By on December 30, 2013

13 - 1980 Ford Fairmont Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Fairmont was the Fox platform-based cheap midsize Ford that replaced the Maverick, and nobody ever paid much attention to the Fairmont sedans. However, the sporty coupe version of the Fairmont— the Futura— had a certain style, much like Mercury Zephyr Coupe, and so I decided this ’80 was worth photographing when I spotted it in a San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard a few months ago.

There’s a little bit of ‘bird in every Futura!

The result of computer modeling!

Buy smart— it makes you look good.
10 - 1980 Ford Fairmont Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Fox platform was fairly advanced for Malaise Era Detroit, and these cars weren’t bad to drive.
07 - 1980 Ford Fairmont Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 200-cubic-inch (aka 3.3 liter) straight-six wasn’t the engine of choice for dragstrip domination, but it was reliable.
16 - 1980 Ford Fairmont Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinAir conditioning!
18 - 1980 Ford Fairmont Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThe horn button was pretty classy.
01 - 1980 Ford Fairmont Down on the Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThe psychedelic City of Hope sticker is a nice touch.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

81 Comments on “Junkyard Find: 1980 Ford Fairmont Futura...”

  • avatar

    I had the 3.3L in a 79 Mustang. It was my first car. Man it was slow, but it was very reliable. I always wondered if there was anything that I could have done to it to give it a little more power, but it didn’t look like there was much of an aftermarket for these.

    • 0 avatar

      I had one.
      It was a very good car.
      Unlike other vehicles of its era, the Fairmont was modern in design, roomy and light and had a very high quality of manufacturing.

      So good, in fact, it became the basis of many Ford vehicles, the Mustang, Capri, LTD II, Granada, square and aero Thunderbirds and Cougars. It was a good car as a coupe, a sedan or as a wagon.

      The only thing it lacked was front wheel drive. But Ford had other plans to use the Fox body for many more years and it needed a new rear drive platform.

      The guys writing up hate for this car are uninformed.

      • 0 avatar

        I actually like the Fairmount myself too. Though I prefer the sedan with the single headlights. To me, sure it’s plain, but in a good way. Simple enough where even somebody like me could fix one.

        Wouldn’t mind having one as a daily beater and I got bored, drop in a real 5.0 (these could be had with a 5.0 2v with just 129hp) and make it into a sleeper… I love cars that look slow but can humiliate “faster” cars. Maybe that’s why I like these.

      • 0 avatar
        Jon Fage

        “So good, in fact, it became the basis of many Ford vehicles, the Mustang, Capri, LTD II, Granada, square and aero Thunderbirds and Cougars. It was a good car as a coupe, a sedan or as a wagon.”

        I don’t understand. The LTD II was a restyled Torino that appeared in 1977. The Futura came out in 1978. How could the Futura be the basis for a car that was on a different platform and hadn’t even been sold yet?

        Did you mean the 1983-1986 Ford LTD? (without the “II”) That was a Fox-body that essentially replaced the Granada and the Fairmont.

        In the age of badge-engineering, nomenclature is everything…

  • avatar

    Not bad to drive? My uncle had one of these. Bad would be a compliment.
    Bought brand new, always was a hard starter, broke down often and rusted right from the get go. I believe his had the new-back-then CE light, which stayed on all the time (as if to assist with the intermittent backlighting for the gauges). Futura was a concept from which the Batman car was born. Great lineage, not so great progeny.

  • avatar

    That “PUTO$” tagging was the final insult.

    • 0 avatar
      Roberto Esponja

      From the looks of the car, Junior inherited it from his hippy mom and it got impounded at a Mexican neighborhood after he beat it to death and abandoned it there.

  • avatar

    I like the second commercial (with the “2001” music and cardboard spaceship) – the car they show (for $4268) has a manual on the floor and no radio(!) That said, all models came standard with 200 hoses of various diameters under the hood.

    With that straight 6, and 4 (3?) on the floor, it was the “3 series” of its day… right?

    • 0 avatar

      Ain’t nobody getting 33mpg out of it though.

      • 0 avatar

        @ CoreyDL- More like 13.3 mpgs.

      • 0 avatar

        You’d be surprised. While 33mpg might seem a tad pie in the sky, I have no doubt an average person could get high 20s. Remember, these cars were built paper thin, weighted well south of 3000lbs, had tall gearing and made next to no power.

        I’ve owned a few malaise era compacts and have always been impressed with the modern car matching mileage I was able to get out of them. Of course cars today also have power, that’s progress for you.

        • 0 avatar

          I guess at that time the manufacturer was allowed to fiddle with the engine, before it was put up on a little dyno to run at a steady 55mph, etc.

          They look like more than 3k pounds though!

          • 0 avatar

            I believe the 6 cylinder cars were about 2600lbs. Like I said, they were paper thin.

            The massive reduction in curb weights in the late malaise era to meet CAFE and emission targets also largely increased traffic fatalities. Imagine getting into an accident in one of these with the many 70’s land yachts that still populated the roads in the 80’s. Ouch.

  • avatar

    I had a Fairmont bought used from a guy at work. Red with a white vinyl top. And, it had the 2.3L I4 with an 3 speed automatic no less. Needless to say, I had to wait when pulling out in traffic because the acceleration was abysmal.

  • avatar

    Handled like crap .

    Cheaper than dirt

    Slower than turtles .

    Great old people’s cars .


    • 0 avatar

      You nearly made a great haiku there. I thought that’s what you were doing until I counted the syllables..

      The Ford Futura
      Slower and cheaper than dirt
      Great old people’s cars

      There! haha

      • 0 avatar

        Thanx ! I hadn’t thought of that .

        The truth about the anemic integral head Ford I6 engine is : they’re damn near bullet proof , Ford engineered it so with the tiny intake port .

        Millions upon milions of these were used in APU’s , Chippers , GenSets , Ag Pumps , Sweepers and on and on and…..

        Those old dead Fords you see in junkyards rarely have bad I6 engines because they were so lightly stressed even if you tried to hoon it .

        Interestingly , Marine Races liked this engine and someone made 12 ports heads for them ~ I well remember 6 side draft Mikuni carbys on a few 3009 C.I. I6’s and they were simply amazing .

        You young pups may not be aware that when new , the ’64 Mustangs were similarly hated by GearHeads and The Motor Trade because it too was so lightly built , cheap & flimsy . that didn’t stop the general public from loving how they drove and buying them in droves .

        I’m an I6 lover but also a Bowtie Guy ~ I can’t believe I’m defending a FoMoCo product =8-^ .


  • avatar

    Rented a ’79 for a couple of weeks in LA that year. 2-door, straight 6, thought it was clean, handsome and adequate. Kept up on the freeway and looked good.

  • avatar

    I sure am glad the days of group test drives and delivery days after buying are gone.

  • avatar

    Learned to drive in an ’82 Futura sedan. There will always be a soft spot in my loins for these.

  • avatar

    It’s refreshing to see colors in the interior other than black, gray, tan, and cream/off-white. My teen nephew wouldn’t believe me when I told him I once owned a car with blue plaid upholstery. I don’t miss the split back front bench seats, but I DO miss the shifter on the column and gas pedal anchored to the floor. Say what you want, but those interiors held up very well over the years. That interior is in great shape for its age.

  • avatar

    Count me as one who was impressed with the Fairmont.

    My father-in-law purchased a Hertz 1978 model. It was a sedan, brown w/some sort of tan interior. It was a very nice car, but unfortunately he had to have the transmission replaced – because it was a rental?

    In any event, I liked it and Wifey and I got to drive it often.

    I really liked the coupe version with that unique greenhouse. Yes, it did look like a junior T-Bird. Nothing wrong with that.

  • avatar

    I don’t think that’s a horn button. If I remember correctly the horn was “blown” by pushing in the end of the turn signal stalk.

  • avatar

    But, it did lead to the LTD-LX, the “four-door Mustang.”

    • 0 avatar

      I think it did, I think Ford was trying to put the Tempo as the Fairmount’s sucessor, but I think in actuality the “Baby” LTD was it.

      Coincidentally, there’s one next to this Fairmount. I’m curious about that one, too.

  • avatar

    I don’t trust that broad in the Futura commercial as far as I could throw her birdcage.

  • avatar

    I learned to drive on one of these (Young Drivers of Canada anyone?). I remember that it felt light and unsubstantial next to my dad’s ’78 Caprice Classic. And it had that frenetic Ford throttle tip-in, to give the illusion of acceleration I guess.

    • 0 avatar
      Joe McKinney

      When I took Driver’s Ed in 1981 our school had two Fairmonts, a Chevy Citation, and two Chrysler M-Bodies (a Dodge Diplomat coupe and a Chrysler Lebaron sedan). On the driving range I always tried to get one of the M-Bodies (the Lebaron was my favorite) because they felt solid and somewhat luxurious. In comparison the Fairmonts and Citation seemed very cheap and flimsy.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    These weren’t good – ever.

    But I was impressed that the Fairmont was one of the first vehicles I can remember being available with a 4-, 6-, or 8-cylinder engine, and manual transmissions as well. Mustangs and Thunderbirds were the same way.

    BTW, that 79 Futura for $4267 would be $13700 today – not bad, really.

    • 0 avatar

      $13700 for a car that doesn’t go, doesn’t stop, doesn’t turn, gets appalling gas mileage in the real world, is marginally reliable, rusted out in 5 years, has all the creature comforts of a Soviet jail cell (no radio at that price), AND purees the occupants in a collision? Sign me up for TWO of those bad boys!

      The good old days mostly sucked.

  • avatar

    My grandmother had a burgundy 2-door Fairmont that she bought shortly before she retired. May have even been this model year. I didn’t ride in it much (Grandpa did most of the driving) but the one thing I remember about it was a big yellow label on the visor warning that attempting to remove your jacket while driving could result in loss of vehicle control.

    It was still in pretty pristine condition in the mid-90s when they traded up to an off-lease Lincoln Continental. I wonder if anyone’s done a 5.0 swap and built the ultimate sleeper.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    Since the last Ranchero was the LTDII, T-Bird based 77-79 a few of these were converted to Ranchero’s by a aftermarket company, IIRC they also made flower cars. The C-piller design and removal of the quarter windows make them look factory. Every now and then you see them on e-bay.

  • avatar

    I think it’s interesting that, in that first video, it’s called out that this car bests it’s GM competition’s fuel economy by 7 miles per gallon. First of all, by today’s standards, that’s an INSANE margin! Second, there’s really no way to tell what that comparison involves because the small print on the screen states it’s with the 2.3L Ford, but doesn’t describe anything about the competitor’s vehicles or testing conditions. This would be like Honda saying Honda Accord Hybrid gets XX miles per gallon better than Toyota Camry without saying that it was compared to a V6 Camry towing a motor home. It seems like today when car commercials make claims there’s an encyclopedia-worth of small print on the screen.

  • avatar

    The good thing about the Fairmont in the modern age is that you can throw tons of Mustang stuff at it and make a crazy sleeper. Granted, the LTD LX was already the Mustang in dull clothing, but it’s probably easier to find a Fairmont than one of those.

  • avatar

    The Metro Toronto police cars actually tried the Fairmont — it was very short lived — I remember talking to a friends dad who was a cop, and none of them liked them based on
    lack of power, and “Flimsy feel” as others have noted..

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, the Fairmount flopped as a cop car. Many cops regard it as being the worst police car ever made. Too small, too slow, too cramped and poor ride were cited. You could even get a 2.3 in a police package Fairmount!

      Even with a 5.0 2v, with just 129 hp, it was lukewarm at best. The CHP did actually test some in ’79, they did praise it’s braking ability.

      You can see police Fairmounts in the movie ET, they’re pale blue.

  • avatar

    Good in comparison to the offerings at Chrysler and GM – ya I guess so. The ’78 Accord with its aluminum engine was a steaming pile of non-reliability (Honda quickly corrected the issues) as people tend to romanticize the malaise era.

    I had a number of friends in high school who had these as hand-me-down cars. They were big balls of meh – but I do remember thinking the Fairmont looked better than the Chrysler and GM sedan offerings of similar size.

    Those HVAC controls were in my ’87 Tempo – just tarted up a bit more to scream 80’s!

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      The 78 Accord a “steaming pile of non-reliability.” Seriously? I owned one of these cars, which I bought 6 months old from someone who needed to get out of a car payment. I had a 1972 Mazda RX-2 rotary, which I had bought new, that was showing signs of needing new apex seals. Given that the car achieve no better than 20 mpg on the highway and that gasoline prices had just spiked (again), I decided it wasn’t worth the cost of that repair even though the rest of the car was in fine condition. At the time, there was a waiting list for new Honda Accords. I was very fortunate to find the slightly used Accord I bought advertised for sale by its owner in the classifieds, and offered at a reasonable price. It certainly wasn’t as fast as the Mazda; but it used a whole lot less fuel.

      IIRC, the only issue with these engines was valve guide wear, which eventually led to oil consumption and smoking. My car never showed those problems while I owned it.

      I drove it for 6 years and do not recall any unusual repairs to the car other than routine maintenance (oil changes, brakes, etc.) The red paint oxidized pretty badly, but that was it.

  • avatar

    We race one just like it:
    Nothing simple can be done to get a 200 six to make more power. The intake manifold is a horrible design, and is cast into the cast iron head, and only has a 1 3/4″ hole for a 1bbl. Ford US never bothered to develop it. In Australia and South America it was made with a removable manifold eventually and all sorts of better intake set ups.

    • 0 avatar

      I think I’ve mentioned the “Power by Ford” rocker cover and how the only power in that engine was actually in the car next to it in the past.

      That may have been a Grenader post though.

  • avatar

    There was some serious weight reduction going on with the futuras. Trunk and hood have all sorts of speed holes to reduce weight. IIRC aluminum bumpers also. The 2 door weighs in at something like 2600 lbs, and it being a fox body, most all mustang parts fit, making it a perfect sleeper.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    rented one of these in 1979 in L.A. drove to Vegas, it was horrible, that car only had about 25k miles but it was ready to fall apart, could not use the A/C on the way to Vegas cause it was overheating, when we got there, had to have the carb adjusted to compensate for the heat cause it would die out constantly, steered me away from ever buying ANY Ford product.

  • avatar

    Someone ought to rescue this and bolt in a 5.0 EFI/T-5 drive train out of a late 1980s/early 1990s Mustang and go out and act stupid.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I remember driving a new Fairmont sedan in 1978 in a fleet of the company I worked for. The car rattled, shaked, and had very poor acceleration. I had a friend that had a black Futura with a tan top and tan interior, he called it a Sickmont. The looks were ok, but the car was not very good.

  • avatar

    One thing I never understood about Ford and the Fox was their use of the 3.3.
    It required it’s own specific K member and every other engine offered was better. Even the Windsor 4.2.

    • 0 avatar

      The 1979 Fox body cars had the 2.8 liter Cologne V6 as the optional engine, but a worldwide shortage of that engine made them switch to the 3.3 liter engine in 1980.

      Was every other engine better? The 2.3 four cylinder couldn’t pull the skin off a bowl of pudding, especially with the automatic. I know, I learned to drive in a 1980 Mustang so equipped. The 200 c.i. six probably had a little more torque, and since it was in production in various displacements for 20 years starting with the 1960 Falcon, it had no real problems or weaknesses. The odometer reads 46,246 and it probably rolled over at least once. Not bad for a malaise era car.

      No, the worst engine put in the Fox cars was that piece of crap 3.8 V6, that sawed-off V8 that couldn’t hold a head gasket to save its life. That came around 1983-84.

      • 0 avatar

        The Essex V6 wasn’t really a sawed off V8. While the construction is similar to the Windsor engines, they don’t share any design elements beyond being 2V pushrod motors.

        • 0 avatar

          Indeed you’re right. In fact the Essex V6 has so much in common with the Buick V6 that some claim Ford reverse-engineered it. Bore and stroke are nearly identical and the Essex had an unusual external oil pump like the Buick engines and unlike any other Ford engine. The Essex had aluminum heads though and that might have been the source of the head gasket problem but I haven’t looked into it.

  • avatar

    Like the blue interior, faux wood & chrome. Round dials too. Era of Quincy M.D. pop up headrests. I’d assume 79 LeMans a better choice?

    Toronto Police went for banana yellow Dip/Cara. They had some unmarked usually in silver or dark blue or burgundy. You could still spot unmarked a mile off with smooth chrome hubs and fat pursuit tires. Cause nobody else bought that shit except them or taxi.

  • avatar

    Back in the day I remember thinking that the Futura coupe could have been a decent-looking ride, if only they hadn’t cheaped out and re-used the front doors from the sedan. Adding a couple of inches in length to the doors would have gone a long way to curing its awkward proportions in profile.

    • 0 avatar

      They didn’t re-use the front doors from the sedan. The Futura coupes doors were longer. In fact there was also a 2 door Fairmont, but while the door length was the same as the 2 door Futura, the rear part of the window frame was angled forward.

  • avatar

    My mother bought an 83 “Squaremont” 4dr with the mighty 2.3 l, auto, and a radio. It was a fairly nice looking car as they used the 4 headlight setup from the Futura that year. It ran well, but didn’t have much power. That was OK for her. The tires were very skinny and marked for 85 mph maximum. The car was built for the very low price point, but it did what it was supposed to, which is get you from A to B. The 4 cylinder engine was fairly well isolated for NVH and the seats were reasonably comfortable. But the build quality was questionable. The dash pad wasn’t fastened down when it was delivered. The considerate assembly worker included the screws in the glove compartment. Other than that, the fuel economy was very good.

  • avatar

    These cars caused a “sensation” in the Deep South when they came out. I guess the South was still “Ford Country” , then. They had them displayed at the mall in Biloxi , Mississippi when I was in the service. Some of those were stick shift ! One of my fellow GIs spent his re-enlistment bonus on one of these. I could not get over this “trade”.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    My future wife’s father owned among other businesses in the 80s a rental car agency . There was one banged -up , several year old Futura at the agency that he let the relations- his mom , his boyfriend , his ex-wife , his ex-in-laws , borrow when their cars were broken, or as a shop car. The other rentals were all new Chevrolets. The Futura was awful , with cigarette burns and everything falling apart . I remember the back seat in particular , being flat , squishy and devoid of support .

  • avatar

    Some misinformation here.

    First, that is NOT the horn button. It’s the cap on the hub of the steering wheel. The horn button was in the turn-signal stalk. You pushed it in, a la French cars and some European Fords. It was not a good idea. At least the hi-beams had moved there from the floor.

    Second, the “cologne 2.8 V-6” was NEVER offered in the Fairmont/Zephyr. The only “Fox” platform product to get it was the Mustang/Capri. Perhaps Ostrich meant Mustang.

    Consumer Reports found the 2.3 4-cyl auto Fairmont was quicker than the anemic 3.3 in-line 6 with auto. By the standards of the day, CR found the Fairmont to rather good on gas, and noticeably quicker than the automatic. CR hesitated to recommend it because….it had a foot-operated parking brake, vs a hand-brake, not desirable with a manual trans when starting up a steep hill.

    We bought a new 2.3 liter, 4-spd in 1980, which I inherited. It was not a great car. BUT, cars are relative, and relative to the other crap one could buy in 1978-83, the Fairmont was a good car. It handled and rode well, though it did feel ‘flimsy’. It had a lousy paint job, but not a bit of rust in the 6 years it was in the family, and it was not a lemon.

    The Tempo that replaced it was slower AND a lemon, AND a lot pricier.

    Enough said :)

    • 0 avatar

      hah, I remember that little quirk about the horn in these cars now that you mentioned it. It took me a while to figure it out the first time.

      I always figured they did it that way because it was cheaper than a rotating contact mechanism behind the steering wheel.

  • avatar

    I had a 1979 4 door that was passed down from my parents with but 82k miles on the clock. It was the first and last Ford I have owned to date!

    For starters the road noise this car generated was borderline obnoxious. I doubt there was more than a wafer thin sheet of paper in those doors that counted as insulation. Speaking of wafer thin the door glass was about as thick as a dime! The doors slammed with a clunky thud which was a Ford hallmark and carried over up to the Panthers. The 200 L-6 was indeed reliable and ran okay when it did run. Much of the time the carburetor was stalling hesitating and choking up until full operating temperature was reached. Performance was barely adequate with 0-60 times in the mid to high 15 second range. Mileage was terrible and this car refused to go more than 200 miles on a tank of gas and never seemed to average any more than 22 MPG even in highway driving.

    The horn was not where you would expect it. One needed to press the stalk not the center of the steering wheel which was asinine. The dash vibrated like crazy when going over 55 MPH which meant I never had to worry much getting a speeding ticket on the highway.

    The front front flight bench cloth seat had to be the worst I have ever sat in bar none! Zero contour or support. Rock hard with little cushion and zero adjust-ability! My dad used to bitch about his back after taking a 3 hour ride in this car and needed frequent pull over’s to gt out and walk. I felt his pain.

    Handling and steering where this car’s main virtue with the rack and pinion setup. This car was nimble and could be tossed around easily in the city.

    Fit and finish were typical of the time. The paint was thin and the body started rusting when the car was only 4 years old! The interior was full of rattles and squeaks, many of which I cured by use of rubber pieces and felt pads. By 66k the rear end decided to crap out leaving me stranded at work. Several months later during a harsh Winter the interior door handle broke while trying to open the passenger door the let my friend in to give him a ride home. Not long after the passenger side window glass literally fell down into the door and shattered after going over some rail road tracks. That was a fun afternoon trying to repair that.

    With all that said I would not mind owning a Futura coupe like this one with a V8, bucket seats and sound insulation package that was part of the interior upgrade group and wheel tire upgrade. That would be a unique car at the shows.

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote


  • Contributors

  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Alex L. Dykes, United States
  • Kamil Kaluski, United States
  • Seth Parks, United States
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Kyree Williams, United States

Get No-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners Automotive News in your Facebook Feed!

Already Liked