It’s not easy peaking the first time on stage. It happens with music acts, television shows, and quite often, cars. The combination of right place, right time and blessings from the stars (and economic conditions) bodes well for certain product successes. Here lies the story of the re-branded, midsized Ford Fairlane. For one shining moment, without market factors against it, it claimed a genre all unto it’s own.
By 1964, it found itself, like many a pioneering girl group in the shadows of something Supreme rising from Detroit. Once the starlet, now a reliable box office draw, it tried a hand at presenting something special, smart and sporty. Yet somehow time passed it by.
When the Fairlane debuted in a new, trimmer, weight reduced form for 1962, it was the sole modern “intermediate” on the market. While AMC offered the Rambler Classic as a larger compact, and the Ambassador as a Luxury Compact, their roots went back to 1956, with an equally elderly Inline Six and V8.
General Motors’s B-O-P Luxury compacts found themselves full of whiz-bang technology often unique to each division, higher prices and less interior room. The new Fairlane, basically an extended and widened Falcon with an all new thin casting V8 proved the perfect medium between the Practical Ramblers and the future freedom seekers from GM. Nearly 300,000 found buyer the first year.
A snazzy Hardtop coupe debuted for 1963, alongside Ford allowing performance customers to shovel 427 Cube V8s in Drag racing orientated Thunderbolt versions of the Fairlane. More mainstream buyers could saddle up to 271 horsepower in the form of the 289 Solid Lifter Challenger V8 by 1964, making the Fairlane 500 Sports Coupe a potentially hot number.
However, the Fairlane was saddled with the faux Thunderbird formal roof, while the Galaxie and Falcon Hardtop coupes were available with more athletic rooflines, and convertible models too boot. The 1964 Fairlane 500 seemed perhaps too prim a foundation for the Total Performance marketing shouting from Ford marketing materials. The late year introduction of the flame fanning, hard charging Mustang for 1964 didn’t help matters either.
Besides in-house competition, there were a quartet of new Mid Sized sizzlers from General Motors, most prominently the GTO package offered on Pontiac Tempest models. AMC even added performance orientated Classic and Ambassador Hardtop coupes to stay in the game as well.
While the total of 42,733 Fairlane 500 Hardtop Coupes was *nice,* the ordinary, workday Fairlane Sedans still dominated the share of sales. GM sold more of their more profitable Hardtop coupes. In hindsight, there’s a nice, unassuming affable charm about these forgotten fancy Fords. Like many forgotten fancies, bargains can still be had with them, many years after they sold.