Curbside Classic: 1968 Ford Fairlane GT – The Unexpected Wallflower

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Ford may have been first to the intermediate dance (among the Big Three, anyway), but GM came fashionably late and better dressed. Styling, they say, sells cars, and GM’s mouthwateringly crisp, taut lines across its new 1964 A-body line suddenly made Ford’s fast-selling Fairlane look frumpy. Annual freshenings of the 1962 body did no good, and a 1966 restyle helped only a little. So Ford tried again for 1968, presenting this fresh, clean result.

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Ford’s new Torino nameplate bowed that year atop Ford’s intermediate line, relegating the Fairlane 500 and Fairlane names to respectively lower rungs on the trim ladder. All Torinos came with V-8 power, in 302, 390 and 427 guises. Fairlanes also could have any of those engines, but as an upgrade from the 200-cube six. Having never so much as sat in one of these, I can’t say for sure, but word on the street is that these things handled well only in a straight line on dry pavement. If you want to become well acquainted with body lean and understeer, just throw one into a turn.

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Ford’s new coupe had an equally pretty sister, a new fastback. (This one’s a ’69, and a Cobra.) I suppose Ford was hoping buyers would be so charmed by the new body’s good looks that they’d forget about the dreadful handling.

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And then, GM showed up to the 1968 intermediate dance in this sexy all-new sheet metal. Sexy always gets more dances than fresh and clean, except at the kind of dance where the chaperones remind the dancers to leave room for Jesus. Unfortunately for Ford, this dance wasn’t so chaste: Chevy sold almost 423,000 1968 Chevelles, while Ford moved just over 172,000 1968 Torinos and Fairlanes (Correction: some 291,000 – Ed.).

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While GM’s 1968 intermediates boasted all-new underpinnings, the Fairlane and Torino still rolled on the 1966 platform. The wagons even carried over the 1966-67 bodies from the cowl back. I’m sure that made Ford’s accountants smile, at least until they saw Chevy’s sales numbers.

Despite rolling on carryover wheelbases, the new Fairlane and Torino were about four inches longer and 200 pounds heavier than the cars they replaced. Body parts probably are hard to come by today, but given this car’s Falcon origins, many mechanical parts ought to swap with those for the Mustang–and those parts should be available approximately forever.

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And so I was quite happy to come upon this one, in generally good cosmetic condition, on U.S. 50 in downtown North Vernon, Indiana. Both bumpers are a little dented, and there’s a rust hole on the passenger rear-quarter panel. I’m not crazy about the gunslit-style windshield tinting and the higher-than-stock rear end, but what can I say, I’m a sucker for all-original. But this old girl is still at the dance, and she looks ready to go.