by Chris Hafner on November 16, 2007
The Ford Fairmont debuted in a mid-1970s America that was eagerly seeking a rationally sized family sedan. With the fuel crisis and tightening emissions standards, GM, Ford, and Chrysler were stuck with their mastodon-sized sedans while customers clamored for something smaller.
Given that background, perhaps we can forgive Car & Driver for dubbing the Fairmont "the American Volvo" when it debuted in the late 1970s--an assertion that history has proven to be well wide of the mark.
Actually, the Fairmont was just like a contemporary Volvo 240--except without Volvo's incredible safety record, metronomic reliability, or rock-ribbed safety quality. In terms of boxy styling and a wheezing lack of athleticism, on the other hand, the Fairmont and 240 were near-identical twins.
In all fairness, the Fairmont was a good step forward for Ford, but Chevrolet quickly eclipsed the Fairmont with its excellent, near-revolutionary downsized Impala and Malibu sedans.
As was the custom, Mercury had its own, entirely extraneous Fairmont clone--the Zephyr--which added to the range an ersatz "sports coupe" version that perfectly captured the wildly overstyled 1970s.
I'm passionate about the Fairmont, but I'm not entirely sure in which direction that passion lies. It's certainly an easy car to make fun of--to be sure, history has not been kind to the Fairmont. However, the Fairmont was a genuinely innovative car in its time--a fact reflected by the fact that its basic platform was used for many other Fords, including the Mustang--and there's something about its honest, square-jawed lines that I like.
Stuart, who maintains Stuart's Ford Fairmont Futura and Mercury Zephyr Z7 Website, certainly didn't need to go through those mental gymnastics--he's a dyed-in-the-wool Fairmont nut who has owned multiple Fairmonts and has photos of what must be every Fairmont promotional item, postcard, and brochure ever produced. Thanks to him for the photos. Oh, and Stuart? Keep the faith.