In the eyes of many a car buyer, sportiness and Ford Fairlane hadn't been synonymous terms, at least until the introduction of the 1966-1967 Ford Fairlane 500XL/GT and GT/A. Not everyone seized on the fact that Ford's sizzling 271-bhp rendition of the 289-cid V-8 first went under Fairlane hoods. Fewer yet were aware of Fairlane-based Thunderbolt exploits in 1964.
An alluring array of handling and performance options soon slipped into the selection sheets, though most shoppers still saw Fairlanes as sensible family transportation. A Fairlane sedan was more attractive than some, mannerly on the road -- but basically an oversize Falcon.
Perceptions changed for 1966 with the appearance of the stylish 500XL and the performance-oriented GT. Each boosted Fairlane's image as a car worthy of notice.
Mid-size Fords earned a new body that year, keeping the former 116-inch wheelbase. The boxy profile was history. Clean, freshly sculpted lines and a minimum of trim gave Fairlanes a sleek, well-tailored look, highlighted by curved side glass. Protruding stacked quad headlights injected a leaping-forward attitude, with tall vertical rectangular taillights, upswept quarter panels, and low-profile 14-inch tires adding to the illusion of speed. Two-door hardtops displayed a sweeping semi-fastback roofline.
Topping the line, the 500XL hardtop coupe and convertible gave occupants buckets alongside a console, plus bucket-style rear seats. Four powerplant choices ranged from a basic 120-bhp six to a pair of big-block 390 V-8s. Most stuck to the middle ground: a 289-cid V-8 with 200 capable horsepower. For a few dollars more, XLs could be dolled up with a vinyl roof, accent striping, and wood-tone steering wheel.
Racier yet, the GT took a Thunderbird Special hop-up of the 390 as standard equipment, its 335 bhp promising to "twist the tail of any tiger." In addition to such internal goodies as a high-lift cam and big Holley four-barrel carb, the 390 was dressed in chrome. GTs wore bold triple racing stripes (low on the body), nonfunctional hood vents that displayed engine displacement, a rear-deck emblem, and special black-out crossbar-style grille.
A three-speed gearbox was standard, but many opted for a four-speed at $183, or SportShift Cruise-O-Matic at $215. Selecting automatic transformed a GT into a GT/A, yet this transmission still allowed manual shifting through the gears. A tachometer cost extra.
Tightened handling was part of the Gran Touring theme, so stiffer springs and a thicker front stabilizer were installed. Firestone 7.75 x 14 whitewalls were rated for 125 mph. Optional cast steel wheels cost $93.
This was the first year for a Fairlane convertible. In GT trim, it listed for $3068 ($225 more than the hardtop), with power top optional. Although popular on their own, XL and GT editions amounted to one-fifth of total Fairlane output.
Continue to the next page to learn about the changes made to the 1967 Ford Fairlane.For more information on cars: