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1966 Ford Fairlane 427

Development of the Ford Fairlane

The late David L. Ash, a mainstay in Ford styling for decades, recalled the development of the Ford Fairlane. "With the big Mustang push for 1964," he said, "the Fairlane kind of got put on the back burner. I think that [president Lee] Iacocca saw it as more of a bread-and-butter car for the sedan and station wagon crowd.

ford fairlane 500
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
This 1966 Ford Fairlane is a pampered, show-winning 500 that was still with its original owner when this phot was shot, in 1993.

"But once the Mustang was launched, we started remolding the Fairlane to be sort of a junior version of the Galaxie 500 and 500/XL. It was really a very fine car with extremely well-integrated styling from exterior to interior to trim details. You don't always achieve overall excellence in a new design, but I think that in the 1966 Fairlane we did."

Although it looked entirely new from the outside, the Fairlane continued to employ the unitized construction that had its origins in the 1960 Falcon. Its isolated torque boxes at the front frame members were improved by insulating them from the floor. This pretty effectively eliminated transfer of deflections to the main body structure, eliminating a lot of the noise and vibration that plagued unitized cars at the time.

Coil springs were bigger, and the entire front suspension system was strengthened to accommodate big-block V-8 engines. Rear leaf springs were also enlarged.

Compared to the boxy-looking 1962-1965 Fairlane, the 1966 models -- 13 of them in five series -- were pleasing to the eye, and marginally aerodynamic as well. Sedans continued to use a formal-style roof, but this time it came off far better than the Galaxie-look of previous years.

Two-door hardtops sported swept-back rear pillars that blended beautifully into the rear deck area. Vertical quad headlights, with the top units jutting ahead of the lower ones, rode at the outer ends of the front fenders much as on the 1965-1966 full-sized Fords. The grille also followed the 1965 Ford theme, adding a pronounced horizontal center divider bar.

The fall-away front fenders swept back to meet the slightly "Coke bottle" rear fenders, and a crease a bit below the door handles stretched the entire length of the car. A second full-length body crease ran above the rocker panels and through the wheel cutouts.

Stylists thoughtfully resisted all temptation to hang a lot of stainless on the sides. The only bright trim was around the wheelwells and along the rocker panels of the Fairlane 500 and 500/XL models. From the rear, the Fairlane continued the full-sized Ford theme with a squared-off trunk and large, vertically placed rectangular taillights.

Doors now used thin, curved window frames with inboard weather-stripping for less wind noise. The curved glass did away with the slab-sided look and also increased shoulder room.

The wheelbase was increased slightly to 116 inches except for the wagons, which saw a reduction to a 113-inch span that was shared with Falcon wagons. Actually, the Fairlane's wheelbase had been expanded in 1965 so that it could achieve minimum dimensions for NASCAR competition. The tread was up to 58 inches front and rear, compared to 57 front/56 rear for 1962-1965.

The new dashboard was much better designed and detailed than previously. A rectangular panel swept more than halfway across from the driver's side and picked up many of the good design themes from the 1965-1966 full-sized Ford dash. Padding was standard equipment, and the panel was an integral part of the unitized body.

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

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