Success for various Detroit-bred cars wasn’t unlike the track record of another factory in the Detroit Metro area in the 1960’s. Yesterday’s star, in a quick flash of 3 years could become the season bench warmer. Like The Contours of Motown, by the end of 1965, the mid-sized Ford Fairlane was singing “Do You Love Me?” to American Audiences for all the wrong reasons.
In 1962, The Fairlane was the smash hit nobody expected, just like The Contours. Priced cheaper than General Motors’s not as roomy and sometimes trouble prone “B-O-P Luxury Compacts,” the most upsized of Falcons in Junior Galaxie 500 finery walked away with sales victories. Nearly 300,000 went out the door for the introductory year. With a new, revvy and willing small block V8, it seemed like nothing but hits would follow for the Fairlane.
The tide changed in just over a season. GM ditched the technological tour-de-force for shrunken battleships with isolating body-on-frame technology at its 4 mainstream brands. The more glamorous, up to date GM cars, available with convertibles and multiple sizes of station wagons walked away with the heart of the sensibly sized sedan market.
Ford didn’t help matters much when their first retaliation was this remarkably non-descriptive restyling for 1965. It carried a double edged sword of being remarkably bland while eschewing most of the continuity with either the previous 3 seasons of Fairlanes or the larger Galaxies. If there ever were the epitome of “Bland American Car,” The 1965 Fairlane was a prime example. It didn’t help matters, as an onslaught of Muscle Machines came flying out from not only GM, but from sister division Mercury in the near/intermediate field, adding spice to the variety of automobiles on offer.
It was a stumble the Fairlane never really recovered from. By 1967, it was singing “It’s So Hard Being A Loser” alongside The Contours. Like Dennis Edwards and his transition to becoming a member of The Temptations, the Fairlane saw a career opportunity in a name change. Starting in 1968 the Torino badge started to be emphasized over the Fairlane moniker, signaling the eventual death of the surprise star of 1962.
Curiously, underneath it all, the Fairlane/Torino stayed true to those early “big Falcon” roots. It truly didn’t die off until the Body-on-Frame Torinos debuted for 1972. Through some well and not so well tailored suits, the Fairlane soldiered through 10 sales seasons maximizing profits on the same old wares underneath attempts at gauging tastes every season. Now a beloved underdog, perhaps the biggest profit and last laugh of all is the fact that its once generic appearance can be a rather startling presence on a pre-dawn Sunday. I still love you 1965 Ford Fairlane.