Curbside Classic: 1965 Ford Fairlane Sports Coupe – The Failane

(first posted 6/16/2014)  I assume Ford just plain ran out of A-team stylists when it came around to giving the quite nice-looking ’64 Fairlane a re-skin. It’s the only way I know how to possibly explain one of; no, the worst car to come out of Ford’s golden sixties’ decade. The competent designers must have all been tied up with the new Mustang and big new ’65 Fords. Time to give the back-benchers an assignment: make the Fairlane look a bit more like the slab-sided rest of the family. The results speak for themselves, so keep the audio turned down. But there’s always a way to make every car lovable: nothing like a little patina and authenticity to hide a multitude of sins. And this particular ’65 Fairlane Sports Coupe is dripping with plenty of that; the puddles just finished drying out in the sun.

I’ve always had a grudge against the 1965 Fairlane, one of the dorkiest and clumsiest cars of its time. And its ’64 predecessor (above) had just gotten to the point where it was working well for me (ignore that cancerous growth on the hood please).

The ’64 had finally lost the silly little fins that the original ’62 Fairlane (above) was saddled with.

Actually, the ’63 (above) already was making nice progress, with a particularly tight front grille, which very much matched the big Ford’s grille that year (my Fairlane collection is getting very complete indeed).

Of course the handsome new stacked-headlight ’66-’67 Fairlane redeemed itself, but 1965 was the throw-away year indeed. And in my mind, that’s what I’d done to all of them, until I discovered this one. Its unvarnished authenticity is just a bit too compelling, even for my deeply ingrained antipathy.

So while all the others all got a grille that has a decidedly ‘lil brother aspect to the senior Fords, this Failane gets a grille smacked on to its front end that might have been cribbed from the Moskvitch at the 1964 Moscow Motor Show.

But there is redemption in hunting old cars. Curbside Classic is like purgatory: I’m forced to wander the streets of Eugene until I find just the right example of a car, which then instantly washes away my decades-long smoldering grudges I’ve held on to so tightly and meanly. How could I not fall in love with this one? It’s just such a rolling time capsule: every time I see it, it just evokes 1971 or so, when these cars were cheap rides for young kids, and they spent every extra dollar on cheap mag(ster) wheels and all day Saturday with the Bondo and cans of gray primer trying to stave off the effects of the inevitable terminal rust.

Well, those memories are from when I was still in the Midwest and East Coast. Here, where the rustworm-free land of automotive immortality, 1971 is today! And this perfect example of my former object of scorn and derision is now the object of my devotion; at least for the moment. That’s the beauty of CC; I can fall in love with a car and the next morning… No, the effect is a bit longer, even if I didn’t hunt down the owner with my check book.

Ironically, I did find the owner; actually the owner’s husband. I wouldn’t have guessed it, but this daily driver is owned by a woman. Of course, being married a long time does tend to have its effects on both parties, or maybe she always liked ratty old rods.

Anyway, this Fairlane Sports coupe is a regular visitor during the days not far from my neck of the town, and I had a mental picture of its owner: a young guy who picked this up because its a cool old car; which it is indeed. Like so many other ratty cool old cars in the hands of young guys discovering their joys.

But when I discovered the 1953 Ford with the slant six under its hood in a very different part of town, there was this Fairlane too. Why yes; it’s the wife’s ride, and she works over my way. What else would a guy like Robert have his wife drive? A Camry? Hell no. Anyway, if I keep this up long enough, I’ll eventually meet the owner of every CC I’ve shot; it’s that kind of town.

Since I was there, Robert popped the hood on the Fairlane to show off its hale and hearty four-barrel 289. The Fairlane’s best asset was always under its hood, provided it had the V8, of course. The very first of that fine line of motors started in the ’62 Fairlane, with a weak-chested 145 hp 221 CID version. Why they ever made the 221 is beyond me, since the 260 already showed up at mid-year during the 1962 MY.

And the definitive 289 came along in 1964, including the very potent 271 hp hi-po version. Finally, Ford was going to give the Chevy small block some competition. Of course, Chevy upped the ante with the 327; that must have hurt a bit in Dearborn.

Back to the ’65: the only thing the Design interns left mostly untouched was the Ford’s patented hardtop coupe roof, which graced so many of their successful cars during its nine-year reign. Starting with the ’57 Skyliner, it was adopted by the ’58 T-Bird and ’59 Galaxie, and then handed down to the ’60 Comet, 1962 Falcon, and of course the Fairlane Coupe. And this marks the end of the road: it was well past its sell-by date, and its magic worn out. Or was it still the best thing about this ’65? More likely so; “Mess around with the rest of the car, (non-whiz) kids, but leave that roof intact!”

Here’s a (parting) shot of the interior. The dash is a dull and dreary thing, but I did always like the ribs on Ford’s center consoles of the time; they seemed a tad higher quality than the General’s. That’s the kind of thing you notice when you stare at cars on the way to school in the morning. And Ford’s rather nice buckets of the era have here been a bit tampered with; a bit of a home re-upholstery project?

Having created the mid-sized class in 1962, by 1964 the poor Fairlane was swamped by GM’s four-division strong assault (CC here). The Fairlane’s fairly strong initial sales wilted by 1964, and the beautiful ’65 didn’t do much to help. Ford started the mid-sized war, but never regained the upper hand. That the 1965 would be the low point is somewhat pre-ordained: the Mustang and the big Fords stole its thunder in house, and GM stole the rest. Maybe that’s why Ford didn’t exactly put much effort into the ’65: instead of a Fail, can we just give it an Incomplete?