The Ford Fairmont was introduced in 1978 as a replacement for the humble Maverick, along with its slightly-more-upscale Mercury Zephyr twin which replaced the Mercury Comet. The Fairmont (and Zephyr) were the first Ford models to utilize the now-famous rear-drive Fox platform that spawned several other Ford models, not the least of which were the 1979-2004 Mustang and 1980-1988 Thunderbird, among many others. The Fairmont would continue on through the 1983 model year with little change until it was replaced by the all-new front wheel drive Tempo.
This report covers both the Fairmont and Zephyr, except where noted.
Here's a rundown from year to year:
|Ford Motor Company|
|Body Style||2-Door Sedan|
|Transmission||3-Speed Manual, RWD|
4-Speed Manual, RWD
3-Speed Automatic, RWD
|Engine||2.3L (140 cid) I4 (1978-1983)|
3.3L (200 cid) I6 (1978-1983)
4.2L (255 cid) V8 (1980)
5.0L (302 cid) V8 (1978-1979)
1978-1983[edit | edit source]
The Fairmont debuted to rave reviews from the automotive press and owners alike, who praised the Fairmont's space efficient interior and "boxy" exterior, and European-inspired MacPherson strut chassis design that gave it above-average handling (something almost unheard of for a Ford back in those days). There were 4 different bodystyles available: a 2-door "sedan", a 4-door sedan, 5-door wagon and a 2-door coupe that was called the Fairmont Futura, resurrecting a name that was used as an option package on the Falcon back in the 1960s. The Fairmont Futura (Mercury's version was called the Zephyr Z-7) featured an unusual two-piece vinyl roof with an upswept central roof band, similar to that on the contemporary Thunderbird. Styling for the Fairmont included dual rectangular headlights with vertical parking lights beside the headlights and large vertically-sectioned taillights, The Futura had a different eggcrate grille with 4 rectangular headlights with the parking lights underneath. The Futura and Z-7 also had their own unique doors, roofline and rear quarters (a concept not unlike the Plymouth Duster a few years earlier). Upscale Fairmonts were called Ghia, and wagons could have the Squire option that featured woodgrain side paneling (Mercury's version was called the Zephyr Villager). The Zephyr had quad rectangular headlights on all models, and its taillights were horizontally sectioned.
Drivetrain choices was the standard 88 hp 2.3L (140 cid) I4 that was also used in the Pinto and Mustang. Optional were the 85 hp 3.3L (200 cid) I6 and the 130 hp 5.0L (302 cid) V8. The I4 had a 4-speed manual and the I6 had a 3-speed manual as standard, with the 3-speed automatic as an option. V8 models could have the 3-speed automatic or 4-speed manual (most had the automatic). The I6 had a little less hp than the I4, but it had a bit more torque, making it a better all-around choice - but neither one were tire squealers by any sense of the imagination.
1979 models carried on with virtually no change, and none were really needed as the Fairmont/Zephyr were instant sales hits, becoming worthy adversaries to the GM X-body (Chevrolet Nova, et al) and Chrysler F-body (Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volare) competition. Drivetrain choices were the same as 1978, with the exception of the I6 getting a standard 4-speed manual, replacing the 3-speed. In 1980, the 302 V8 was dropped and smaller 115 hp 4.2L (255 cid) V8 took its place, but the 140 I4 and 200 I6 continued. The V8 option was now automatic-only. Ford advertised the 140 hp turbocharged 140 I4, borrowed from the Mustang, as an option for the Futura coupe, but it never actually materialized.
The biggest news for 1981 was the addition of a Futura sedan, which shared the coupe's quad headlight design but still retained the sedan's bodystyle (it in fact was a virtual Zephyr-lookalike with a different grille). All other bodystyles were the same as before, and the I4 and I6 continued, but the 255 V8 was now reserved for police and taxi models only this year. By now, GM had introduced the front wheel drive X-body (Chevrolet Citation, et al) and Chrysler debuted the all-new front wheel drive K-cars (Dodge Aries/Plymouth Reliant), which made the older-style rear drive Fairmont/Zephyr twins looking a bit large and outdated by comparison, but they were nonetheless still holding their own.
In 1982, the wagon bodystyle was no longer offered in the Fairmont/Zephyr line as it now became a part of the Ford Granada/Mercury Cougar line, which had been redesigned onto the Fox platform a year prior. The 2-and 4-door sedan and Futura/Z-7 coupe continued. The 2-and 4-door sedan and Futura/Z-7 coupe survived into the 1983 model year, which continued unchanged for their final year. The Fairmont would be replaced by the all-new front wheel drive Tempo for 1984, which was built on a stretched Escort chassis. The Zephyr would be replaced by the Tempo-twin Mercury Topaz.
Main Competitors[edit | edit source]
- AMC Concord
- Buick Skylark
- Chevrolet Citation
- Chevrolet Nova
- Dodge Aries
- Dodge Aspen
- Oldsmobile Omega
- Plymouth Reliant
- Plymouth Volare
- Pontiac Phoenix
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