Junkyard Find: 1982 Ford Fairmont Futura Two-Door Sedan Receive updates on the best of TheTruthAboutCars.com
I must be getting older.I remember when these cars were new.That said, these were the first Ford vehicles that were modern, in that the quality was really job 1 and not just a sales tag line.
In a sea of Malaise vehicles with long hoods, floating rides and poor space utilization, the Japanese were producing the only modern auto rides that took advantage of computer technologies such as modeling, designing and build.
Then came this car, which changed a lot at Ford. And, barely in time to keep from filing fiscal catastrophe in Dearborn.
You see, the Fairmont showed that Ford was more than a Malaise-barge outfit with Lee Iacocca tendencies. The Fairmont stripped away the ridiculous faux Mercedes grilles and the opera windows and was a completely new redesign, not something warmed up on the old Fairlane chassis from 1972. Ford was producing cars that sold well, but weren’t well done until then. Even after the Fairmont/Fox body saved Ford, by 1981-1982, Dearborn was really living day by day financially.
Even with this new car, Ford was the NUMBER FOUR car brand, the lowest placement since the William Howard Taft administration in the White House. Chevrolet was number one. Oldsmobile was number two. Buick was number three. Ford was number four. Dire times for Dearborn.
The Fox was good stuff. Simple and boxy and big enough to accommodate whatever engine was demanded to satisfy the public, V8 down to 4 bangers. Rear drive, so nothing fancy. The Fairmont was a complete redefinition of what Ford had offered since the 1960 Falcon. As a matter of fact, the Fairmont was the Malaise Era Falcon, but with more flexibility to take various forms until 1992.
I was given a well-traveled, but still under a year old, 1981 Futura four door. Until that time, I really had no idea of what to expect from Ford, or any American car company except troubles and problems. If you were a driver back then, being able to have your car start during the winter, having it be somewhat reliable, and not having it rust out from under you were considered plusses. Japanese cars only had it over the America brands regarding reliability and resale. If anything, they rusted quicker, and I really didn’t fit comfortably in such narrow Japanese vehicles of that era. The Chevy Chevette was in their class, size-wise, and I rolled down car windows in order to stop having my left shoulder and arm jammed inside it.
My Futura was well traveled. It had a big six cylinder and an automatic, which in the Rockies, sucked. However, the Futura showed me that Ford was for real, that it could make an intelligently designed car just as good as the Japanese, and while not stylish, was utilitarian enough to be actually a bit not-ugly.
The Futura gave me duo-headlights, and an upgraded interior. It had an attractive two tone gray paint job. The interior was very comfortable and relatively quiet. Unlike the previous Fords of that era, the Futura had a good ride in the mountains. The brakes worked well too.
So, I have good memories of putting 50,000 miles on a Futura of this vintage. I also later-on tooled around in a 1992 Mustang which demonstrated how well the Fox body held its shape within the competition.
I especially liked the Futura over the next vehicle I had to drive daily and was a full-blown nightmare; a 1982 Citation.
So, to those who wonder if this car was typical of vehicles of this era – no. Compared to the X cars, the Fox body Fairmonts were very good cars. Compared to their Japanese cars, they were pretty good as well. Don’t let the Kleenex box styling fool you – these were actually very good cars!