of them?”

    Plenty. But I get your drift. If I didn’t love all old cars, I wouldn’t bother.

  • avatar
    NickR

    A well-running 283 Chevy could cream a 332 FE, and keep up with a 352.

    What? No scorn for the 390? If ever there was a lump of a motor that underperformed relative to it’s displacement, it was the 390. Hard to believe the famous 427 and 428 came from the same family as these dogs.

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Geeber: as always, I agree with most of what you say. The Ford 6 in the 60s and the 60s small block (including the 351) were indeed good engines. But 2 engine families over the last 80 years does not an “engine company” make. Henry’s flathead was a design marvel, but had inherant problems that were never truly solved. Ford should be thankful for the Vega for knocking the Lincoln Zephyr V12 out of top spot for worst US built car engine after WWII. The Y block was neither a performer nor durable. I love the big old FE 390, but it was good for torquing big station wagons, not performing.

    Hard to tell, but I really am a Ford guy these days. As for the 4.6, it drives ok, but I understand these to be highly demanding of good maintenance practices. I was told by a Ford service guy that the bearing surfaces are machined into the block, so if your bearings are shot, instant boat anchor. I have one of these. 105K miles, and it uses a quart of oil every 800 miles or so. I much preferred the 351 in my 94 Club Wagon. In 164K miles, I am not sure I ever added any oil between changes.

    Anyhow, back to the 59. It is interesting what a different reaction this car brings out than the 59 Chevy. The Chevy is much more polarizing and the responses seemed more ardent. The Ford is more like an old comfortable shoe. Having driven an X frame Chevy and having owned a 59 Fury, I would love to drive a 59 Ford just for the experience. I understood that in the day, its build quality may have been the best of the 3, and may well have had the tightest structure.

  • avatar
    Juniper

    I loved the 59 Buick.(I know, I know)

    http://www.denker.cz/oldtimer/1959_Buick.jpg

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    I almost forgot – I always LOVED the freefloating stars that made up the grille. Cheap, but cool.

  • avatar

    I love that ’59 Buick too. Those fins capture marvelously the style of the times.

    h82w8 :
    Okay all you late ’50s Detroit iron lovers. This song’s for you… Enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NS_vlEdBK4

    He’s right. This is an incredibly good song by any artistic measure, exceedingly well executed, and it’s perfect for those of us who love the late ’50s. Made my day.

  • avatar
    sfdennis1

    I can admire most of the ’59 GM’s only as kitschy, sci-fi inspired lunacy. Over-the-top drama and cartoon styling…I don’t think Ford gets enough credit for it’s more conservative, but ultimately, more predictive style.

    More squared off shapes ruled soon after the 50’s ended…Ford was ahead of the curve on that, and it could be said the GM’s that followed actually copied Ford to some extent. Yes, Ford’s 59’s were a little baroque and overdone, but compared to the “Martian Chic” of the ’59 Chevy, and of the early 60’s Chryslers, Ford’s square-bird design school definitely has some appeal.

  • avatar
    Jerry Sutherland

    I the ’59s from Detroit,but I really like the 1959 Plymouth.So much so that I invested all of my spare and not so spare resources in the 90s to save a 1959 Plymouth that probably would have been better served by euthanasia.Despite the enormous cost which ran close to the GDP of 3 developing nations, it was absolutely worth it.
    http://www.mystarcollectorcar.com/

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    Jerry Sutherland: You are my hero. I owned a 59 Fury sedan in the late 70s. Wide block 318 and pushbuttons. And water leaks. But that may have been the best driving car I ever had. It is certainly one of my very favorites. Too bad it was back in my “gee, I’ve had this 6 months and Wow, look what I just found for sale” days. Mine was a white Fury sedan with green interior and the birdbath trunk lid. A 60K mile car with clear plastic seat covers and no radio. When I opened the glove box and saw that it was delivered to its first owner on the day I was born, I had to buy it.

    I love your car!

  • avatar
    Ingvar

    “But, by in large, 1959 was a low-point for all domestic auto styling. There really wasn’t anything available that year that could be considered a truly beautiful, timeless, classic.”

    I don’t agree. To me, 1959 epitomizes the ultimate high point of American styling. Nothing before or since has been so baroque or over the top. Except for the crisp ’61 Continental, the 60’s was a slippery slope down to blandness. I consider the ’59 Cadillac especially, the most beautiful Cadillac ever done, and the most beautiful of the ’59 GM cars. 1959 was the turning point. After that, a sort of sensible hangover curtailed the styling. The Ford Falcon showed the new way out, it was the first of the new mindset.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    How could I have forgotten about the 1959 Cadillac? Yeah, that one is a classic (especially the convertible) and could be considered a high-water point for that particular marque.

    But it’s still more of an exception than the rule. Most of the chrome-laden monstrosities that came out of Detroit in that year were garish, overwrought, and tasteless. I remember once reading where Harley Earl himself degreed that GM’s cars had to have at least fifty pounds of chrome, once telling a stylist that the design for a late fifties Oldsmobile didn’t have the requisite weight.

  • avatar
    Monty

    All of the 59 GM cars are beautiful. Not in a clean scandanavian way, but in the 50’s American excessive style.

    My favourites are the 59 Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles and Buicks, as they don’t get the love that the Chev and Caddie get from gearheads. Actually, it’s the same with the 55 to 57 models as well. I think the mid three GM offerings were fantastic, from 1955 right through to 1960. Space agey, overwrought, enough bling for a modern day rap star…they represent the pinnacle of American styling. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the 55-60 period was when American cars were miles above what the rest of the automobile world was giving us.

    In reality, the styling represents what America was to the rest of the world. Large, loud and jet-age cool.

  • avatar
    Jerry Sutherland

    Thank you David Holzman; That Wilcox You Tube song should be the official national anthem of Fin World. That song says it all for fin guys.
    http://www.mystarcollectorcar.com/

  • avatar
    MadHungarian

    The explanation for the 1959 Ford is very simple: Bob McNamara. He was on a tear to eliminate as much glitz and bling as he could from the product line. This was when he was killing off the Edsel and wrapping up the Falcon, which was the most conservative plain vanilla car you could imagine — no slant sixes, rear engines or Euro-inspired designs here!

    Recognizing that they are a bit impractical, nevertheless any two door wagon design adds a bit of grace and sportiness, even to this workhorse vehicle.

    By the way, the Courier existed in 1960 as well. After that, the sedan delivery was moved to the Falcon line where it lasted through ’65. A few years ago one of the collector car mags featured a ’60 Courier converted to to a two door ’60 Edsel wagon, using a couple of Edsel parts cars.

  • avatar

    I gotta agree with Ingvar about the ’59 Caddy being the best Cadillac. Although there certainly were some other great ones in the ’50s and early ’60s.

    Jerry Sutherland, love your site. Check out mine, motorlegends.com. and please credit h82w8 for introducing all of us to that wilcox song.

  • avatar
    NickR

    jpcavanaugh, if you care to go back in time/recapture your youth, I know someone who might just be able to help you.

  • avatar
    fincar1

    I agree that it will be difficult to find a good 57-59 Plymouth for this series. I see them very, very seldom anymore, and since I owned a 58 Belvedere convertible for 32 years, I do pay attention. I know of a restored 57 Fury in Springfield, down the road a piece from you, but that’s not exactly a daily driver.

    I always thought they were great-looking cars, but they were such terrible rusters. There was no paint at all on the insides of the fins on my convertible, to name one specific problem. There were no baffles to keep dirt and water from being thrown up into the area above the headlights, which had a low spot without a drain hole.

    They would out-handle most contemporary cars too, as would all Chrysler products. I know…I’ve had at least one of almost every make, from a 58 DeSoto wagon to a 60 New Yorker 2-door hardtop to a 3-speed 57 Fury; five other 58 Plymouths besides my convertible. Oddly enough, no Dodges though.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    David Holzman :
    September 25th, 2009 at 12:39 am

    I gotta agree with Ingvar about the ‘59 Caddy being the best Cadillac. Although there certainly were some other great ones in the ’50s and early ’60s.

    I’d add the ’67 Eldo to that list. I also have a soft spot for the early-’80s Eldos for some reason – that design hangs together.

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Ingvar :
    September 24th, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    1959 was the turning point. After that, a sort of sensible hangover curtailed the styling. The Ford Falcon showed the new way out, it was the first of the new mindset.

    Personally, I prefer understated and elegant to showy, but if you’re going to go gaudy, those late ’50s Caddies were great.

    But the early ’60s Caddies were great looking too, and the new minimalism also spawned two all-time classic designs – the ’61 Continental and the ’63 Riv. I’d also include the Chrysler turbine car in that design motif.

  • avatar
    geeber

    The 1959 Cadillac is a car that “works.” It’s not beautiful – I wouldn’t go that far – but it is an interesting, coherent and sleek design.

    To see two designs from that era trying to achieve the same goal as that Cadillac but unable to pull it off, look no further than the 1958-60 Lincolns and 1960-61 Imperials. Both were awful designs.

    jpcavanaugh: I love the big old FE 390, but it was good for torquing big station wagons, not performing.

    Part of Ford’s problem is that it never really “got” the muscle car market. Fords were winning races left and right in the 1960s, but Ford never seemed to understand that “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” needed hardware in the showroom to work. Pontiac was ordered out of racing by GM management in the early 1960s, but DeLorean and Wangers made sure that there was plenty of excitement available in Pontiac showrooms. What Ford needed in the 1960s was a Jim Wangers.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    You should have followed the 59 Chevy with the 60 Ford.

    I can’t say Ford copied the batwing styling – lead time likely meant that the 60 Ford was on the drawing board when the 59 Chevy hit the streets. Still, it gave every appearance of Ford copying Chevy.

    I think I like the 59 Chevy better than Ford’s 1960 rendition of batwings. If you’re going to do it, may as well go over the top with it. 1960 Fords didn’t look like Fords.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    geeber: “Part of Ford’s problem is that it never really “got” the muscle car market.”Isn’t that the truth. For most of the musclecar heyday of the sixties, Ford had essentially left the whole domestic racing scene to GM and Chrysler. Henry Ford II and his fixation to beat Ferrari instead concentrated on the international venue with the Cobra and GT40 programs. Ford’s bread-and-butter big-block engine, the 390, was easy meat for anyone on the street. Esoteric stuff like the 427 side-oiler were way too expensive, limited in production, and tenuous in reliability to really count. When the 390 Mustang appeared, despite how it appeared in Bullitt, it quickly became known as a disappointing stone.

    Ford finally did get serious about domestic racing towards the end of the decade. The 428CJ was a solid effort, on par with the best offerings from Chrysler and GM. The NASCAR ‘race on Sunday, sell on Monday’ mandate was appeased with the Boss 429 in the Talladega and Cyclone Spoiler II aero-specials (although that engine/body combination was never offered from the factory).

    Combined with their international efforts and the Boss 302 for the short-lived Trans Am series, for a brief period, Ford’s ‘Total Performance’ marketing that covered all aspects of auto racing was really the truth.

  • avatar
    coatejo

    jpcavanaugh: I also agree with you on the engines. Has Ford ever really been an engine company? (Duck and cover!) To this day, GM and Chrysler put out engines that will run rings around Ford.
    Yes, Ford is just as much a engine company as GM ever was, I would argue they were better. Ask anyone who ever owned a Oldsmobile diesel, or a Cadillac V-8-6-4, or the Northstar V8 if GM is an engine company. I do not think that Ford has the catalog of failed engine designs that GM can boast about. While I usually enjoy and agree with Mr. Cavanaugh’s posts, I had to chime in on this one.

  • avatar
    Buick61

    Wow. I’m surprised by the number of comments this ’59 Ford has elicited.

    I was born in the ’80s, so growing up as a car lover I didn’t see anything on the road at the time that was exciting for a young boy. But, through books and movies, I was drawn to the amazingly beautiful cars of the 1950s. They had color, chrome, style, details, distinction, and coherency.

    To this day I don’t think there’s been a better era for car design.

    However, 1958 and 1959 were low points for Ford design. Chevrolet was what it was. I think it’s awesome, but I can see that at the time it may have been a bit too much for some. And the ’59 Plymouth was an attempt to make the successful 1957-58 design a bit larger and glitzier.

    The best looking cars of the era could arguably be the 1957-1958 Chrysler Corporation lineup. Sure there were chrome and fins galore, but it all worked. And even with all of the glamor, they were still tasteful, clean designs.

    And, no, you won’t see too many 1957 or 1958 Plymouths as curbside classics anytime soon. Rust prevention (especially in 1957) was lacking. Engineering didn’t quite have enough time to perfect these cars before they went to production, and then, to keep up with demand, quality was allowed to slip in the plants.

    But they sure were beautiful. And now, they are ULTRA rare. When is the last time anyone happened upon late ’50s Plymouth in the wild?

    Here’s my submission for the next curbside classic:

    http://img444.imageshack.us/img444/3604/plymouthjuly2009.jpg

  • avatar
    RayinBC

    You are right about late fifties,look at the roof lines on the Mopars. The stodgy ’59 Ford out sold the Chevy.

  • avatar
    bugo

    I would repair that car to the point to where it was safe and reliable and drive it as-is. I wouldn’t paint it right away, I’d drive it unrestored for at least a while before giving it a full restoration.

    What is the difference between the 2 door Ranch Wagon and the Courier?


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