Vintage M/T Road Test: 1964 Ford Fairlane 500 Sports Coupe – 289 V8, Four Speed And Good To Go

The 1964 Fairlane is widely considered to be the most attractive of the first generation (1962-1965). That’s undoubtedly in part due to its losing its rear finlets, which were getting sorely out of date by 1963. But there were other attractions, especially in the power train department. The 289 V8 was now available in a lo-po 195 hp version (only the 271 hp K-Code was available in ’63), and it could be had with the much better three-speed (C4) Cruise-o-matic. It’s safe to assume that there were likely some other continued refinements in its chassis too.

Motor Trend tested a Sports Coupe with the 195 hp 289, but backed by the optional four speed manual, which made for a sweet combination. Lively performance (0-60 in 9.9 sec.) but very tractable and with quite decent fuel economy (up to 19 mpg). And the handling was also better than average; quite a bit so on some rough desert roads driven at high speeds. A pretty attractive package, all-round.

color images from the web of a similar car with the 260 V8/automatic 

The engine lineup in the Fairlane was significantly improved over what was available in 1962, when it first appeared. Then only the rather weak-chested 101 hp 170 “Falcon” six and the not exactly hairy-chested 145 hp 221 V8. The latter was in the Niedermeyer’s ’62 Fairlane, and backed by the two-speed Fordomatic, it was actually slower than a Chevy II with a six and Powerglide. The arrival of the slightly perkier 164 hp 260 V8 in mid-1962 was the first step in the right direction.

The quite hairy 217 hp K-Code 289 arrived in mid-1963, but that was strictly a hi-po machine. So the addition of the larger 120 hp 200 inch six and the 195 hp two-barrel 289 were both very welcome additions. Motor Trend flat out suggested that the 170 six made the Fairlane dangerously underpowered, based on a drive they did of one the previous year.

The mildly-tuned 289 was very responsive up to 4000 rpm in fourth gear, and wound up to 5200 rpm in the lower gears without protestation. Best acceleration times were made by shifting at 4800 rpm. The 1/4 mile took 17.5 seconds with a 78 mph speed in the traps. Top speed was 105 mph. These were all quite decent numbers at the time, right on the cusp between more sedate low-priced family chariots and the true higher-performance cars.

This Sports Coupe was equipped with the larger drum brakes from the station wagon, and were pretty effective until they got hot and faded. And then it took some 15 minutes before they cooled off enough where they could be tested again.

The steering was power assisted, with a Bendix unit that assisted the linkage, not an integrated one. The 4.3 turns were a bit slow, but it was reasonably light and responsive.

M/T took the Fairlane on several runs from LA to the Colorado River via remote back roads through the desert, which provided plenty of challenges for the suspension. It acquitted itself quite well, allowing speeds on these roads of 79-85 mph, which not all the cars at the time were capable of. It took the dips and bumps without bottoming out and stability was retained. One wonders if this was the standard suspension or a heavier duty version?

The Fairlane leaned more than desirable (understeer) in curves, but it could be driven pretty hard without raising adrenalin levels in the testers.

At 3155 lbs, the Fairlane was not a lightweight, but the weight was put to good use, with excellent solidity and low vibrations and sound levels. It felt every bit as smooth and quiet as comparable cars with a separate frame.

The interior was attractive, and the bucket seats gave reasonable support.

Related CC reading:

Auto-Biography: 1962 Ford Fairlane – Sometimes It Is About The Destination

Vintage Car Life Comparison: 1962 Ford Fairlane V8 vs. 1962 Chevy II Six – The Old Ford V8 vs. Chevy Six Battle Updated, With Surprising Results

Car Show Classic: 1963 Ford Fairlane Sport Coupe K-Code