The Coronation of Queen Victoria took place on June 28, 1838, so we figured now’s a good time to talk about the Ford nameplate she indirectly inspired.

If you’re not familiar, Ford first used the term “Crown Victoria” to denote the luxury trim level on its then-new Fairlane way back in 1955. After disappearing for several years, the Crown Victoria name was resurrected on the beloved Ford Panther platform as a submodel of the LTD passenger sedan in 1979 before becoming its own nameplate in 1992. The Crown Vic ceased production in 2012.

1956 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria Skyliner, fender emblem
(Image/Summit Racing – Patrick Miller)

But if you ever wondered how Ford came up with the “Crown Victoria” name to begin with, truth is, the story behind it is actually pretty interesting. And more importantly, when you learn the reason why it was chosen, the name makes a whole lot of sense. So let’s dive in.

For starters, Ford updated its passenger car lineup in 1955, introducing the soon-to-be iconic Fairlane as the top model. The Crown Victoria trim took things up another notch by adding some more cosmetic brightwork to the Fairlane.

1956 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria Skyliner, driver side
(Image/Summit Racing – Patrick Miller)

But here’s why Ford chose the name “Crown Victoria.”

It was actually a nod to the Victorian era, because the Crown Victoria models featured a prominent chrome hoop that extended from the Fairlane’s B-pillar and bisected the car’s roof. The striking design evoked the open front canopies of Victorian-style carriages from the 19th century.

Note the large support bows on the collapsible roof of the carriage pictured below, and you’ll see what we’re talking about here.

1860 panel boot victoria carriage
(Image/Public Domain)

And the Victorian inspiration got even more pronounced when buyers opted for the “Transparent Top” models which—you guessed it—featured a fixed clear roof panel over the front seats instead of the standard steel roof of the typical Crown Victoria models.

The funny thing is, the sunroof wasn’t a new feature—Ford actually introduced it the year prior on the 1954 Crestline, dubbing the sunroof-equipped coupes as “Crestline Skyliner” models. (There was a ragtop offered too, and Ford called the convertibles by the equally-nifty “Crestline Sunliner” moniker.)

1956 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria Skyliner, sunroof
(Image/Summit Racing – Patrick Miller)

Yet despite using the name “Skyliner” in 1954, for 1955 the Ford sales literature simply called the clear roof a “Transparent Top.” But during the following year, the marketing folks must’ve pushed back because the Skyliner name returned in 1956.

And so the full formal name of the 1956 Ford that pulled into the Summit Racing Retail Store parking lot a few days ago is actually a “Fairlane Crown Victoria Skyliner” to denote the model, trim, and the sunroof option.

1956 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria Skyliner, rear
(Image/Summit Racing – Patrick Miller)

Astute Ford fans might associate the name Skyliner with the innovative Fairlane convertibles equipped with the rare retractable roof—and they’d be right—but those hardtop convertible Skyliners didn’t appear until 1957.

So before those retractable roof coupes arrived, the term Skyliner referred to the clear acrylic sunroof. (And again, for whatever reason, in 1955 the Skyliner name wasn’t used at all, and the sunroof option was simply called a “Transparent Top.”)

Fun Fact: Mercury got its own sunroof option too, only they were called “Sun Valley” coupes in Mercury parlance.

1958 ford skyliner with roof partially retracted
We spotted this 1958 Fairlane Skyliner retractable hardtop coupe at the incredible Collection 21 private car museum. (Image/OnAllCylinders)

The specific 1956 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria Skyliner we’re showcasing in this Lot Shots vehicle feature rolled into the Summit Racing retail store pulling a tidy little utility trailer—which made us grin considering the overall rarity of the car. (We love seeing vintage vehicles used as they were intended.)

1956 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria Skyliner, interior
(Image/Summit Racing – Patrick Miller)

A set of polished Torq-Thrust wheels and a dual exhaust system tell us that this is a bit of a hotrod as well. And that’s doubly true when you see a complement of Autometer gauges and a big T-handle performance automatic shifter adorning the inside.

Alas, we couldn’t track down the owner to get the full details on the drivetrain of this awesome ride.

1956 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria Skyliner, hood emblem
(Image/Summit Racing – Patrick Miller)

Despite being a relatively popular feature at the time, Ford’s flirtation with clear acrylic roofs only lasted a few years. As alluded to earlier, the shift to the fully retractable hardtop in 1957 all but killed the sunroof option. After 1959, Skyliner hardtop convertible production ceased too.

Thankfully, the Crown Victoria name endured longer that the sunroof and retractable hardtop options did…

…Though the 63-year reign of the actual Queen Victoria (1837-1901) eclipsed them all.


If interesting historical vehicle etymology is your jam, you’ll probably enjoy this article too: What is a Brougham? We Explore the Carriage Design, the Guy Behind It & How the Name Evolved

1956 Ford Fairlane Crown Victoria Skyliner, front quarter shot
(Image/Summit Racing – Patrick Miller)

Share this Article
Author: Paul Sakalas

Paul is the editor of OnAllCylinders. When he's not writing, you'll probably find him fixing oil leaks in a Jeep CJ-5 or roof leaks in an old Corvette ragtop. Thanks to a penchant for vintage Honda motorcycles, he spends the rest of his time fiddling with carburetors and cleaning chain lube off his left pant leg.