Junkyard Find: 1980 Ford Fairmont Futura

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

The 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.

The Fox platform was fairly advanced for Malaise Era Detroit, and these cars weren’t bad to drive.

The 200-cubic-inch (aka 3.3 liter) straight-six wasn’t the engine of choice for dragstrip domination, but it was reliable.

Air conditioning!

The horn button was pretty classy.

The psychedelic City of Hope sticker is a nice touch.

Murilee Martin
Murilee Martin

Murilee Martin is the pen name of Phil Greden, a writer who has lived in Minnesota, California, Georgia and (now) Colorado. He has toiled at copywriting, technical writing, junkmail writing, fiction writing and now automotive writing. He has owned many terrible vehicles and some good ones. He spends a great deal of time in self-service junkyards. These days, he writes for publications including Autoweek, Autoblog, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars and Capital One.

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  • TomLU86 TomLU86 on Jan 02, 2014

    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 :)

    • Danio3834 Danio3834 on Jan 02, 2014

      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.

  • Ponchoman49 Ponchoman49 on Jan 03, 2014

    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.

  • Daniel J Until we get a significant charging infrastructure and change times get under 10 minutes, yes
  • Mike I own 2 gm 6.2 vehicles. They are great. I do buy alot of gas. However, I would not want the same vehicles if they were v6's. Jusy my opinion. I believe that manufacturers need to offer engine options for the customer. The market will speak on what the consumer wants.For example, I dont see the issue with offering a silverado with 4cyl , 6 cyl, 5.3 v8, 6.2 v8, diesel options. The manufacturer will charge accordingly.
  • Mike What percentage of people who buy plug in hybrids stop charging them daily after a few months? Also, what portion of the phev sales are due to the fact that the incentives made them a cheaper lease than the gas only model? (Im thinking of the wrangler 4xe). I wish there was a way to dig into the numbers deeper.
  • CEastwood If it wasn't for the senior property tax freeze in NJ I might complain about this raising my property taxes since most of that tax goes to the schools . I'm not totally against EVs , but since I don't drive huge miles and like to maintain my own vehicles they are not practical especially since I keep a new vehicle long term and nobody has of yet run into the cost of replacing the battery on an EV .
  • Aquaticko Problem with PHEV is that, like EVs, they still require a behavioral change over ICE/HEV cars to be worth their expense and abate emissions (whichever is your goal). Studies in the past have shown that a lot of PHEV drivers don't regularly plug-in, meaning they're just less-efficient HEVs.I'm left to wonder how big a battery a regular HEV could have without needing to be a PHEV.