Everybody had a First Car: Mine, a 1964 Ford Fairlaine: Hey, don't laugh.
In the good old days we played high school sports, hung out in the hallways of the school between classes thinking we were “cool” watching the young ladies walk by. It was sports, dreams of cute girls, and the anticipation of getting our license to drive to school in our own car. No school bus for us. We were way above that.
So, my dad said, you earn it, you can buy it. That’s all I needed to hear. A part time after school cleaning he kitchen at the local hospital is where the “march of dimes” really began. At age 14 I could get a job with limited hours. I earned $60.00 a week toward my “new” car.
I passed my driver’s test and I went right down to the corner car lot. My $400 was burning a hole in my pocket and I went for the nicest car on the lot my money could buy. It’s not like I had a lot to choose from in that price range but I honed in on a beauty, all black with red upholstery, slant six, automatic drive, 1964 Ford Fairlane. It was my first so it was very cool at first. I treated it like a girlfriend. Then I couldn’t fight the urge to “push it.” That meant I stomped it, drove it hard, and pushed that rubber band under the hood until it whined. I took turns much too fast and eventually parked it in the rear end of my best friend’s 1964 Nova.
My perfect car was suddenly not so. How I managed not to go through the windshield was no easy feat since I hit his stopped car, which was a tank, at a stop sign. No one got hurt but he later took a sledge hammer to the Nova so when the insurance adjuster showed up it looked like it had been in a storm of stones. The car was totaled and mine had to be fixed by…you guessed it, me. Ugh, collision work it not my cup of tea. However, the car came out well enough that I sold to move on to the next parental nightmare.
“It was pretty much a typical story. It was a Sunday car. The first driver drove her two friends for a Sunday drive after church, and she used it to go the grocery store and that was probably about it … There were no parking lot marks on it or anything like that. We were told that she had never had the car wet. Who knows about that, it had to have been wet to wash it. Whether that story was embellished, I don’t know, but the car is pretty darn nice.”
Ford’s mid-size Fairlane series was wildly popular among car buyers in the 1960s, but not many of the nearly 200,000 examples built for the 1964 model year were as gently used as my previous owner obviously did, I think. The Fairlanes came in both six-cylinder and V-8 varieties, with the 500 series one step up the trim ladder from the base Fairlane.
The 500s were set apart by chrome around the windows, a twin-spear molding running from stem to stern that featured an accent color between trim strips, upscale interior amenities such as arm rests and chrome horn rings, and extra badging.
Mine was the traditional four-door sedan which was one of eight body configurations in the 1964 Fairlane lineup, but only five of those were offered in 500 trim: the four-door sedan (also called the town sedan), two-door club sedan, two-door hardtop coupe; two-door sport coupe and four-door station wagon. A total of 86,919 four-door sedans were built, although Ford didn’t break down how many were six-cylinders like my car, and how many came with a V-8.
Mine was a "top-of-the-line" Fairlane 500 (not too top, believe me), so it didn’t have a lot of options. It had an AM radio that I put an FM attachment on, but it did not have the optional seat belts (believe that?) with chrome clasps, and windshield washers.
Fairlane 500 four-door sedans with the six-cylinder tipped the scales new at 2,843 lbs. and carried a base price of just a few nickels over $2,300. Substituting the V-8 added a little more than 100 lbs. and about 100 bucks to the bill.
The standard engine (mine) was the 170-cid six, but the new 221-cid Windsor V-8 was a popular upgrade. If you wanted more ponies, you could keep moving up the checklist and find 260- and 289-cid V-8s that would fit under the hood of your Fairlane.
The Fairlane used a unibody frame and short-arm independent front suspension that, together with the six-cylinder engine and modern radial tires, made it a splendid performing and riding car. But this car had terrific straight-line road handling. I had it at 80 mph (once) with a cross wind, and it was very stable. Cornering, the suspension was tight so the rear never fell out to far. Steering was slow because it was manual steering. The car made me think. Why did it sound like a motor-bike instead of a car? Why did I buy this?
It had a very peppy six, and it started every time simply at the turn of a key, which was nice. More than anything, it was dependable...who cares. It wasn't a chick magnet.
JP's story, not mine, trust me...