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1966 Ford Fairlane 427

NASCAR and the Ford Fairlane

NASCAR and the Ford Fairlane made a good pair in the mid-1960s. For 1966, Ford Fairlane GT and GTA production came in at 33,015 hardtops with a base price of $2,843 and 4,327 convertibles starting at $3,068. It was the competition, especially from the GTO (96,946 built) and Cyclone (24,164 built), that kept sales down.

ford fairlane 500 red
©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
With 75,947 built, the Fairlane 500 hardtop, here in Emberglo, was the most popular model in the 1966 Fairlane lineup.

Overall, the 1966 Fairlane fared extremely well: 317,274 were produced, second only to the 343,887 sold in 1963, and an impressive 42 percent higher than in 1965. The new GTs proved quite popular within their own sphere, outselling the tamer, less expensive 500/XLs by nearly 9000 units.

Top seller for the year was the Fairlane 500 hardtop coupe, whose 75,947 sales even beat out the Fairlane 500 four-door sedan's 68,635 units.

Considering the competition, it's easy to understand why GTs were never put on the tracks except for some drag racing. Even there, the Fairlane GTs weren't heavily promoted, though the Comet Cyclone GTs were.

Ford had something else up its sleeve, a run of 57 white Fairlane 500 two-doors with 427 engines. (No GT or GTA was ever equipped with the super hot 427.)

The bodies were purely stock, but the suspension and transmission were beefed up and a fiberglass hood with a built-in scoop was added. These cars were not immediately successful, but by the end of the season the Fairlane proved to have far-reaching application.

It happened this way. Ford backed out of racing at mid-year in a dispute with NASCAR over getting the 427 single-overhead-cam engine legalized. In the case of the Fairlane 427 wedge for drag racing, it was put in the same class as the sohc Mustangs and other experimentals -- where it was completely outclassed.

Still, the Fairlane 427 wedge (not to be confused with the sohc version) had its moments at NASCAR even without factory support. On Labor Day, for example, Fred Lorenzen finished fifth at the Darlington 500 in a 1966 Fairlane.

That same race was won by Darel Dieringer driving a 1966 Mercury Comet, which he had campaigned successfully all season long for Bud Moore. Presumably, both of these cars were powered by the 335-bhp 390.

That same month, Lorenzen, driving a Fairlane 427 for Holman & Moody, took first at the Martinsville, Virginia, 500-lap event. In October, he won again at Rockingham, North Carolina, followed by a Dodge and three more Fairlane 500s.

These victories proved beyond any doubt the superiority of the 427 in the lighter Fairlane body as opposed to the Galaxie 427s. When Ford returned to NASCAR in 1967, and for anybody else who picked a Ford for the tracks, it would be the Fairlane 427 wedge.

Go on to the next page to learn about changes to the Ford Fairlane.

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