The Ford Fairlane was an automobile model sold between 1955 and 1970 by the Ford Motor Company in North America. The name was taken from Henry Ford's estate, Fair Lane, near Dearborn, Michigan.
Over time, the name referred to a number of different cars in different classes; the Fairlane was initially a full-size car but became a mid-size car from the 1962 model year. The mid-sized model spawned the Australian-built Fairlane in 1967, although it was considered a large car there.
First generation - 1955–1956Edit
For 1955, the Fairlane name replaced the Crestline as Ford's premier full-size offering. Six different body styles were offered, including the Crown Victoria Skyliner with a tinted, transparent plastic roof, the regular Crown Victoria coupe with lots of stainless steel trim, a convertible Sunliner, Victoria coupe, and traditional sedans. All featured the trademark stainless-steel "Fairlane stripe" on the side. Power options were a 223 CID (3.7 L) straight-6 engine and a 272 CID (4.5 L) V8.
1956 saw few changes; a 4-door Victoria hardtop was introduced, and two new, more powerful V8 options, of 292 CID (4.8 L) and 312 CID (5.1 L), the latter available up to 225 brake horsepower (168 kW). Lifeguard safety package was introduced.
Second generation - 1957–1959Edit
For 1957, a new look gave a longer, wider, lower and sleeker look with low tailfins. A new top trim level was added, the Fairlane 500. For the first time, the lower-level Custom line had a shorter wheelbase than the Fairlane. Engines were largely the same as the year before. The big news for 1957 was the introduction of the Fairlane 500 Skyliner power retractable hardtop, whose solid top hinged and folded down into the trunk space at the touch of a button. Unfortunately, it attracted more attention than sales; the option was expensive, somewhat unreliable, and took up almost all the trunk space when retracted. Even so, it required the roof to be made shorter than the other Fairlanes, and the trunk to be larger.
Another facelift for 1958 saw fashionable quad headlights, a grille that matched the 1958 Thunderbird, and other styling changes. New big-block FE V8s of 332 and 352 CID (5.4) and (5.8 L) replaced the previous largest V8s, and a better 3-speed automatic transmission was also available.
1959 saw a new top-level full-size model introduced at mid-year, the Ford Galaxie.
A Fairlane is featured in the 1965 James Bond film Thunderball, and also briefly in the 2002 Bond film Die Another Day.
Third generation - 1960–1961Edit
Full-size Fairlane and Fairlane 500 models were redesigned for 1960 and again for the 1961 model year. However, the new Galaxie series replaced the Fairlane 500 as the top-of-the-line big Ford. Fairlane 500s were mid-level in the lineup and were equivalent to the Chevrolet Bel Air. Fairlanes were primarily sold as bottom-basement models for fleet use (taxi, police). Hardtop models were discontinued and only sedans and wagons were available during these years. Chrome trim was reserved mainly for the Galaxie, although Fairlane 500s did have a bit more shiny trim than plain Fairlanes.
The big-block 390 cubic-inch V8 was available as the top-horsepower option as the "horsepower race" in Detroit continued.
Fourth generation - 1962–1965Edit
The Fairlane name was moved to Ford's new intermediate, introduced for the 1962 model year to bridge the gap between the compact Ford Falcon and the full-size Galaxie, making it a competitor for GM's A-body 'senior compacts'. With an overall length of 197 in (5004 mm) and a wheelbase of 115.5 in (2934 mm) it was 16 in (406 mm) longer than the Falcon and 12.3 in (312 mm) shorter than the Galaxie.
Like the Falcon, the Fairlane had a unibody frame, but the body incorporated an unusual feature Ford dubbed 'torque boxes,' four boxed structures in the lower body structure designed to absorb road shock by moving slightly in the vertical plane. Suspension was a conventional short-long arm independent arrangement in front, with Hotchkiss drive in the rear. The Fairlane was initially offered only in two-door or four-door sedan body styles.
The Fairlane's standard engine was the 170 CID (2.8 L) six, but as an option, it introduced Ford's new, lightweight Windsor V8, initially with a displacement of 221 CID (3.6 L) and 145 hp (108 kW); a 260 CID (4.2 L) "Challenger" version was added at mid-year, with an advertised 164 hp (122 kW). The Sports Coupe option débuted mid-year and featured bucket seats and a mini console. The trim level supplemented the Fairlane and Fairlane 500 trim levels (the 500 model having more decorative trim, such as a wider chrome stripe down the side and three bullets on the rear quarter panels). The Challenger 289 CID engine was introduced in mid-1963, with solid lifters and other performance pieces helping the engine produce an advertised 271 hp (202 kW); however, it was equipped with single exhaust like the less powerful engines. This engine was coded "K" in the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). Exterior identification was by fender-mounted "V" badges that read "289 High Performance". That same year, station wagons arrived, called the Ranch Wagon and Ranch Custom Wagon. All 1962 Fairlanes had "B" posts despite the popularity of the pillarless hardtop and convertible styles in that era.
Ford saw the problem and introduced two pillarless hardtop coupes for 1963, in Fairlane 500 and Sports Coupe trim. For 1963 and later Sports Coupe models, the center console, which had come from the Falcon parts bin for 1962, was changed to be similar to that of the Galaxie. Front end styling for the '63 models mimicked the big Galaxie models, but the rear end retained the small tailfins and "pieplate" taillamp styling cues. The Squire wagon (a fake woodie) was available for 1963 only, including one model with front bucket seats. The "Swing-Away" steering wheel became an option in 1964.
The 1964 and 1965 Fairlane ranges consisted of similar body styles: base Fairlane and Fairlane 500 two-door coupes and four-door sedans, Fairlane 500 and Sports Coupe two-door hardtops. The Fairlane Squire wagon was dropped, but the standard station wagon was continued. The 221 V8 was dropped after 1963, leaving the six as the base engine and the 260 as the base V8. The "K-code" 271-horsepower 289 V8 continued into 1964 gaining dual exhausts, while a 195 horsepower (145 kW) version of the 289 with a two-barrell carburetor and hydraulic lifters was introduced. The two-speed Fordomatic continued as the automatic transmission choice for the 260 in 1964, while 289 V8s got the three-speed Cruise-O-Matic transmission option. All 1965 models featured 14-inch (360 mm) wheels as standard, in place of the earlier 13-inch (330 mm) wheels, and Fordomatic was finally phased out, leaving Cruise-O-Matic the only automatic available for the Fairlane. The 260 was also dropped after 1964, leaving the two-barrel 289 as the base V8. Styling-wise, in 1964, a new grille and headlight bezels were introduced, the tail fins were dropped, some chrome decorating on the side was changed and the shape of the trunk lid changed. Styling features for 1965 included body-color headlight bezels for the deluxe models and rectangular taillight lenses, a return to the 1962-1963 trunk lid, along with less chrome on the body and a small standup hood ornament.
As the muscle car market took shape, Ford introduced a Ford Fairlane Thunderbolt for drag racing for 1964, heavily modified to incorporate Fords 427 CID (7.0 L) V8 race engine with two four-barrel carburetors on a high-riser manifold, ram-air through the openings left by deleting the inboard headlights, equal-length headers, trunk-mounted battery, fiberglass hood, doors, fenders and front bumper, acrylic glass windows, and other lightweight options including deleted rear-door window winders, carpeting, radio, sealant, sun visors, armrests, jack, lug wrench, heater, soundproofing, and passenger side windshield wiper. The cars wore Fairlane 500 trim, and were only offered with the 2-door sedan body. This special model, of which 111 to 127 total were made (sources disagree), delivered 657 hp (490 kW) at 7,500 rpm and was known as the Thunderbolt.
Racing in NHRA Super Stock class on 7-inch (180 mm)-wide tires, the Thunderbolt was based on the midlevel Fairlane 500 two-door pillared sedan, and in 1964 set elapsed time and top speed records at 11.6 seconds and 124 mph (200 km/h), . took the Super Stock title, and won the Manufacturer's Cup; it is probably the quickest and fastest production drag racer ever produced. The car as delivered was in fact slightly too light to meet NHRA's 3200 lb (1451 kg) minimum weight unless it was raced with a full tank of gasoline, which would bring it to 3203 lb (1453 kg). NHRA rules then required a metal front bumper, so the cars began to be supplied with an aluminum bumper and previous purchasers were supplied with one.
Finally, the NHRA changed the rules to require 500 models of a car to be manufactured for Super Stock competition, and Ford, which had been losing $1500 to $2000 on each Thunderbolt sold at the sticker price of $3900, gave up. The first 11 Thunderbolts were painted maroon (known as Vintage Burgundy in Ford literature), the rest white; 99 had manual transmissions. Many are still raced. About 50 similar Mercury Cyclones were also produced by Ford in 1964, destined to be modified to represent Ford in A/FX competition, which they dominated as well.
Fifth generation - 1966–1967Edit
The Fairlane was revised in 1966. XL, GT and GTA packages were introduced, as well as a convertible to join the existing range of sedans, hardtops and station wagons. The "K-code" 289 was dropped this year. GT featured a 390 CID V8 as standard, while the GTA had a SportShift Cruise-o-Matic automatic transmission. The base 390 CID engine, meanwhile, developed 335 bhp (250 kW) and had a four-barrel carburetor. Mid year, Ford produced 60 special Fairlane 500 2-door hardtops with a '"R-code" 427 CID unit rated at 425 bhp (317 kW) and equipped with Ford's "Top-Loader" 4-speed manual transmission. Built to qualify the engine/transmission combination for NHRA and IHRA Super Stock racing, they were white and had a fiberglass hood with a forward-facing hood scoop which ended at the edge of the hood. The Fairlane Squire wagon re-débuted for 1966.
Minor trim changes were introduced for 1967 as the Fairlane was mildly facelifted. The 289 CID small-block became the base V8, with a 200-cubic-inch six standard, with the 390 CID optional (with either two- or four-barrel carburetor, at 275 and 320 bhp (240 kW) respectively). The 427s were still available, either with a single four-barrel carburetor or dual quad carbs, developing 410 (Q-code) and 425 bhp (R-code) respectively; however, 427s were not available on XL models. The notable addition for the 1967 model year was a Ranchero pick-up truck as part of the Fairlane range (from 1960 to 1965, the Ranchero was based on the Falcon, while in 1966 it used the Fairlane platform but Falcon styling). 1967 Fairlanes also saw the introduction of a number of Federal government-mandated safety features, including a new energy-absorbing steering column with large padded steering wheel hub, soft interior trim, 4-way hazard flashers, a dual-chamber braking system and shoulder belt anchors. The convertible had a tempered safety glass rear window.
The Falcon Ranchero and Falcon station wagon were, between 1966 and 1970, identical under the skin to the Fairlane versions of the same model. Only sheetmetal and trim differed.
Sixth generation - 1968–1969Edit
A redesign took place in 1968. The wheelbase remained 116 in (2,946 mm), but it grew in other dimensions. A fastback Sportsroof model was introduced in the Fairlane 500 series, as well as a more luxurious Torino model at the top of the intermediate range, contributing 172,083 of the Fairlane's 371,787 units sold that year.The Ranch Wagon model name was deleted: Fairlane wagons had either the base or the 500 trim. Base hardtop sales more than doubled, to 44,683 units. In the beginning of 1968 the base model Fairlane was sold with the 2-Barrel 289 cid V8, until Ford decided to replace the 289 with the 302 cid as standard. The GTs were part of the Torino range, with a 302 cubic inches (4.9 l) V8 standard, with optional engines being the 390 cubic inches (6.4 l) V8 in 2- and 4-barrel versions. The 390 4-barrel was supplanted mid-year as the top performance engine by the 428 cubic inches (7.0 l) Cobra Jet, developing 335 bhp (250 kW). There was also a 428 cubic inches (7.0 l) Super Cobra Jet. The Ranchero had a GT model, in addition to standard and 500 versions.
The Cobra was introduced in 1969 as a competitor for Plymouth's Road Runner. Basic models featured the 302 CID V8 and three-speed manual transmission as standard. Options included the 390 CID and two 428 CID V8s. The Cobras, meanwhile, had a standard 428 CID V8 with 335 bhp (250 kW), and options included bucket seats, hood scoop, clock, tachometer, power disc brakes and 4.30:1 rear axle gearing. "Regular" Fairlanes and Rancheros continued, all with bucket-seat options.
An even more powerful version, the Torino Talladega, was created to compete on the NASCAR Grand National speedways. Only 754 were built. To compete with the new Dodge Charger 500, the Sportsroof-based Ford Torino Talladega got a sloped nose and flush grille. The 428 CID V8 was standard, but it was mated to a C-6 Cruise-o-Matic automatic transmission.
Seventh Generation - 1970Edit
Ford's intermediates grew again in 1970, now with a 117 in (2,972 mm) wheelbase. At the start of the model year, only the Fairlane 500 remained as the base trim model in what was now effectively the Torino series.
The straight six-cylinder was the economy power, while largest engine was now a 429 cu in (7.0 l) with four-barrel carburetor and 360 bhp (270 kW), on the Torino Cobra. Different heads were optional and gave the Cobra 370 bhp (280 kW) and higher compression. Other options included the Cobra Jet Ram Air 429, though Ford quoted the same power output, and the Drag Pack rated at 375 bhp (280 kW). However, the 1970s were slower than the 1969s, and race teams were forced to run the older models.
The Falcon name was transferred from Ford's now discontinued compact to a basic, even lower trim version of the intermediate platform as a "1970½" model on January 1, 1970. This series included a two-door sedan which was not available in the higher trim lines. For 1971, the Falcon and Fairlane 500 names were dropped, as all of the intermediate models took the Torino name.