The Truth About Cars » 1962 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Apr 2014 16:18:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » 1962 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Junkyard Find: 1962 International Harvester C-120 Travelette http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/junkyard-find-1962-international-harvester-c-120-travelette/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/junkyard-find-1962-international-harvester-c-120-travelette/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 13:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=791945 21 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThere was once a time when you could buy street vehicles made by a farm equipment manufacturer, and IHC products still show up in self-service wrecking yards today. In this series so far, we’ve seen this ’70 Scout, this ’71 Travelall, this ’71 Scout, this ’72 1010 pickup, this ’73 Scout, and this ’74 Scout. The crew-cab Travelette is a machine you won’t see every day, so I shot this ’62 that I spotted in a Northern California wrecking yard.
01 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBeing a California truck, there’s minimal rust here, but 52 years of hard work have worn everything out.
04 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHere’s a good old Black Diamond 240-cubic-inch straight-six, rated at 141 horses in 1962. Yes, that’s not much more power than a 2014 Corolla gets; pickup drivers were tougher back when instant annihilation threatened.
14 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinTwo huge bench seats, and a custom shag-carpet headliner.
26 - 1963 International Harvester Pickup Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI’m a little puzzled by this bumper extension. Is this to protect the open tailgate when hauling extra-long loads?

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Junkyard Find: 1962 Ford Galaxie Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/junkyard-find-1962-ford-galaxie-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/junkyard-find-1962-ford-galaxie-coupe/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 13:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=768322 21 - 1962 Ford Galaxie Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinToday’s Junkyard Find isn’t the first ’62 Galaxie we’ve seen in the series. Yes, we had this ’62 Galaxie with the very rare Harlequin paint option more than three years ago. The second-gen Galaxie sometimes gets overlooked these days, because the Chevy Impala of the same era has become so iconic, but it’s a very good-looking car. Unfortunately, even a fairly straight two-door hardtop Galaxie with big-block isn’t worth restoring these days, so this example ended up in a San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard late last year.
16 - 1962 Ford Galaxie Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSome dealership, or maybe the junkyard, tried and failed to sell this car for $1,999. Look, “engine runs good.”
11 - 1962 Ford Galaxie Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinTypical of California cars of this age, there’s no cancer in the wheelwells or fenders, but the areas where rainwater builds up under trim pieces have rotted.
07 - 1962 Ford Galaxie Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe last year that car radios were required to have the CONELRAD atomic-attack-alert radio stations (640 kHz and 1240 kHz) was 1963, though I owned a ’69 Toyota that still had the CONELRAD marks.

So, the driver of this brand-new Galaxie would know when he or she had to duck and cover.
03 - 1962 Ford Galaxie Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOf course, some later owner installed this Field Expedient Engineering cassette deck under the dash.
02 - 1962 Ford Galaxie Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior is pretty much toast, which is the main reason this car wasn’t worth fixing up.
23 - 1962 Ford Galaxie Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe engine is some member of the Ford FE family, which in most cases isn’t worth rescuing from the wrecking yard.
25 - 1962 Ford Galaxie Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Thunderbird valve cover should indicate that it’s a somewhat desirable 340-horse 390 instead of the scrap-metal-value 352. Heck, maybe it’s even the 385-horsepower 406!
26 - 1962 Ford Galaxie Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBut then the regular FORD valve cover on the other side argues for the 352 or low-performance 390. These cars had so many engine swaps over the years that the only way to tell what you’ve got here is to scrape off the mung and look at block and head casting numbers.
13 - 1962 Ford Galaxie Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBy the time you read this, today’s Junkyard Find has already been crushed, shredded, and put in a container at the nearby Port of Oakland.

I couldn’t find a ’62 Galaxie ad, but this one for the ’61 gives you the sense of class Ford was shooting for with these cars.

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Junkyard Find: 1962 Chevrolet Corvair 700 Station Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/junkyard-find-1962-chevrolet-corvair-700-station-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/junkyard-find-1962-chevrolet-corvair-700-station-wagon/#comments Thu, 06 Feb 2014 14:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=734457 07 - 1962 Corvair 700 Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOther than the many Corvairs in the Brain Melting Colorado Junkyard, we haven’t seen any examples of GM’s rear-engined compact so far in this series. As recently as ten years ago, Corvairs were not uncommon sights in self-serve wrecking yards, and trashed ones are worth little more than scrap value today, but it took until a couple of weeks ago and a trip to California for me to find one.
14 - 1962 Corvair 700 Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis ’62 was parked in the import section of a huge Los Angeles yard, and my first glance at the engine-cooling vents gave me the impression that I was looking at a Volkswagen Type 3 Squareback. Nope!
04 - 1962 Corvair 700 Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one has been picked over pretty well, so we can assume that some Corvairs that remain among the living have benefited from its organ donation.
05 - 1962 Corvair 700 Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt doesn’t have rust in the usual places that Maine or Michigan residents might expect— the rear quarters are solid, for example— but the floors have suffered from decades of leaky weatherstripping. You’ll get weeks of constant rain during Southern California winters, the carpets stay wet, and this happens.
03 - 1962 Corvair 700 Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNice minimalist instrument cluster, which reminds me a lot of the ones in French cars of the same era.
10 - 1962 Corvair 700 Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car still has a few bits to offer up, including the wagon-only glass. Let’s hope that stuff gets rescued before The Crusher goes squish.

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Junkyard Find: 1962 Cadillac Sedan DeVille http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/junkyard-find-1962-cadillac-sedan-deville/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/junkyard-find-1962-cadillac-sedan-deville/#comments Tue, 16 Jul 2013 13:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=495372 03 - 1962 Cadillac Sedan DeVille Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee MartinThe brain-melting Colorado yard must have a couple thousand pre-1970 cars scattered about its several square miles of land on the Colorado High Plains just east of Pikes Peak. That means I’ll never run out of Junkyard Finds there! While most of my Brain-Melting Junkyard posts have featured non-Big-Three products, there’s some pretty good stuff made by The General among the Kaisers and Willys (Willyses?). Today we’ll look at a sunbleached but solid-looking ’62 Cadillac.
13 - 1962 Cadillac Sedan DeVille Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car has been sitting for a decade of two. Every winter, it hides beneath the snow. Every summer, the High Plains sun applies jillions-o-joules.
10 - 1962 Cadillac Sedan DeVille Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee MartinThe four-door hardtop Cadillacs of this era aren’t as desirable as the coupes and convertibles, so it’s likely that this car is worth more in parts than as a restoration candidate.
14 - 1962 Cadillac Sedan DeVille Down On the Junkyard - Pictures courtesy of Murilee MartinBut you never know what will happen to the values of cars like this; perhaps its value will be much higher in another decade.

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Junkyard Find: 1962 Volvo 122S http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/junkyard-find-1962-volvo-122s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/junkyard-find-1962-volvo-122s/#comments Fri, 05 Jul 2013 13:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=494125 14 - 1962 Volvo 122 Amazon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinEverybody loves the Volvo Amazon, including me, and so it’s saddening to see an early example heading to The Crusher. The truth is that non-perfect Amazons (even two-doors) just aren’t worth much these days, so one with rust and/or major body damage usually gets crushed.
08 - 1962 Volvo 122 Amazon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis California Amazon appears to be completely rust-free, but a hard hit in the right rear would cost more to fix than you’d spend for a pretty nice Amazon.
13 - 1962 Volvo 122 Amazon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThere’s a lot of tractor-ish mechanical gear beneath the Amazon, but Volvo did add some snazzy styling touches here and there.
03 - 1962 Volvo 122 Amazon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior reminds me a bit of the Plymouth Valiant of the same era.
15 - 1962 Volvo 122 Amazon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI couldn’t get the hood to open, but I was able to squeeze the camera in through the grille opening. Yep, the B18 (not to be confused with the Honda B18) is still there!
01 - 1962 Volvo 122 Amazon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou’d expect the owner of a 51-year-old Volvo to be a member of the Experimental Aviation Association.

Hey, this could be the car from the 1962 Volvo ad!

I’ve always preferred the home-market Amazon ad, from the era during which Swedes drove on the left. They switched sides on Högertrafikomläggningen in 1967.

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Back Down On The Alameda Street: 1962 Lincoln Continental http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/back-down-on-the-alameda-street-1962-lincoln-continental/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/back-down-on-the-alameda-street-1962-lincoln-continental/#comments Thu, 24 Mar 2011 18:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=388497
Back in my Jalopnik days, I started the whole interesting-street-parked-car-photos thing with the original Down On The Street series. At that time, all the cars I shot were located in my old hometown on Alameda, California, and I got up to 600 or so before moving to Denver last summer. Now I’m back in Alameda, in preparation for my role working the 185-car Sears Pointless 24 Hours of LeMons race, and it wasn’t long before I spotted this fine machine parked near downtown.

It’s a very straight, mildly customized ’62 Continental, suicide doors and all, and it clearly gets regular street use.

Though a bit too slab-sided to look very graceful, the lines of this era of Continental have aged well.

The San Francisco Bay Area has been a car-club hotbed since, well, the dawn of the automobile. I’m not familiar with the Antioch Dragoons; the club could be 9 years old, or 90.

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NSF Racing Plymouth Fury Does 218 Laps, Breaks Down 219 Times, Still Triumphs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/nsf-racing-plymouth-fury-does-218-laps-breaks-down-219-times-still-triumphs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/nsf-racing-plymouth-fury-does-218-laps-breaks-down-219-times-still-triumphs/#comments Sun, 20 Mar 2011 07:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=387909
Y’all know that the NSF Racing 1962 Plymouth took the top prize at the Southern Discomfort 24 Hours of LeMons last month, but some of you may be wondering how the Fury managed to beat out the Sputnik ’86 Nissan Stanza wagon (441 laps) or the Speedycop and the Gang of Outlaws Parnelli Jones Galaxie (243 laps) for the Index of Effluency. Clearly, I have failed in expressing just how unspeakably terrible this car really is, and thus what a monumental achievement its 218 laps around the Carolina Motorsports Park road course really was.

This car sat in a swampy field in Florida for decades before being dragged off by the NSF racing guys (their previous car, a CRX, failed so miserably that they were forced to put their very nice 392 Hemi-powered 1951 Chrysler Saratoga Carrera Panamericana car onto a LeMons track last year— accepting 392 penalty laps— in order to get some seat time). It has rust in places you wouldn’t expect rust on a car; only the roll cage keeps it from breaking in several pieces on the race track. The NSF Racing Fury was such an overachiever.

Chrysler didn’t see fit to install any sort of sway bar on the ’62 Fury, and NSF Racing figured they’d be just fine with authentic 60s-vintage body roll. Here’s the Fury negotiating Turn 1 at, oh, 20 MPH. Damn, ran out of pavement again!

The real problems, however, lay under the hood. The incredibly decrepit 340 engine was about what you’d expect from a 400,000-mile Detroit V8 with random junkyard carburetor and ignition system. Sure, the 340 is a great engine, but not when it’s this loose. The oil blowby was so bad that Race Control was black-flagging the super-smoky Fury off the track every few minutes. A lot of LeMons cars make some fairly severe smoke, so you have to be a real overachiever to lay down a smokescreen bad enough to be considered a visibility hazard on a LeMons track.

NSF Racing did their best with the oil-spewing problems, valiantly battling one leak point after another. We made it very clear that we wouldn’t accept a milk-jug-and-heater-hose oil-recovery system, so they changed the valve cover gaskets, added extra PCV valves and vacuum lines to try to recycle the oil by burning it, everything you can think of.

The transmission, brakes, steering, seat mounting brackets, and many other components also acted up, which meant that the Fury would get out onto the track, do about a half-lap, and then get black-flagged back in for some egregious mechanical malfunction. Pit stop!

LeMons Chief Perp Jay Lamm insisted on testing out the brakes before letting NSF Racing back on the track, and he returned from a brief drive with the instructions “Replace every component in the brake system and I’ll let you back on the track.” That’s just what NSF Racing did!

Yes, it was the slowest and most unreliable vehicle on the track, but the team never gave up and the laps began to mount. Next race, they’ve decided to go with a bigger engine. In fact, they’re going with a Mercedes-Benz 6.9 sedan!

The Speedycop and the Gang of Outlaws Galaxie had a best lap time a full ten seconds quicker than the Fury, which was quite impressive given the terribleness of the Galaxie. Not quite as bad as the Fury, but definitely a total Bondo-coated heap under its pretty paint job. The Galaxie still has a shot at the IOE, by the way (in spite of its recently upgraded suspension)… and you could be one of the drivers! Speedycop is recruiting drivers for his three-car assault on the Real Hoopties of New Jersey 24 Hours of LeMons event in New Jersey next month, and 600 bucks buys you a spot behind the wheel. Those of you who have done any kind of road racing know what a steal that is.

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Down On The Mile High Street: How To Look Cool Getting Picked Up at the Airport http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/down-on-the-mile-high-street-how-to-look-cool-getting-picked-up-at-the-airport/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/down-on-the-mile-high-street-how-to-look-cool-getting-picked-up-at-the-airport/#comments Mon, 14 Mar 2011 17:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=387229
I do a lot of air traveling in my role as Chief Justice of the LeMons Supreme Court, which means I spend a lot of time at Shadow Government World Headquarters, aka Denver International Airport. My ride was coming to get me in a late-model Subaru Outback, i.e. the type of vehicle driven by approximately 70% of Colorado drivers… but this traveler climbed into an early, no-frills Ford Falcon. Yes, I was envious.

At the moment I looked up and saw this fine automobile, I had been thinking about Detroit’s struggles to build a good/big-selling compact car in the post-Falcon (and post-Chevy II) era. What would a 2011 equivalent of a 1960 Falcon be like?
Thanks to Old Car Brochures for the image above.

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Southern Discomfort LeMons: And The Real Winner Is… http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/southern-discomfort-lemons-and-the-real-winner-is/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/southern-discomfort-lemons-and-the-real-winner-is/#comments Mon, 21 Feb 2011 04:21:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=384503
The Index of Effluency trophy goes to the 24 Hours of LeMons team that accomplishes the greatest feats with the most improbable car; if your team’s car is a horrifyingly rusty heap that sat in a field for decades prior to being resurrected for racing, is a type of vehicle that never belonged on a road course in the first place, and manages to clank through more than 200 tough laps on a car-killing track, you have an excellent shot at taking home the coveted IOE. The NSF Racing 1962 Plymouth Fury accomplished this feat at this weekend’s Southern Discomfort race.

Nothing whatsoever came easy for the NSF team and their Rust Monster-gnawed Fury; the team got flagged off the track endlessly for mechanical problems and never did manage to put together a single stint of more than a few dozen laps at one time. The much-abused, quadrillion-mile 340 engine suffered from so much blow-by that oil was being forced out of every possible gasket and orifice and onto the headers, where huge billows of smoke would follow the car; bad piston rings caused more oil smoke to spew from the tailpipe… and the smoking problem was just the beginning of NSF’s troubles. The brakes failed on several occasions, for a different reason each time. The driver’s seat broke. The brake lights stopped working. The brake lights were on all the time. Octillion-mile parts and 1950s suspension technology made the Fury handle like a Mississippi grain barge, which made it by far the slowest thing on the track. More oil smoke. The carburetor stopped working. Yet more oil smoke. Meanwhile, the Fury’s toughest IOE rival (a hilariously bad Nissan Stanza Wagon) kept grinding out slow, steady lap progress all weekend. When the green flag waved, however, the Plymouth’s 218 laps were deemed more effluent than the Sputnik Stanza’s 441 laps. Congratulations, NSF Racing!

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Junkyard Find: 1962 Galaxie 500 With Rare Harlequin Paint Option http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/junkyard-find-1962-galaxie-500-with-rare-harlequin-paint-option/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/junkyard-find-1962-galaxie-500-with-rare-harlequin-paint-option/#comments Thu, 17 Feb 2011 19:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=384100
Just so nobody thinks they might be able to rescue this poor abused Ford, The Crusher ate it up a couple months back.

You’ve got to wonder what the last owner was thinking when he or she did this McDonald’s-ish paint job. This Galaxie seems pretty thoroughly trashed, but still… orange and yellow?

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And This Doomed ’62 Skylark Is a Coupe, Even! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/and-this-doomed-62-skylark-is-a-coupe-even/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/12/and-this-doomed-62-skylark-is-a-coupe-even/#comments Thu, 30 Dec 2010 16:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=378915
Somehow it hurts a lot more when you’re looking at a Crusher-bound slab of 1960s Detroit Iron that has just two doors.

This Skylark is beat to hell, but it appears to be reasonably unrusted and complete.

The General was still a total cheapskate when it came to dash components, but he still used metal for switches and controls back in the early 1960s. No, you don’t want to hit this stuff with your face when you have a non-seat-belt-equipped fender-bender, but it sure looks good.

I spotted this car in a Denver wrecking yard, right next to the ’72 Bronco we saw a couple days ago.

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Curbside Classic: 1962 Ford Fairlane http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/curbside-classic-1962-ford-fairlane/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/curbside-classic-1962-ford-fairlane/#comments Fri, 02 Apr 2010 14:59:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=351247

They say you can’t go home again. True enough, but as you read this, Edward and the rest of my family and I will be winging our way to Baltimore for a long overdue family reunion. My father recently turned ninety, and my mother will be eighty-seven soon. So what is the obvious choice of today’s Curbside Classic? The Niedermeyer family car from the early sixties, a black 1962 Fairlane, and in every way exactly like this one, except that ours was the base stripper, not the deluxe 500 like this one. That alone tells you something about the old man.

If you want to properly place this Fairlane in the Niedermeyer family history, here’s the corresponding chapter of the Autobiography. Or the Cliff Notes version: We emigrated from Austria in 1960 to Iowa City, Iowa, my father having been recruited to the University of Iowa, and bought a used 1954 Ford Mainline sedan upon our arrival. Six year old cars back then were already geriatric; my five year old xB is barely a teenager in comparison. The ’54 Ford blue whale was roomy for a family of six, and did the job, mostly, except for not wanting to break its slumber on cold winter mornings. But it was feeling its age, so one day in the winter of 1962, my father unexpectedly showed up with this black Fairlane, bare bones except for the brand new 221 CID V8 and the Ford-O-Matic. I had very mixed emotions.

Yes, it was a new car, not just factory fresh, but the ’62 Fairlane was a totally new creature from Detroit: the first intermediate-sized car from the Big Three. Sure, Ramblers of the times were essentially mid-sized cars, and perhaps the Studebaker Lark should best be considered one too. And it was the remarkable success of the Ramblers that undoubtedly inspired Ford to take the lead with the new Fairlane.

Keep in mind, this was just two years after Ford’s smash success with the Falcon. And just as the Falcon was the basis for the Mustang in 1964, so it also sired the Fairlane. In fact, it would be fair to say that the Fairlane was just a stretched Falcon, the kind of thing done routinely nowadays. And just to confuse matters even more, the Mercury Comet slotted in between the two in length, although it used the narrower width Falcon body. That kept me scratching my head back then. Ford was ahead of the times, and if you wonder where Lee Iacocca got his inspiration for endless variations and different lengths for all the Chrysler K-cars, here it is. History inevitably repeats itself.

So why wasn’t I as excited as I could/should have been as a nine year old car fanatic when Dad shows up with the first brand new car ever? Let me count the ways, starting with the neighbors across the street. They had a matching brace of 1960 Bonnevilles; a hardtop sedan for him, and the wagon for her. I obsessed on them, and had my heart set on the 1962 versions for the Niedermeyer livery. The fact that the car-nut in the family wasn’t even consulted alone was hard to take, but that pattern was to repeat itself endlessly, except for two notable exceptions.

Given the fact that we weren’t exactly a touchy-feely sort of family, I definitely had my eye on a wagon with a third seat for a little elbow room. In 1962, my sister was fourteen, my older brother twelve, and my younger brother three. The painful reality is that the Fairlane is roughly about the size of today’s Civic or Corolla. Extended skin contact with siblings was not my idea of how to spend two days straight on our vacation trips to Colorado.  And before I forget, nobody ever rode in the front middle; we had to do skin contact; he didn’t.

Our Fairlane was utterly stripped of any excess ornamentation, worthy of taxi-cab service. But in my father’s eye, the cheap seat upholstery was something to be well preserved, so he ordered a set of clear plastic seat covers from Fingerhut, the perfectly smooth ones, not the more expensive ones with raised bumps on them to create channels to drain the rivulets of sweat away. No, that would have been extravagant. We literally had to peel ourselves off those seats in the summer, given the short shorts of the era.

It gets worse. My dear father always had a severe issue with drafts, especially around his neck. And he’s always cold; rarely will you see him without a cardigan (or two), even in the summer. So only the front windows were allowed to be opened a tiny crack, even on the hottest summer days. Air conditioning? What’s that? So that’s how we spent two days each way driving to Colorado every summer, and on other trips. But it gets worse yet! In 1964, we were all two years older and much bigger, and my mother was seven months pregnant, and we all crammed in for a three day torture session to the New York World’s Fair, and then back again.  If a child was forced today to endure what we did on that trip, jammed into that hot black Fairlane, and the resulting expressions of emotions it engendered, the Child Protective Services would have cut that trip well short, somewhere in Ohio, I’d say. Father, somehow I still love you, despite the miserable cramped black Fairlane you tortured us/yourself with. Didn’t you know you could buy a full-sized wagon for just a few hundred dollars more?

He finally (almost) tumbled to that in 1965, when the Fairlane was traded in on a 1965 Dodge Coronet eight-seat wagon; technically still a mid-sized, but a huge improvement. Since it coincided with my sister’s departure from the family fold, skin contact issues took a huge step forward. Kids today have no idea what we endured back then. And kids in the Depression would undoubtedly have thought us to be spoiled babies. And so on…

Enough Niedermeyer family carma. The Fairlane wasn’t quite the success that the Falcon was. But then that was a monster, selling almost a half million in its first year. Nevertheless, it was another coup for Ford in its ability to expand at the expense of GM in the early-mid sixties, by expanding into niches that hadn’t been exploited fully yet. And undoubtedly, the Fairlane was developed and built on the cheap, given its Falcon bones. The only noteworthy thing about it was it was the first car to use Ford’s brand new small-block Windsor V8. Why the hell Ford chose to build it in a 221 cubic inch version, with a modest 145 (gross) hp is hard to fathom. By mid-year, the larger 260 CID version already debuted along with the bucket-seated 500 coupe. And a year and a half later, the definitive 289 replaced them all. Ford like to keep the boring machines guessing.

The little 221 was a smooth and tidy mill, but it was no more powerful than the Chevy 230 or the Chrysler 225 slant sixes, and because it had eight cylinders, it intrinsically had a less favorable torque curve. After 1963, the 221 inch V8 was gone; an oddity of Ford history. But the fact that our stripper Fairlane at least had the little V8 was its redeeming grace. That badge on the front fender meant more to my self esteem during that difficult period in my life than my father will ever know. I might not be who I am today because of it. Thanks, Dad!

My sister used to come to pick me up from grade school every Wednesday to drive me and a friend to the all-city orchestra rehearsal. On the one slightly longer stretch of road near the school we would goad her to floor it. She obliged, but we had to floor and kick-down our imaginations to experience some sort of true and visceral accelerative experience. With the two-speed Ford-O-Matic (technically it was a three speed, but one had to engage Low manually, which sis was not doing) the little V8 whispered rather than bellowed its efforts to accelerate the fairly light 2800 lb sedan.

This particular forlorn Fairlane sits in front of an old house near downtown, owned by a couple of young sisters who live in the upstairs apartment. I know this because it has a For Sale sign on it now, and I talked to the guy who lives below them. He’s tired of looking at it, and told me that they would probably take anything for it, since the next stop is the junk yard if no one steps up. He encouraged me, eager to rid himself of the eyesore. I though about it briefly, but then I remembered the words: you can’t go home again. And even if I could, I’m not so sure I’d want to.

More new Curbside Classics here

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