Maybe that’s a harsh assessment, but bear with me. The mid-to-late sixties was a great time for American car design and it was difficult to find an unattractive model from any manufacturer. I don’t think this 1966 Ford Fairlane 500 was the best looking sedan of its era, but there are worse things to be than “generic.”
I saw this blue sedan while carving pumpkins on a friend’s porch last Halloween. The taillights scream Ford, but without seeing the double stacked headlights up front, it’s otherwise hard to identify. I didn’t take very good pictures of the car, and had to search for some online. Most of the good ones I could find were of the coupe, so it would seem the four-doors aren’t the most sought after today. That, along with the lack of a hardtop variant, suggests the Fairlane sedan didn’t get quite enough attention from Ford.
The overall look is, dare I say it, dowdy. If you think that’s unfair, consider the expectations of the new-for-1966 Fairlane. Ford was expected to atone for the poorly received styling of its first generation intermediate while bringing the new Fairlane’s looks in line with both its full-size sedans and the sporty Mustang.
While double-stacked headlights suggest sportiness, shades of Brougham are evident in the decorated taillights. Coming from the company which recently introduced the Ford LTD, this isn’t far-fetched. Considered in isolation, the front and the rear styling is well done but together, they give conflicting impressions. The sides of the car–almost identical to the Falcon’s–look like an afterthought, with gently curving A and C pillars that clash with the straight lines of the body’s lower half. The upright B-pillar and low-rent painted metal window frames don’t help.
To be fair, the Chevy Chevelle also shared the latter feature, but the lack of a rear quarterlight made for a more uncluttered appearance, as did the availability of a stylish hardtop.
The Plymouth Belvedere and Dodge Coronet, which like the Fairlane only offered a pillared four-door variant, were at least committed to their severe, rectilinear shape. With a taller canopy and deeply sculptured shoulders, they were styled with a seemingly greater sense of purpose.
And the Rambler Classic, in its final year, at least managed uniform simplicity. The Fairlane’s mid-sixties pastiche was inconsistent by comparison.
It’s not that I think the ’66 Fairlane is a bad looking car, but there’s a reason it’s not as easily distinguished as the midsize competition. The front end, almost certainly Pontiac-inspired, is its best looking aspect. It lends an aggressive appearance and is very well matched to the coupe’s styling in particular, where the slight coke-bottle influence makes much more sense. The coupe pictured, incidentally, is a GT model equipped with a 335 horsepower 390 CID (6.4 liter) V8 with a four-barrel carb and dual exhausts. A handful were built with an enormous 427 (7-liter) V8 with 425 horsepower and a four-on-the-floor.
I can’t necessarily blame them. If I were to own a intermediate sedan from this era, I would likely choose a Plymouth Belvedere or one of the GM A-body hardtops. This Fairlane, as benign looking as it is, strikes me as the product of an increasingly cynical and conservative company. Given what I’ve read about the ’66-’67 Fairlane, my opinion may be heretical. Fortunately, I know our readers will make convincing arguments that add to my perspective.