If you’re one of our younger (or even middle-aged) readers and don’t readily recognize this car, you’re forgiven. It’s about as dull and anonymous as it gets for a 1960s car, a decade renowned for its iconic designs. This poor Fairlane was the wallflower in Ford dealers that year, when the Mustang totally stole the show, and the new full-sized Fords were the other big hit. Who would possibly be attracted to a black stripper Fairlane sedan; other than my dad, that is?
Those of you who have been around a while will know that a black stripper ’62 Fairlane played an influential role in my early years. If not, you can read all about it here. To make a long story short, it was our first new car in America, and it was mostly a good car, except for some certain very unpleasant experiences encountered within. As in all 6¾ of us (Mom was heavily pregnant) stuck (literally) on its clear plastic seat covers, crammed together for a three day drive to New York and back in the hot and humid August of 1964. Some of us were never quite the same after that trip (I’m thinking of my older brother’s nose).
Yes, old black Fairlane sedans do trigger a bit of PTSD, but I can put it aside for this ’65, as it looks vaguely different enough from the all-new ’62. Different, in that it was shorn of its little finlets, given a vague suggestion of a Pontiac-esque rear hip, and a new squared off front end and generic grille. And very un-Ford-like rectangular tail lights. Where did those come from? Obviously all the exterior panels were new, but it was hard not to see the original hiding underneath.
Not surprisingly, Fairlane sales hit a low point this year of 224k units, close to half of what the Chevelle sold, and less than the other GM A Bodies, except for tying the F-85/Cutlass.
The odd pointy ends of the front fenders are a bit curious. Well, let’s just say that given how tied up Ford’s top stylists were with the Mustang and the Galaxie, it’s safe to assume that the job of restyling the ’65 Fairlane must have been given to the second (or third) stringers. Or maybe the interns.
The grille is a puzzler, as it seems to have very little family resemblance. The whole thing was of course just a place-holder, until the new ’66 Fairlane arrived, which did breathe some fresh air and life into that rather dull name.
There is a consolation in this car, and it’s under the hood. Ford’s gem of a small block 289 CID (4.7L) V8 was available, in three states of tune no less: 200 hp (2V carb, reg. gas) 225 hp (4V carb, premium gas), and the lovely K-code 271 hp solid lifter version that was the basis of the Cobra’s legendary success in its 289 form.
Our 1962 Fairlane had the very first year version of this soon-to grow family of engines, the 145 hp 221 CID baby of the family. Teamed with the two-speed Fordomatic, it was probably just about the slowest V8 car to be had in the US, but than that made it all the more appropriate for my dad.
In the summer of 1965, he finally broke down and realized the Fairlane sedan was too small for us, now that we were seven, two high-shoolers, and I was big for my age. So he went wagon shopping, but still stuck to intermediates. He naturally went to the Ford dealer first, who sent him to test drive a Fairlane 500 three-seat wagon. He brought it home, and I remember clambering all over it.
But he turned it down, because it had the 225 hp “Challenger Special” version of the 289, with the four barrel carb and a 10:1 compression ratio. Hardly the solid-lifter K-Code engine, which wasn’t even available in the wagons anyway, but he deemed it “too hot”, and took it back. It probably would have made a very nice power train with the Select-Shift three-speed automatic, but it was not to be.
A day or two later, my father took me along to look at Chrysler’s alternatives to the Fairlane, and after checking out the Belvedere and Coronet, he settled on the latter, a 440 series 3-seat wagon, with the 230 hp 318 “poly” V8 and Torqueflite. All in all, it was a better solution, even if the Coronet was also just a mildly face-lifted ’62 Dodge, also with one of the most generic grilles ever. Let’s just say the choice was not exactly between the two most handsome wagons of 1965.
This is what I had in mind for us. But then these happy and fun-loving folks were obviously the Not-Niedermeyers, and thus the real Niedermeyers were not worthy of such things.
Nor this. We didn’t do idyllic, peaceful settings like this either. Thus no Vista Cruiser.
If my dad had bought the Fairlane wagon, at least it would have been in the deluxe 500 series, as that was the only way to get the 3-seat version. But if he had known that my sister was going to bail out of moving to Baltimore at the very last minute (three days before moving day), and since she’s just turned 18 and there was nothing my dad could do about it, he might well have bought another stripper ’65 Fairlane sedan. But it would have had to be an automatic, as he wasn’t willing to take the time to try to teach my mother how to shift a manual. Just as well.
I should point out that although the Coronet (and Belvedere) were positioned as mid-size cars in 1965, they were clearly closer to full size cars in their interior accommodations. The increase in living space, never mind the wagon’s third seat, was quite noticeable. The Fairlane had essentially been a Falcon stretched a couple of inches each way, but the Coronet started out as a space-efficient full-size competitor in 1962. The difference was quite apparent. Good call, Dad!
When we moved to Baltimore, my dad needed a second car for his long commute to John Hopkins. He bought a ’65 Opel Kadett, which ended up not satisfying him very much. He’d probably have been much happier if he’s bought another black Fairllane stripper instead, and with a three-speed manual so he could indulge his true inner self.
When he ditched the Opel after three short years, he did almost just that, buying himself a stripper ’68 Dodge Dart, with the little 170 slant six and three-on-the-tree. Just the ticket for a neurologist at Johns Hopkins.
The ’65 Fairlane may be the most forgotten American car of the 60s. And so it was for the Niedermeyers, as we passed on one too, thanks to its “too hot” engine.
This is my second stab at the the ’65 Fairlane; my first, a Sports Coupe (“The Failane”), is here.