The cars we loved.
In some regards the Ford Fairmount could be considered the cradle of civilization for the modern Ford. “Never had so few done so much for so many” would be the phrase to best describe the longevity of the Fairmount’s Fox platform. Spreading it’s genes to everything from the Thunderbird, Granada all the way to the 2004 Mustang.
When introduced in 1978 the rear wheel drive Fairmount would be a replacement for the smaller Maverick/Comet twins. Instantly popular, the Fairmount struck a chord with the American consumer due to its versatility. You could get it as a coupe, sedan or wagon with more engine choices than you could count on one finger. A more upscale Mercury twin called the Zephyr was similar looking, but with four headlights vs. the Fairmount’s two. Internally Ford often referred to the pair as “F/Z.” The top Fairmount was the elegant Futura coupe, with its distinctive Thunderbird like top and two tone color scheme.
Everybody loved the Fairmount, even automotive journalist. It stacked up well against competition from BMW and Volvo, prompting Car and Driver magazine to go so far as to call the F/Z “an American Volvo”. The clever use of lightweight components meant that the larger Fairmount was lighter than the smaller Maverick it replaced. Combined with rear wheel drive, available 4 speed manual transmission and any number of peppy engines, the Fairmount could almost be considered a performance car if optioned right. Contemporary audiences might find that hard to believe, but when you consider that the rear wheel drive Fox platform was the basis for the 79-04 Mustang, it’s not that inconceivable.
There were many engine options over the years ranging from 88 to 117 hp. The more interesting of the performance variants was the 2.3 litre turbo, from in the Mustang GT. It was an option in the Futura Coupe and some sedans during the early 80’s. Turbos had become a popular way to regain some of the performance lost from tight emissions standards that had robbed V8s of their power. For a short period of time the California Highway patrol even experimented with turbocharged Fairmount sedans. There were a host of 4 cylinder engines, a six and even some smaller V8s. More often than not, they were coupled with a 3 speed automatic transmission; although a 4 speed manual was available on some cars.
Stylistically, the sedans were pretty straight forward three box designs, resembling Dodge’s Aspen in size and target market. The simple engineering (solid rear axel, front disc, rear drums etc.) stayed consistent, making them less competitive with new rivals from GM. Inside, a choice of vinyl or cloth seats came with simple dashboards. More optioned models got fake wood grain embellishments. The biggest changes would come with the model lineup in 1980. All Fairmount’s got revised styling, making them look more upscale with a Futura like quad headlamp configuration.
The new Granada replaced the higher end Fairmount sedan and wagon on the high end of the compact market, pushing the Fairmount to basic entry level car status. Only the coupe and sedans versions of the Fairmount remained, now called Futura’s until 1983. The Fairmount range was replaced by the Tempo/Topaz in 1984. Although, the Fairmount was an enormous success for Ford, having sold nearly a million cars over a six year period, very few remain on the road today. The name lives on in other parts of the world, most notably Australia.
Similarities with Fox Mustangs have made them a popular grassroots tuner car. Often Fairmount’s are modified with Mustang parts creating a cheap pony car alternative. Today it’s not uncommon to see multiple cars sprout from a single platform, but in its day the Fairmount was unusual, predating the K Car in automotive history as the platform that launched a thousand variants.