Car enthusiasts universally recognize the 1957 Chevrolet as an iconic collector’s model that appears in car shows everywhere. It was produced as an upscale Bel Air, a mid-range Two-Ten, and the One-Fifty. They are often restored to their original condition and, according to Wikipedia’s coverage, frequently used in toys, graphics, music, movies, and television.
As the third in the “Tri-Five” series that debuted with the first V-8 small-block engine since the 1918 Chevy, it was a watershed time for General Motors.
But here’s the surprise that only those deep in automotive history are fully aware of – the introduction of Ford’s second generation (1957-1959) Fairlane outsold the Chevrolet competition for the first time since 1935.
For many it’s hard to believe that after 22 straight years of dominance, Chevrolet didn’t produce the best-selling car in America. Ford did by delivering more that 28,000 of the Fairlanes than the Chevy line up.
By 1959 the new top-of-the line Fairlane, like the one featured here, was called the Galaxie that boasted both the Fairlane 500 and Galaxie badges.
It came with the 352-cubic-inch Police Interceptor V8 engine and the three-speed Cruise-O-Matic transmission. Its fashionable quad headlights were introduced in the 1958 model along with a grill that closely matched the Thunderbird.
While, as mentioned previously, the Chevys of the period show up in lots of movies, the Fairlane 500 is not without its own Hollywood Movie Cars Database resume that records its appearance in a couple hundred films.
The most recognizable of them all is certainly Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 Psycho thriller when it first shows up as the car Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) trades for when making her getaway en route to the Bates Motel.
Then, again, when Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) shoves it into that swampy lake with Marion’s corpse and her possessions in its trunk.
With all that pedigree, when this one came available, Adlai Pennington, our often-visited collector of classic vehicles, most of which he preserves in the condition that he finds them, had to have it.
“I was looking around on Craigslist and found what I expected to be one of those popular ’57 Chevys. When I got with the owner it turned out he didn’t have that car, but the Fairlane that had belonged to his mother. She apparently is the one responsible for putting just 26,000 miles on it – 400 miles a year.
“It was literally trapped inside his garage where it had been stored for something like 15-20 years. It had to be dragged out with a winch so we could open the doors and take a look inside.
“We installed a new battery and, to my total surprise, it started right up. My mechanic explained the ‘old leaded gas’ didn’t have all the additives of today’s fuels, and all that was required was for it to respond to the spark.
“The factory air conditioner came alive, and it blows away. The tires are the originals and have Detroit air in them.
“I’ve had it painted to bring back the original appearance and now am working on the engine to get it back up to top condition so, unlike most of my collection, I can drive it around when I want.”
As part of its authenticity, it has the 1960 registration stickers on the windshield and a few 60-year-old cigarette butts in the ashtray – further evidence that one day a long time ago, it was driven into that garage where it remained until Adlai became its second owner.
In conclusion, what he has is a car like the one that beat Chevrolet for the sales record and that Marion parked at the Bates Motel.