July 31, 2014

Doane Yawger: Early Ford Fairlanes look good as-is or mildly customized

First generation Ford Fairlane had small V-8 engine

People have their favorite cars and trucks and there’s no question automotive aficionados have a wide spectrum of tastes. That’s what makes the world go around.

As I was looking through an ankle-high stack of street machine and high-performance hot rodding magazines this week, I noticed images of one of my favorite cars, the 1962-63 Ford Fairlane.

The first picture showed a forlorn 1962 Fairlane on the top of a large scrap heap at a wrecking yard about to be ground into bite-sized morsels of steel. The next Fairlane I saw, a 1963 Fairlane two-door hardtop, was a finished, running car that I would love to have.

There’s so much one could do with one of those early Fairlanes. Not quite a compact and a year or two removed from the muscle car era, the Fairlanes were kind of a slimmed-down version of the full-size Fords. They fit in nicely between the compact Falcon and the larger Galaxie models.

They had respectable performance, a fair amount of interior room and very appealing styling features. I don’t see 1962-63 Fairlanes very often these days but am drawn to them like a moth to a candle flame.

Fairlanes had grilles and small rear tailfins that looked very much like their big brothers. Styling-wise I think the Fairlanes were much better-looking than the big Fords.

I’m familiar with the 1962 Fairlane sedans since the company my dad worked for had a small fleet of them as business cars. They were white with a green cloth-and-vinyl interior; a 260-cubic-inch, V-8 engine; and a two-speed automatic transmission – definitely on the spartan side.

The ignition switch was to the left of the steering column, which seemed odd to me. The company cars seemed rather peppy at the time but certainly nothing like Fairlanes from the 1964 model year and beyond.

A Fairlane would make a terrific hobby vehicle in its stock, showroom version. But it would lend itself well to some mild and subtle customizing touches.

Fifteen years ago Fairlanes were turned into pro street muscle machines, with massive rear tires and blown motors sticking out of their hoods. That’s a bit overboard for me. A Fairlane doesn’t have to have tire-smoking power to be endearing; in fact, I like the mild, tamer version much better.

I’ve seen at least one 1962 Fairlane sedan that looked very unassuming on the outside but sported an engine with something like 800 horsepower, the classic example of what’s called a “sleeper.”

Chrome bumpers often are overrated; the Fairlanes take the monochromatic single-color look very well and bumpers painted body color are just fine with me. Taking off a few trim pieces and maybe changing the taillight bezels is all you would need to make a dynamite mild custom.

If I go to enough car shows or thumb through a few more enthusiast magazines, I’ll probably see more of the Fairlanes, and that’s something to look forward to in the years ahead.

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