Ford Fairlane production, buoyed by the new station wagons, shot upward in 1963, with almost 344,000 Fairlanes built. However, faced with stiff new competition for the first time in 1964, that total dipped below 277,600, then to 224,000 for 1965.
Fairlane's first generation came to an end in 1965,
but the model-year changes were still drastic.
Only the rooflines were retained for the extensive 1965 facelift. The slight curvatures of the 1962-1964 body surfaces were replaced with more angular, straight-edged panels that showed a hint of a mid-body beltline kick-up. The new front end featured horizontal grille bars above a slimmer bumper; headlights were encased in rectangular bezels that matched body colors. Taillamps went from round to rectangular.
Motor Trend mourned the fact that styling of the Fairlane was "so indiscriminate, because tasteful character could capitalize on the Indianapolis and [Shelby] Cobra alliance and make this the most desirable bread-and-butter car of the year."
On the technical side, wheelbase was kicked up to an even 116 inches and 14-inch wheels became standard across the board. The 170-cubic-inch six and 260-cubic-inch V-8 were dropped. The 200-cube six, now rated at 120 horsepower, was the standard power plant. The top-end 289 V-8 was still pegged at 271 horsepower, but the two-barrel version of the same engine was hiked to an even 200 horsepower.
In between was a new 225-horsepower 289 that featured a four-barrel carb and a 10.0:1 compression ratio. Fordomatic was banished from the options table, so Cruise-O-Matic became the sole automatic transmission choice. Even the high-perf V-8 could be ordered with it. Engine-saving overdrive was obtainable only with the tamest V-8.
Where to go from here? The first-generation Fairlane was conceived as a new type of sensible family car. By the time work started on its successor, though, Ford was embarking on its "Total Performance" era. Reporting on the 1964 Chicago Auto Show, Automotive News quoted lacocca as saying performance was "really the only way to prove the capability of cars," and adding that Ford was "so deeply committed to performance and racing activities that we couldn't pull out gracefully even if we wanted to."
The Fairlane had to play its part in this overall marketing scheme. Hotted up four-speed 289s were all well and good, but there were bigger things in the offing. A run of 100 Fairlane Thunderbolts had begun to haunt the Super/Stock classes at the nation's dragstrips in 1964. Barely street legal, these lightened Fairlane 500 two-door sedans were stuffed with Ford's mighty 427-cubic-inch V-8 under their fiberglass front clips. When the second-generation Fairlane arrived for 1966, it did so with a more speedway-friendly hardtop roofline and enough underhood room to easily accept big-block engines.
Through the late Sixties, the muscle-power war between Ford, GM, and Chrysler continued to escalate, and the weapon of choice more often than not was an intermediate car with a decidedly full-size engine. Ford wasn't about to let its rivals eclipse its reputation in performance-car history without a fight.
Go to the next page to see weight, price, and production numbers for 1962-1965 Ford Fairlanes.
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