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Hagerty Employee

Adventures in Mom’s ’57 Ford Fairlane 500 “Thunderbird Special”

Why is that car behind me flashing its brights? Flash, flash, flash! I’m cruising in the third lane (of four) on my side of an eight-lane suburban highway. Should I move over? There’s plenty of room to pass. Flash, flash, flash! What does he want?


Is he a cop? Is he pulling me over? This could mean jail! And no driving ‘till I’m 21… my dad’s dire warning if he ever caught me driving before I was legal. I had my own keys to Mom’s super-cool ’57 Ford Fairlane 500 convertible, and he knew that I knew how to drive it. Read the full article on


Wow, that's a great series of stories. I have to imagine most of us Northeast Ohio boys did the same thing, although I'm a fair amount younger than the author. I was rather tall and looked older than I was as a fourteen year-old, I would routinely sneak off in my parent's 1974 Mercury Montego and drive around with our little township with little worry. 


Coincidentally, my father had a 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 with a 312 V8 in it. I was brought home from the hospital in that car. Up until he passed, he always spoke fondly of that car. None of his other cars ever compared favorably to that Fairlane, the car that he judged all of his others. 


That story, and the previous comments bring back a flood of memories.  One of the circumstantial evidence cases brought against me was " Boy!! There is 110 miles on that car!"  I have know idea what was said after that. All I was thinking was I gotta learn how to disconnect that speedometer cable! I do remember handing the keys over. Yes I did! Three more sets, just in case!

Pit Crew

What a fabulous story! Thanks for sharing.


Who else drove illegally? Bueller? Anyone? Great story.

New Driver

The 57 Ford Fairlane is a gorgeous car. It’s hard to believe how much they destroyed it in 1958. 

New Driver

That is a beautiful car!  Great lines on the 57 Ford, especially the convertibles.  My first car was a 1957 Ford Country Sedan station wagon hand-me-down from my Mom.  It also had the 292 CID Thunderbird engine, complete with the rocker arm covers that actually said Thunderbird on them, which I always thought was so cool.  Your article brought back memories, especially your description of the barge-like characteristics, with the barely there brakes and remotely connected steering.  Nevertheless, I really liked that old car and I also took it around the block a time or two, sans license, at a too young age.  I'm sure if I got a chance to drive it again now, I would constantly be thinking, "When is this darn thing going to shift again?"

Pit Crew

At fourteen Dad commented that I 'ought to buy a $50 car and tear it apart' if I really wanted to learn: two weeks later I found one in the paper. Four door Fairlane 500 with the same "T-Bird" 292. Without enough cash or tools or space to do much about the significant rust rot everywhere- my friends and I had a blast pulling the front clip and rebuilding the top of the motor, brakes and exhaust. Once back together, we tortured the bald snow tires with long burnouts up our cul-de-sac when the parents were out. Even though we probably didn't go further than a mile around our neighborhood, we had a rush from un-registerd un-licensed motoring

Intermediate Driver

My first car was a '57 Fairlane 500 tudor hard top I got to drive in 1971 after my graduation from high school. I had a lot of fun in that car. To this day I wish I had kept it.

Pit Crew

Back then, you could order any engine with any model.  The hottest car in our little town was a baby-blue, outside and in, Ford base Custom with the 312 cid, two 4-barrels and 270 hp.  The Custom had a shorter wheelbase than the Fairlane models and with few options, was lighter and faster.  The owner claimed he'd never been beat in our section of northern Illinois.

New Driver

This story reminds me of a 1959 Country Squire station wagon, blue and white in 1965. You are not alone!


I too was a year behind my friends getting my driver's license.  Not being nearly as adventurous as Gary, my Dad drove me and my girlfriend throughout my sophomore year and half my junior year, when I finally got my license.  It was thus a treat to double-date with my friend Tom, who drove his folks' '60 T-bird.  The back seat was very cozy for us, but Tom hated it due to the enormous console that separated the two front seats; he referred to it as "the sex divider" as he couldn't even put his arm around his date.  Parking and necking?  Impossible.  Meanwhile, Carol and I (we married  in college) were nicely ensconced in the back seat... 

Actually it wasn't too bad not having a license--growing up in Ft Lauderdale it was easier to get to my girlfriend's house by boat than by car--so long as the tide wasn't too high (low bridge).  We went on many "boat dates"--water skiing or just cruising around all the waterways in Ft Lauderdale or even out in the ocean if it was calm.  However, we did not cut class (as did many of our classmates) to be extras when they were filming "Where the Boys Are."  


New Driver

My dad had just bought a 1953 Ford four door sedan in very good condition for my mom. It was a very windy Sunday afternoon and my parents were gone for the afternoon. In small rural Nebraska communities, it was not unusual for country kids to drive before the legal driving age of 16 on school permits that were limited to driving to and from school activities. But I was a town kid without need or access to such a permit. Three of my buddies from the country came to town and I decided to take them for a ride in my mom's "new" car. We took off for a ride on "roller coaster road" a few miles outside of town. We were not going that fast - really - maybe 40 mph when a  strong cross wind picked up the car at the crest of a hill and blew us side ways into the field. We went through a three wire fence and left the bottom wire intact with the top wires wrapped around the car. When we came to a stop in the field next to the road, we had to climb out the windows because the wire encasing the car. The worst part was the noise. The car motor was still running and there was a very loud screeching noise coming from under the hood. After removing the wire, we got back inside, found a gate, and drove back onto the road. I opened the hood to find the fan planted in the radiator. The Ford flatheads had a fan belt going to each bank of the motor and, because the fan couldn't move, both were screaming bloody murder. We shut the motor down to determine our next move. In our fifteen year old thinking, if we cut the fan belts the sound would stop, and we could get home. (Never mind the cooling properties of a fan and associated water pump). The only sharp object we could find was the tire iron which we used to cut both belts. Tim (not his real name), whose dad was chief of police in a near by city, kept complaining about his arm hurting. We basically told him to suck it up as we were frantically trying to get back home before my parents.

After cutting the belts, for what ever reason, the car would not start on it's own, but I was smart enough to stop on the top of the hill. You could start a  Ford automatic by coasting it like a manual transmission if you could get it going 30 mph, so we a pushed like crazy and got it going fast enough downhill to get it started. I went back and picked up my three buddies and we headed for town. The Ford actually ran about two miles before overheating and finally dying totally. Long story short - when Tim got home and told his dad, he came to town looking for me after a visit to the hospital to set Tim's broken arm.  I knew he was going to sue my parents for everything. Instead, he gathered the group and gave us all the biggest lecture of our we had ever had. When my parents got home, I got it all over again. We tried fixing the Ford, but the frame bent on impact so we sold it for parts.  Tim is now the county sheriff not far from where all this happened. We have always been thankful for the protection from greater harm on our classic joy ride in 1965.

Intermediate Driver

I am guilty of quite a few youthful transgressions that my parents would NOT have been happy about IF they had known about them.  But they never did.  Years later, when I was in my 40s I told my mom one day that she would really be surprised to hear some of the things I did in my younger years.  And she replied for me not to tell her.  She didn't want to know.


I simply cannot imagine driving before it was legal, under any circumstances - especially if my parents were not along and approving.  Guess I was too much of a Mr. Do Bee.  Or, maybe I just would not have wanted to face my father's wrath.  Either way, I recall other kids saying they had driven with their parents (or without) before they even took Driver's Ed. class; I recall thinking something like, "Well that was stupid; you are lucky you didn't get caught by the Man." 


Great story! Great comments as well. A flood of memories.  Evidence was always circumstantial.  My father came into the room with 'that look'.  "Boy! There is a 110 miles on that car!"  I have no idea what he said between that and my handing over the keys. All I was thinking was, I gotta learn how to disconnect that speedometer cable! I did, and then found out two of my key  stashes were empty.  Yup! I had more!

Pit Crew

Back in 1957, just before my 10th birthday, my dad bought a '57 Country Sedan wagon for our annual trip to Florida from the Birmingham, AL area. He had looked all over for a 4-door wagon and finally was talking to Don Maring, half owner of Maring-Crawford Ford in Birmingham, at church one Sunday. He told dad to come see him Monday. It turned out that Mr. Maring's wife was driving just what dad was looking for. This car had the rear facing 3rd row seat and would hold all four of us kids. Later on, dad learned that the car had the 312 CID Thunderbird Special V8 and it had been massaged with a different cam and bigger Holley four barrel. That thing would really scoot! Every chance I got I sneaked it out for a clandestine drive, which, of course, I was not supposed to be doing. I too was never caught but I remember the last time I took it iut, it would still chirp the tires when it hit second gear, and that would've been in '64 0r '65 with over 80K on the clock. Sadly, it was traded for another station wagon for mom. I wish I knew what finally happened to that car.

Phil in TX


My father had a black '57 Ford two-door.  A moonshiner in an adjoining county had special-ordered it, with the 312 ci engine, an overdrive manual transmission, and a tinted rear window (of all things).  The  revenuers caught the guy before he could take delivery, and it sat on the lot for months because no one wanted the big engine.  Daddy drove it until 1961, and sold it to two brothers who were shadetree mechanical geniuses (they once transplanted an Olds Rocket V-8 into a Ford pickup truck).  They painted it white, made several modifications to the engine, and ruled the local street-racing scene for a while.  At least, that's the way the story goes - I was born in 1957, and just barely have one memory of it.  There's a picture of me at about age 2 leaning against the front left fender.

New Driver

My dad sold Fords in the Birmingham, Royal Oak, Ferndale , Michigan for over 50 years. Of all the cars he brought home, I only Joy Rided one. A 1964 Galaxy 500 XL Convertible, 427 4 Speed. 
After my 67 Fairlane GT is finished, and I’m not divorced over it. I would like to work on a 64  Convert  Terry 67 GT