One Year Wonder: 1956 Ford Parklane

Of all the Tri Five Chevrolets from the 1950s, the most ironic is probably the Nomad. That short-lived sport wagon was born out of a 1954 Corvette-based show car. But who remembers the Ford Parklane, the one-year iteration that also tried to be a sport wagon, but instead was a dressed-up Ranch Wagon? Those are seen far less often today, but they’re still out there, including this two-tone green edition located in Fergus Fall, Minnesota. It’s available here on eBay where the bidding has reached $6,901 but the not the reserve. Thanks, Larry D, for another interesting find!

The 1950s represented a change in direction for station wagons. They moved away from the expensive-to-produce wood-bodied wagons of the ‘40s known as “Woodies” to all-steel-bodied versions that would serve as multi-people haulers until the advent of the SUV in the ‘80s. The sport wagon experiment would begin with the Nomad, which was an upscale Bel Air with a unique body from the windshield back. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, especially in the auto business, so Ford copied the idea for 1956 with the Parklane. But they didn’t create a special body for it. Instead, they took the entry-level 2-door Ranch Wagon, added side and interior trim from the Fairlane and Country Sedan, put some special brightwork on the B-pillar and called it a day.

This wagon is one of those ’56 Parklanes and we’re not given much info about it other than the wagon has been in storage since 1984. It’s said to have been running when it stopped being used, but 37 years of inactivity have a way of changing things. We assume it doesn’t run and no indication is given as to what it might take to get the wagon going again. Ford sold twice as many Parklanes in 1956 as Chevy did Nomads, but it was still a small number (15,000 units). So, Ford opted to discontinue the Parklane when the whole line-up was redesigned in 1957. However, the name would reappear in 1960s as a full-size Mercury.

Parklanes would start out having an inline-six as its standard engine, but buyers could opt for the “Thunderbird Y-8,” a 292 cubic inch V8 that produced 202 hp. If that wasn’t enough power, the 312 V8 dubbed the “Thunderbird Special” that was good for 215 hp with a manual transmission or 225 with the Ford-O-Matic. I’m not an expert on the physical differences between the two motors, but the valve covers look like those from the Y-8 and are not marked Thunderbird Special, so I’m going with the Y-8 as motor here.

For sitting since about the time the first Ghostbusters movie came out, the body and paint are in remarkably good condition. Probably good enough to just clean it up rather than restore the body, at least initially. However, the interior is another matter, with new upholstery and carpeting required and perhaps some work on pieces like the door panels. At 103,000 reported miles, this wagon was certainly well used in the 30 or so years it was on the road.

Hagerty estimates the resale value of a basic Ranch Wagon to be around $13,000 in Fair condition. Yet NADA says in top condition the Parklane (a Ranch Wagon in Fairlane trim) could be a six-figure vehicle. This potentially places the Parklane in Nomad territory, perhaps because attrition has dwindled the supply to a small number. If the reserve isn’t set to high, perhaps this wagon’s a hidden gem just waiting to be polished.


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  1. Moparman Member

    I know that “everyone” raves over the Tri 5 Chevy’s. but I personally find the 55-56 Fords much more attractive. This looks a solid restoration project and all that I would add would be the fender skirts! GLWTA!! :-)

    Like 19
    • Will Fox

      Skirts were part of the Park Lane package, a la Crown Vic. Come winter, many owners parked those skirts in the garage when tire chains were needed. This wagon will have some advantages if someone plans to restore it to showroom new. The interior trim on these was basically Crown Victoria material, following the same patterns & materials. They are reproduced today which helps.

      Like 1
  2. bobhess bobhess Member

    Not familiar with the 292 details but did drive a two door hard top in the ’70s with that engine and automatic transmission and it had good power. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this model of the wagon which leads me to want to see it restored and back on the road as a rare example of the cars of that era. More automotive history.

    Like 9
  3. Steve R

    It’s hard to go wrong with any two door wagon. I know they weren’t terribly popular with the masses, especially as time went by, but it’s always nice to see one when they pop up for sale.

    Steve R

    Like 9
  4. Burger

    First wife loved Fords. We got her a 53, 56, 57, 59, then jumped to a 66. I’ve always looked at (most) Fords as pigs wearing lipstick, and restoring her cars sealed that thinking in stone. True, some can be interesting for their time, but Ford’s business model was to sell the least amount of car for the most amount of money, but remain in the low price bracket, and they were immensely successful at it. The 55-56 up-model Fords were a spectacular example of liberal application of lipstick on a proverbial “pig”. Anemic power from even “their best” engines, sloppy response automatic transmissions, terribly undersized brakes that fade to zero dangerously fast, and all the suspension characteristics of a garbage scow on high seas. And let’s not even get started on Ford’s penchant for placing engine appliances in places that require removing EVERYTHING to get at the problem !

    That said, they could be pretty iconic cars for those times, and this one is a great example. Love the trim and paint colors. All it needs is a load of groceries or a few 2×4’s sticking out the back window, and suddenly it’s 1958 !

    Maybe I am biased, being so harsh on Fords engineering ? But after working on and driving 57-61 Chryslers and DeSotos for decades, doing work on and trying to get the ex’s Fords to move, corner, and stop like my cars, and talking with my hardcore Ford-nut friends (who thought our Ford’s were awesome), I came to realize my expectations were way too high, and they are what they are. You gotta enjoy them for being a cheap car with some added bling, and little else.

    By the early 60’s, Ford changed their game a little and soon you could get a serious performer with the Ford name. Our 390/4-speed/disc brake 66 handled very well and was a very nice car in all respects. I just wish it had that Leave It To Beaver 50’s styling.

    Like 11
  5. David F Scully

    I picked up a ’56 Parklane in 1968, 3-speed, o’drive. It was a coral over white color combo, and really a good-looking car. When the 292 started making some bad noises, I dropped a ’61 352 w/Cruiseomatic in it’s place – a surprisingly easy swap using all FoMoCo parts. I had to swap in a steering column and shift linkage from a ’59 (exactly the sane length and almost the same interior colors!) to get the extra shift detent for the Cruiseomatic, and a really strange u-joint from a police interceptor to make it all work. Having the ’56 as the first FoMoCo 12-volt system really helped. Out on the freeways, it would out-pull may an unsuspecting big-block Mopar and GM challenger, but it used a lot of gas! I wish I had kept it, but a divorce and graduate school changed my transportation needs back to VW-level driving.

    Like 1
  6. Solosolo Member

    Russ. 103,000 miles is nothing for a car that was driven for 30 years. My 2006 BMW 320 tdi has just turned 260,000 miles and is still going strong.

    Like 1
    • Burger

      Mileage is irrelevant. Maintenance is everything. My DeSoto has just under 600K on it, but is mechanically excellent. We used to pick low mileage cars off the rez that died with the original oil in them … or what was left of that factory oil !

      Like 4
  7. BR

    Cummins, Allison, chopped, channeled, bagged and slammed, and acid washed. Now that I have all that anger vented, what I would really do is bring it up to original roadworthy mechanical standards, restore the stock interior, and wash, wax and love it.

    Like 3
  8. Miguel - Mexican Spec

    Russ in the first line did you mean ICONIC, or IRONIC, like it is posted?

  9. Miguel - Mexican Spec

    I would like to see this rare wagon restored just so we don’t lose an example of what was an interesting experiment.

    Like 4
  10. Thomas

    My grandfather had one just like this same color and all I was maybe 4years old I remember it had three rows of seats thought that was the coolest thing loved that car

  11. Russ Ashley

    We had some friends that had one of these in very nice condition. It was two tone blue which I like better than this one, but I like them both. They were not car people and didn’t think anything about the rarity of it, and sold it pretty quick because it didn’t get as good gas mileage as they thought it should. I wanted to buy it but other obligations took priority.

    Like 1
  12. LarryS Member

    Had a ’59 Fairlane 500 2-door with the 292 Y-block and a 3 speed on the column when I was in high school. Definitely could not keep up with the Chevy small blocks running around at the time.

    Like 2
  13. richard Parsons

    Rocker arm wear makes me not want any Y block Ford. I had 3.

    • gaspumpchas

      Amen, Richard, so many oiling issues with the y blocks. When they would no longer get enough oil to the rockers internally, we used to install the kits that oiled externally. When you saw the external tubing you knew you were on borrowed time. Also real important and neglected was the mesh filter on the road draft tube assembly. This would be a great candidate for a 351 and a 4 speed or aod. Possibly air!

  14. gaspumpchas

    Love this beauty, but here in the rust belt of NY the 55 and 56 ford had a nasty habit of rusting out the front crossmember where the lower frames rusted out, you would need to check it out before buying. If my plate wasnt full of unfinished projects i’d grab this one, put a stick in it and leave it as is, that 2 tone green is beautiful! Cheers and good luck.

    Like 1
  15. HC

    Man you guys have been on a Ford and Pontiac wagon kick with the last few posts and I love it! This one definitely is a diamond in the rough but Minnesota is a long drive from Ga!

  16. Robt

    Nice wagon.
    I’d clean up the body, rebuild as necessary the motor, adding a mild cam and improved carburation, refurbish the underpinning swapping in discs up front, and bolt on wider steelies all around.
    Then drive it daily.
    Family car, now that we are almost back to just 2, work car, I’m a cabinet maker, hot rod, because… and a 1956 Ford.

    • Robt

      From what I’ve learned through researching the Y-block is that their downfall was lack of lubrication to the top end due clogged oil passages from non detergent oil. Modern detergent oils have that figured. Sounds like Y-blocks would be good running dinosaurs today.

  17. chrlsful

    moved the fam north frm Balt-i-mur to Bostun in 1960 in this rig (same color, not sure on motor – I wuz 8 y/o). Not many yrs later the behemoth went into a tree offa da ice driven by mom. She got Renault Dulphines, the 10, simca 1000, fiat 124 (no VeDub tho, all lill 4dors) as the kid buss after than. Fine by me’n sis. She wuz happier in something she could more easily pilot. Not sure bout dad…but income now meant no need to wrench any more 8^ )
    (my turn!).

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