Ford introduced all-new models for 1952, beating rival Chevrolet to the punch by a full year. The Mainline became FoMoCo’s entry-level model, and it featured a more modern style than the basic Deluxe it replaced. Wraparound windshield, curved rear glass, a modified grille, and more ornamentation to break up the earlier “Shoebox” Ford’s slab sides gave the new Mainline a fresh look.
The Mainline came standard with an overhead-valve six-cylinder that displaced 215 cid and made 101 hp. A 239-cid L-head engine was optional, and it used a two-barrel carburetor to create 110 hp. A three-speed manual transmission was standard, while overdrive and Ford-O-Matic were optional with either motor. Body styles included a business coupe, Tudor and Fordor sedans, and a two-door Ranch station wagon. The base price for a Tudor sedan in 1952 was $1,629.
The 1953 Ford Mainline was largely the same as the previous year, with a slightly simpler grille and different side brightwork. Body choices and prices were essentially the same, as were powertrain choices. Power steering became a welcome option this model year.
The 1954 model received a new suspension setup and a new engine tunes. The standard six-cylinder now produced 115 hp, while the optional V-8 now had 130 hp on tap. New convenience options included power brakes, windows, and front seat.
The 1955 Ford Mainline was vastly different from the 1954 model. The grille was markedly new, as it no longer sported a spinner front. A plunging trim piece ran from the A-pillar to the rear of the car. The 1956 Mainline’s major development was the introduction of a 12-volt electrical system. The car also received more of the Thunderbird’s styling and air conditioning became optional, and the business coupe was removed from the lineup. The optional V-8 became the 173-hp, 272-cid unit, though the Ranch wagon’s V-8 choice was the 292-cid, 200-hp engine that was standard in the Thunderbird.
The Ford Mainline was very popular, with more than one million making it to the road. Enthusiasts usually opt for the 1956 models due to their 12-volt systems and the power options those systems can support. Earlier cars are interesting and affordable as well, and any Mainline is relatively easy to maintain assuming rust and rot are kept in check. All in all, the car is an affordable way to experience a mainstream 1950s American car.