In the mid-1960s, manufacturers played a game called "grabbing the Tiger by the tail." The hot Pontiac Tempest GTO was the car to beat and everybody was taking a shot by building mid-sized cars with tiger stripes and hairy engines. Ford entered the arena with the 1966 and 1967 Ford Fairlane GT and GTA. They were hot cars -- but not quite as hot as they looked. In fact, most of their competitors could beat them by a few tiger's lengths.

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1966 ford fairlane coupe
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The completely re-styled Fairlane 500 hardtop coupe was built to rival its competition. See more classic car pictures.

In any discussion of these cars, it's impossible to separate the GTs from the rest of the Fairlane pack because they were purely Fairlanes with special badges. And Fairlanes were pretty fine cars, especially in their 1966-1967 guise.

The new mid-size Fairlane, built from 1962-1965 in its first-generation guise, was sized between the compact Falcon and the standard-size Ford. Its unitized body was cloaked over a 115.5-inch wheelbase, exactly the same as the 1954-1956 Fords, and other dimensions also paralleled the popular mid-1950s Fords.

Although the 1962 Fairlane was 16.5 inches longer and nearly 500 pounds heavier than its compact Falcon companion, it was nonetheless 11.7 inches shorter and 800 pounds lighter than the "standard-size" Ford -- which only demonstrated just how far Ford had moved away from its very successful 1954-1956 package.

Because the big Ford's 223-cubic-inch six wouldn't fit into the new Fairlane's engine bay, the Falcon's 170-cid six became the standard engine. The old 292 V-8 wouldn't fit, either, so Ford developed an all-new 221-cubic-inch V-8 and a bored-out 260-cid version specifically for the Fairlane as optional engine choices. This was the famous small-block Ford V-8 with the new thin-wall casting technique that made it the lightest V-8 of its day.

The 1962 Fairlane was available in only four models: standard and Fairlane 500 two- and four-door sedans that looked a lot like the 1957 and 1959 Fords. The factory cranked out 297,116 units during the first model year, and sales came more from cutting into GM and Chrysler territory than stealing from Falcon and Ford.

Wagons and hard-tops were added in 1963, but the styling remained basically the same through 1964, after which a more serious (and not totally successful) facelift took place for 1965.

Ford's middleweight got a lot more exciting in 1966, when it was completely redesigned to mirror 1965-1966 big Ford styling in a junior size. Three convertible models were added, including the spectacular new GT, which had a more popular companion hardtop model.

Go on to the next page to learn about the development of the Ford Fairlane.

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