Junkyard Find: 1964 Ford Fairlane 500 4-Door Sedan

Murilee Martin
by Murilee Martin

The 1960 model year saw a trio of brand-new compact Detroit cars ( the Corvair, Valiant and Falcon) appear to do battle with increasingly popular small imports. Sales were strong, and the Detroit Big Three plus the Kenosha One got busy preparing midsize cars to slide between the compacts and the full- sizers. Ford's entry was the Fairlane, which debuted as a 1962 model. Here's one of those first-generation Fairlanes, found in a self-service boneyard just south of Denver, Colorado.

There's a lot of great vintage stuff at Colorado Auto & Parts right now. Within a row or two of today's Junkyard Find, there's a 1965 Fairlane 500 U.S. Army staff car, a 1965 Dodge D-200 U.S. Army pickup, a 1971 MGB-GT, a 1948 Dodge sedan, a 1947 Dodge coupe, a 1969 AMC Rambler, a 1951 Studebaker Champion, a 1959 Princess DM4 limousine, a 1958 Edsel Citation, a 1951 Kaiser sedan, a 1959 Citroën ID19, a 1963 Chrysler Newport and dozens of first-generation Mustangs and Cougars.

This car had a snow-encrusted oil painting by Stone, resting on the trunk lid when I arrived.

The Fairlane name was lifted from Henry Ford's estate in Dearborn, Fair Lane, which itself was named after the street in Cork, Ireland, where Henry's grandfather was born in 1804.

As has been the case with so many model names, the Fairlane designation began life as a trim level title for the full-sized Ford line. This began in 1955, with the Australians grabbing the name for use on a separate model in 1959.

The build tag tells us that this car was assembled at Ford's Kansas City plant on July 14, 1964 (the day Jaxques Anquetil won the Tour de France). It was painted in Vintage Burgundy with beige interior, had a two-barrel 289-cubic-inch V8 bolted to a three-speed Cruise-o-Matic automatic transmission and was sold through the Denver sales office.

I can't decipher the shadow of the long-departed dealership badge, but I'd wager it came from somewhere along the I-25 corridor between Albuquerque and Cheyenne.

This dusty sticker on the dash is a piece of obscure 1990s Denver history. Concentrated Evil, a local grunge metal band, appears to have been active during the middle part of the decade.

I think there's a fair chance that a Concentrated Evil band member owned this car ("I eat crayons I smoke out of empty beer cans"). You never know what kind of music history you'll find in the junkyard!

The 289 is long gone. It was rated at 195 horsepower.

The transmission, or at least a transmission, resides on the front seat.

The back seat is full of rusty car parts.

American Motors beat Ford in the midsize sedan game by a year, with the Rambler Classic first appearing as a 1961 model. Chrysler introduced American car shoppers to its new midsize B-Body cars for the 1962 model year, while GM jumped in with its midsize A-Bodies two years later (and Chevy Chevelle sales immediately crushed all rivals).

The MSRP for the 1964 Fairlane 500 four-door sedan with a 260-cubic-inch V8 engine was $2,406, or about $23,884 in 2024 dollars. That was with the base three-on-the-tree manual transmission; this car has optional engine and transmission upgrades and would have cost quite a bit more than that.

The 1964 Chevelle Malibu four-door sedan with 283-cubic-inch V8 started at $2,457 ($24,391 after inflation) and it looked more modern than its Fairlane rival ( the Fairlane lost the late-1950s-style round taillights for 1965).

Meanwhile, your Plymouth dealer would sell you a new Belvedere four-door sedan with 273-cubic-inch V8 for $2,524 ($25,056 in today's money), and a Rambler Classic 770 sedan with 287-cube V8 listed at $2,465 ($24,470 now). The Belvedere had the craziest factory engine option of the production midsize American sedan world for 1964, so Chrysler wins that round (the Fairlane Thunderbolt was a straight-up factory race car, so its crazytown 427 doesn't qualify for this highly subjective contest).

As was nearly always the case in the North American Ford world, the Fairlane had Mercury-badged siblings… but not for the 1964 model year. There had been a Fairlane-derived Mercury Meteor for 1962-1963, then Montegos and Cyclones followed later in the decade.

The Fairlane name got squeezed aside as the 1960s went on, eventually becoming just the designation for the base trim level on a line of cars with the Torino at the top. Just as the Malibu name shoved the Chevelle name aside later on, so did the Torino supplant the Fairlane; by 1971, the American Fairlane was no more.

However, Australians could buy new Ford Fairlanes all the way through the middle 2000s.

Did this car ever have a chance at rescue? Detroit post four-doors of the 1960s aren't worth much even in nice shape (unless they have big-block engines and maybe not even then), so a bread-and-butter round-taillight Fairlane with body rust and a transmission on the front seat didn't have much shot at a return to street use.

Still, CAP is willing to sell whole cars, and they'd offer you this one at a good price.

Do all boys climb trees? About a decade after this commercial hit the airwaves, I got read the Riot Act by an East Bay hippie grade-school teacher for climbing a schoolyard sycamore (not because it was dangerous— that was back in the school-of-hard-knocks era of children being toughened up by such character-building influences as blunt-force trauma and diphtheria— but because trees are conscious beings, maaaan, and how would you like it if a tree climbed you?).

1964 Ford Fairlane 500 sedan in Colorado junkyard.

1964 Ford Fairlane 500 sedan in Colorado junkyard.

1964 Ford Fairlane 500 sedan in Colorado junkyard.

1964 Ford Fairlane 500 sedan in Colorado junkyard.

1964 Ford Fairlane 500 sedan in Colorado junkyard.

1964 Ford Fairlane 500 sedan in Colorado junkyard.

1964 Ford Fairlane 500 sedan in Colorado junkyard.

1964 Ford Fairlane 500 sedan in Colorado junkyard.

1964 Ford Fairlane 500 sedan in Colorado junkyard.

1964 Ford Fairlane 500 sedan in Colorado junkyard.

1964 Ford Fairlane 500 sedan in Colorado junkyard.

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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  • CAMeyer CAMeyer on Feb 29, 2024

    This car puts me in mind of old Quinn Martin shows such as The FBI and The Invaders. Due to some deal with FoMoCo, the shows’ major sponsor, virtually all the

    characters drove some Ford product. This

    was so obvious that Mad magazine, in its

    parody of the FBI, called it the Ford Bureau of Investigation. In the Invaders, David Vincent, the protagonist of the show, who traveled around the country warning about the evil extraterrestrials (who took human form), drove a Mercury Comet Caliente. In one episode, there was a closeup of the back of car showing the middle letters of the model name—“alien”!

    I believe there’s a website reviewing many of the Ford vehicles shown on the program.

  • KOKing "One of the most interesting parts of this situation is that Stellantis, and by extension, the Chrysler Group, is increasingly considered a foreign company instead of a traditional American automaker."Does that mean Simca and Hillman are coming back?
  • Redapple2 34 yr in Michigan salt?
  • Mike-NB2 Zero. Not interested at all. I often don't have my phone with me, and if I do, I completely ignore it. Unless it were to catch fire, of course. But I'm old, so that has to be taken into account too.
  • Urlik It’s only important to me for navigation. OEM’s do Nav all wrong and charge for the privilege. While once they charged big money for map updates, they charge subscriptions for the privilege of a worse Nav than you have on your phone.The other stuff mirroring brings is mere gravy.
  • Rna65689660 Zero interest