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1966 Ford Fairlane 427

Production of the Ford Fairlane

Let's start with the engine as we consider the production of the Ford Fairlane. The base engine of the Ford Fairlane was the same 200-cid, 120-bhp six that also powered some Falcons and Mustangs. It came with a three-speed manual transmission with synchromesh on second and third gears. The most popular powerplant was the Challenger 289 V-8, Ford's third version of the lightweight small-block V-8 first seen for 1962.

ford fairlane engine
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
The standard 390 V-8 cranked out 335 horses, and chrome trim even made it look good.

In 1966, a buyer could order a 200-bhp version with a two-barrel carb. It was mated to Ford's Synchro-Smooth manual with synchromesh in all three forward gears, and could also be had with overdrive -- the only engine choice to offer that gas saving option.

Curiously, the Challenger Special 289 with a four-barrel carb and 225 horsepower wasn't offered. Neither was the 271-horse Cobra 289, at least not according to the brochures, though some sources indicate that a few Fairlanes were so equipped.

Apparently, Ford figured that buyers looking for more performance would step up to one of the four versions of the big-block 390 V-8. They became available for the Fairlane as a result of a stronger frame and a larger engine bay. A two-barrel 390 Thunderbird V-8 came with either 265 or 275 horses, depending on whether a manual or Cruise-O-Matic transmission was specified.
The next step up was a Thunderbird Special four-barrel 390 with 315 horsepower. Finally, the 335-bhp Thunderbird Special was standard on the GT models. It featured chrome-plated rocker covers, oil filler cap, oil dip stick, and air cleaner cover. All four-barrel 390s came with dual exhausts.

For its fifth year, the Fairlane was split into two groups. The Series 30 came only as a base two- and four-door sedan and four-door wagon, The upper-level Series 40 encompassed the Fairlane 500 two-and four-door sedan. two-door hardtop, 500/XL and GT hardtops, plus a Deluxe wagon and a new Fairlane Squire.

In addition, there was the aforementioned convertible in no less than three flavors: Fairlane 500, 500/XL, and GT. Notably, the Falcon ragtops were scrubbed after a three-year run, this due to sharply declining sales following the Mustang's debut in April 1964.

The 390 engine was re-engineered for 1966 with new heads and intake manifolds, a combination that made it both more powerful and more economical. In the 335-horse GT and GTA version, Ford went even further: high-lift cam with different valve timing, larger Holley carburetor (600-cfm versus a 446-cfm Ford carb in the 315-bhp engine), and low-restriction air cleaner, which together provided the extra 20 horses over the Thunderbird's four-barrel 390.

In the GT, this engine was coupled with a three-speed manual transmission, optional four-speed, or Sport Shift Cruise-O-Matic. With the last, the GT became a GTA. Sport Shift, which was available only on the GT in 1966, featured an automatic over-ride control.

According to Ford, this let the driver have "the fun of conventional 1-2-3 manual shifting or the ease of a completely automatic transmission. To go manual, move selector lever to '1' (low) and upshift through '2' (2nd) and into 'D' (Drive). To go automatic, just shift into 'D' and forget it!" In the typically sexist talk of the day Sport Shift was described as "two transmissions in one...a manual for 'him' and an automatic for 'her'..."

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