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.
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1967 Ford Fairlane 500XL/GT & GT/A
Engine selections shifted for the 1967 Ford Fairlane 500XL/GT and GT/A, as they adopted a standard small-block Challenger 289-cid V-8. This time, a two-barrel 390 added $74 to the price; the four-barrel, $150. Ford's top big-block lost 15 bhp due to installation of a Thermactor emissions system.
Body changes were minimal. The GT's black-out grille was now a single eight-segment aluminum unit, and backup lights split the taillights into two sections. Decorative hood "power domes" contained integral turn-signal indicators. On the mechanical side, power front-disc brakes were GT standards, as were F70 x 14 Wide-Oval tires. Shiftable automatics adopted the SelectShift name, with a T-bar lever on the console.
Interior changes included a new padded steering wheel hub and windshield pillars, plus a lane-change position on the turn-signal lever. Accent paint striping was available in black, red, or white; optional hardtop vinyl roofs came in black or white. Standard on the XL, a console cost extra inside a GT. Music lovers could get a Stereo-Sonic tape system using 70-minute cartridges.
All well and good, but could big-block Fairlanes move out as promised? Motor Trend provided the answer to that question when their early 335-bhp GT/A shot to 60 in a mere 6.8 seconds, and ran the quarter in 15.2 (reaching 92 mph).
Yet several dozen impatient types, dissatisfied with the 390's potential, managed to acquire a Fairlane with the famed "side oiler" 427-cid V-8, which promised an eye-opening 410 or 425 horsepower. Strangely, this engine was only offered in base, 500, and 500XL models, not the GT. But even without the muscle of a 427, Fairlane GTs helped establish Ford's role in the burgeoning "supercar" race of the late 1960s, quickly evolving into the Torino and Cobra.
Detailed specifications for the 1966-1967 Ford Fairlane can be found on the next page.
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1966-1967 Ford Fairlane 500XL/GT & GT/A Specifications
In a shift from family car to sporty vehicle, the 1966-1967 Ford Fairlane 500XL/GT and GT/A got an outside appearance to better match its insides.
Engines: 1966 500XL: ohv I-6, 200 cid (3.68 x 3.13), 120 bhp; ohv V-8, 289 cid (4.00 x 2.87), 200 bhp; 390 cid (4.05 x 3.78), 265/275/315 bhp
1966 GT & GT/A: 390 cid, 335 bhp
1967 500XL: 200 cid, 120 bhp; 289 cid, 200 bhp; 390 cid, 270/315 bhp
1967 GT & GT/A: 289 cid, 200 bhp; 390 cid, 270/320 bhp
Transmissions: 3-speed manual; optional 4-speed manual and 3-speed Cruise-O-Matic
Suspension front: upper A-arms, strut-stabilized lower arms, coil springs (anti-sway bar on GT & GT/A, and all 1967 models)
Suspension rear: live axle, leaf springs
Brakes: front/rear drums (front discs optional on 1966 GT, standard on 1967 GT)
Wheelbase (in.): 116.0
Weight (lbs.): 2,955-3,607
Top speed (mph): V8-289: 108; GT/A 390: 125
0-60 mph (sec): V8-289: 10.6; GT/A 390: 6.8-8.1