Junkyard Classic: 1980 Ford Fairmont Wagon – Business Outside, Party Inside

I don’t know if it’s the constant exposure over the last almost-decade to CC or the recent binge-watching of Mindhunter but somehow I’ve come 180 degrees on the Fairmont.  While it used to rank very low on my personal Desire-O-Meter it has made steady progress up the dial and now I look at them with admiration.  This is the first one I can recall seeing in the junkyard in a while and at first I was excited just due to it being a wagon, but then I got closer and the big disco ball in my mind started to spin.

Just look at those seats! Red and plaid, is there a better interior color combination along with the (now faded) red carpet, dash, and steering wheel?  And paired with such a plain white paper bag of a wrapper too.  Now, I realize that we are on the cusp of a trend where many of the best condition junkyard finds seem to be sporting red interiors, but perhaps there is something to that.

Could it be that if you have the personality to spec, buy and drive around in a red interior, you are naturally more attuned to the upkeep of the whole thing than those that just take whatever common color happened to be around on the lot when you went shopping?  (Never mind the missing door panel, we’ll get to that).

This is a 1980 model, no roof rack, dog dish hubcaps, no rear wiper, not much at all in the way of exterior options bar the “Exterior Decor Group” consisting of bright window surrounds, bright mirror (one side only), bright moldings, deluxe (not dog dish in Ford-speak, oops) and a hood ornament.

What I used to deride as plain and boring I now find expressive, clean, simple.  Somehow it actually reminds me of the Dart of a decade prior which I always found characterful.

I do like the side placement of the license plate bracket, which I always found to be a particularly if not uniquely American look, they should bring that back but it’d probably look strange with the plate just drilled into the current plastic bumpers as they tend to do now

How does a lowly Fairmont with dog (excuse me, “deluxe”) dishes and minimal options otherwise end up with such a great hood ornament?  It turns out they were not that uncommon although this is the first time I have ever noticed it on one.  It’s attractive too, with the stylized “F” in there.  All part of the package…

The goods.  What there is of them, that is.  Powered by Ford’s 2.3 Lima OHC engine with an output of 88hp and 118lb-ft of torque, at least it provided excellent fuel economy for the day.  1980 was the only year that a turbo version of the engine was available, sadly though in the sedan and coupe only.  No joy for the wagon, besides the seats anyway.  But you’re likely wondering how much of a slug this was on the road.

I don’t know, since I’ve never driven one, but this Fairmont is equipped yet again with the base option in transmissions, a 4-speed manual with a well-worn knob.  The last manual 4-speed I owned was also a 1980 model, but mine was an Audi 4000, the 4-speed was just fine with lots of spacing between gear ratios, so a fairly tractable package.

Here we can see pretty much the whole extent of the “Interior Accent Group” option which is the only other option this car appears to have.  Vinyl/plaid cloth bucket seats, woodtone molding on the dash and doors, deluxe steering wheel hub as well as the deluxe sound package.  I do not know what the doo-hickey is that’s attached to the rearmost stalk.  Looks like a doorbell…

In any case, I wonder how much those two packages actually cost.  The base price of this wagon was $5,421 according to NADA but I could not find information regarding the options.

In a recent junkyard post, I lamented what I considered sparse instrumentation and a commenter responded that what I was looking at was actually pretty decent.  Now I see it, this one has a speedo and a fuel gauge.  And several blank gauge strips for non-selected options.  You do get a nifty crest that doesn’t match the hood ornament at all but does seem to match the fancy steering wheel hub.

The odometer appears to read 44020, but there has to be at least a virtual “1” in front of that, or perhaps even a “2”.  Or, could it be that it has never rolled over?

The “deluxe sound package” appears to be pretty dog-dishy with a manually adjusted AM radio.  No A/C but a cigarette lighter. And more acreage of woodtone accent material on that glorious red dashboard.  I don’t think Ford thinks the word “deluxe” means what I think it means….If Ford was in charge of TV programming in 1980, the Jefferson’s deluxe apartment in the sky would be in the basement, garden level at best.

The Fairmont did use a “modified” MacPherson strut suspension, a feature that Ford were mighty proud of in their advertising of the day.  And an opportunity to festoon it with yet another type of fancy crest/badgery.

The full owner’s guide and a whole passel of keys, sadly none of which worked to open the rear hatch.  But look at how that upholstery wore!  The whites are even still white, very impressive.

Clean, purposeful, understated but very practical.  No wonder Ford was the “wagonmaster” back then.  Now?  Not so much.

I found this car in Denver, about 35 miles away from where it was sold.  Stan Barrett Ford was sold in 1982, so this may well be an original sticker from the purchase date, unless the new owners kept the name, although it is definitely not in use currently.

As I said, the keys didn’t work for the hatch, so here’s the view through the (non-defrosted of course) glass.  We may have just found the missing door panel!  And some fender trim.  And a carpet sample sporting a style as old as the car.

Many of these seemingly usable specimens that we’ve been featuring here seem to have manual transmissions, which may well be a large part of the reason the cars ended up here.  Perhaps nobody in the family wanted it, nobody in the immediate vicinity could drive a stick, and an old car without A/C isn’t an attractive proposition for many people that don’t read this site.  Perhaps if it was brown?

Build date April 1980.  Likely built in Kansas City (actually Claycomo), Missouri based on the K in the second position of the 11-digit VIN, the last year for this style of VIN.

After perusing the brochures online, I really don’t think this wagon has any options besides the interior package and exterior package.  Those front bumper protectors are standard (optional on rear but not on this one).  It’s a somewhat weird/sparse combination but also dresses up the interior to be less penalty box-like.  Someone took pretty good care of it for the last 39 years…I like it!

Lots o’ Related Reading here at CC:

JPCavanaugh found a 1980 Fairmont Futura Coupe

Jim Grey’s excellent write-up of a first year 1978 Fairmont Sedan

Paul Niedermeyer seems to like a 1978 Fairmont Sedan

GN’s Vintage Review of the Fairmont

Perry Shoar’s take on the ritzy 1981 Fairmont Futura Wagon

Brendan Saur tackles a Cohort-supplied Fairmont Squire Wagon