Disappearing Act: 1980 Ford Fairmont Futura

Where did all the Fairmonts go? Once FoMoCo’s best selling model, it seems like all the original Fox bodies disappeared about twenty-five years ago. They were reliable, sturdy, economical, over one million were made, and just about the perfect car for anywhere America. So why aren’t they today’s automotive cockroaches? Find this 1980 Ford Fairmont Futura here on Craigslist for $2500 in Los Angeles, CA.

Other than missing a V8 or turbo 4 and alloys, this might be the most loaded Fairmont I have ever seen. Power windows, locks, and seat, cruise control with tilt luxury wheel, two tone paint, wire wheels, Futura Interior Decor Group, clock, AC, and more means someone ticked a few extra boxes when ordering up this ‘Mont. Always enjoyable to see a low priced car optioned up like a luxury model. Could definitely picture this two-door coupe sitting inside on the showroom floor circa 1980 while the powder blue base models lingered outside.

Looking under the hood, Ford’s tried and true 3.3L, 200 CI inline six is seen under miles of vacuum hoses and grime. Said to run great with no unusual noises or smoke, this sturdy engine should last many more miles matched to its Select-Shift automatic. One curiosity, I thought Ford switched to gray painted engines after 1981? Any experts out there? Either way, don’t expect to beat out any Chevette’s at the next red light drag race. Even the smaller 2.3L four was quicker than the one barrel 3.3L six.

The two tone cream over brown paint looks dull but original and should polish up nicely. The aluminum bumpers still retain their extra cost moldings and all four wire wheel hubcaps are accounted for. Interestingly, the standard for 1980 Futura hood ornament is missing and I don’t see any mounting points on the hood. Maybe it was a delete option? Or maybe this Fairmont is a later 1981-83 model that lacked this feature. That would explain the gray engine and the Medium Fawn interior which I believe become an option starting in 1981. And I am going to further guess this is a last year 1983 model, since that was the only year the cruise control switches were on the bottom spokes of the wood-toned steering wheel. Sorry about my Fox body OCD! The Futura didn’t change much in its 5 year run so it is hard to truly tell the year without the VIN. Inside, the interior could use a deep cleaning but the top-of-the-line cloth looks rip free and the crack prone steering wheel looks pristine. So back to the original question? Why do we no longer see Fairmont’s today? They came in 5 different body styles (if you include the Durango), 5 different engines, not one body panel changed during its run, it spawned dozens of different Ford models, and are simple to work on and RWD. My theory is, one too many people went to honk the horn with the steering wheel hub, forgetting the horn was on the turn signal stalk, causing an early demise! Not one of Ford’s ‘Better Ideas!’

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Comments

  1. Blueprint

    Au contraire, Fairmonts were frail and unreliable, hence rapid attrition.

    • RichS

      In my opinion, the Fairmont disappeared because they were the automotive equivalent of a processed cheese sandwich on cheap white bread, like you’d find in a hospital cafeteria. I saw many of these get scrapped while running and driving because you practically couldnt give them away. No kid (except for me) wanted to be seen in one, let alone drive one and more exciting and better performing stuff came along and they disappeared into the junkyards.

      I would really love to have those power windows in my Durango!

      1
      • Chebby Member

        “…the automotive equivalent of a processed cheese sandwich on cheap white bread…”

        That is THE perfect description of the Fairmont. LOL for real.

        Plus, it was 20 years old when brand new.

        2
      • ARuss

        They disappeared like almost every car has since it is approaching 35-40 years ago. Cars have gone through a normal cycle of use, neglect, disrepair and salvage. Very few of any car survive this long without great care, preservation or restoration.

  2. Karl

    Wow, Corey! You really know those Fairmonts!

    My Fairmont story…my grandparents had one and when the time came for it to be passed down, everyone turned to me to take it as mine own.

    I declined. Just couldn’t picture me, the Fairmont and a girl.

    1
  3. Coventrycat

    Last I saw one on the road was about 1990.

  4. Blueprint

    To add to my previous comment, parents of a friend bought one new, powder blue 2-door with the six and little else. The thing kept breaking down, and they eventually replaced it… with a Renault Fuego Turbo.

    • Mr. TKD

      Sounds like they were gluttons for punishment.

      1
  5. On and On

    They were a P.O.S.

    • leiniedude Member

      I agree Gregg. My buddy had one back in the day, he always needed a lift somewhere, his rig was always in the shop. I do agree with Coventrycat,1990 is the same for me. Over one million were made says Corey, about as many burgers McDonald’s had sold at the time.

  6. Adam Clarke Adam T45 Staff

    So, from reading the comments thus far, I get the impression that the Fairmont was not one of the US car industry’s success stories. Perhaps we were luckier here in Australia.

    The attached picture is of a 1980 Ford Fairmont that was designed, developed and built down under. It was available with most of the options listed on the featured car here, with the exception of the tilt steering column. In addition it could be specified with four different engines: 200ci and 250ci alloy-head six cylinder. Or a 302ci or 351ci Cleveland V8. This could be backed by either a three speed auto or a four-speed Top Loader gearbox.

    If the budget stretched a little further, it was possible to specify the Fairmont ESP. In addition to the above, it also featured lowered ride height, Bilstein gas shocks and Scheel seats.

    It was the success of this series of Falcon and Fairmont (designated the “XD” model) that saw Ford overtake GM (Holden) as market leader for the first time in Australian motoring history. And longevity? There are still plenty kicking around on Australian roads some 37 years later.

    • ARussng

      The US Fairmont was an incredible sales success when it debuted for 1978. It was the new Fox plaform that introduced modern chassis technology to Fords which high tech European cars had such as MacPherson struts, Multi-link coil spring rear suspension and rack and pinion steering. Those were all things that greatly improved handling and ride control as well as vehicle packaging efficiency.

      The Fairmont’s Fox platform shared with the Mercury Zephyr immediately spawned the shorter wheelbase 1979-93 Mustang which saved the legacy of that iconic nameplate. Successive vehicles also built on that platform were the 1979-86 Capri, 1980-88 Thunderbird/Cougar XR-7, 1981-82 Granada/Cougar sedans and wagons, 1982-87 Lincoln Continental, 1983 LTD/Marquis mid-size, 1984-86 Continental Mark VII, and 1987-92 Lincoln Mark VII.

      Many of these Fox platform cars are beloved by special groups of enthusiasts because they easily benefit from resto-mods using Mustang parts that bolt right in place due to the advantage of platform sharing. These resto-modded Fox cars enjoy performance they never had available to them new.

    • Superdessucke

      Actually, this car was a very big success story. It was, up to that time Ford’s most successful car launch ever, even beating the ’64 1/2 Mustang in sales. They handled and rode great for the era. And unlike the GM X- cars that came out shortly after them, they were not plagued by serious design shortcomings.

      They sold hundreds of thousands of these and they were used to teach probably half of America how to drive during their day (including me LOL! ). Most important, this was the first Fox body, which soon after brought us the 1978-2004 Mustang, 1983-88 Thunderbird, and 1984-91 Lincoln Mark VII – cars which were highly regarded during their times.

      So this was a very significant American car. Those who say otherwise don’t know their history.

      • Adam Clarke Adam T45 Staff

        Thank you so much for clarifying that for me Superdessucke. It is really hard to know the facts about these things when you live on the other side of the planet. It is always interesting for me to compare cars of the same era from different countries.

        The Australian Fairmont that I posted on here was one of those examples of style succeeding over substance. If you peeled away the rather flash European inspired bodywork, the chassis and suspension were essentially from the American Falcon of 1961. Even the six cylinder engines were essentially the same save for the alloy cylinder head. It was essentially nothing more than the styling which turned this car into a market leader. At the same time General Motors (Holden) had introduced the first of its series of Commodores, which were a vastly more modern car. They early Commodores just didn’t grab the public’s imagination as well as the Falcon/Fairmont range, as they were perceived as a smaller car, giving less metal and space per dollar.

    • Gay Car Nut

      Perhaps we should’ve imported Ford Australia’s Falcons and Fairmonts instead? I would’ve bought one.

      • Adam Clarke Adam T45 Staff

        Sadly these are now a part of Australia’s motor industry history. As of 20th October this year, Australia no longer has its own car industry with the closure of our last manufacturing plant. All new cars sold in Australia are now imports only.

        1
  7. Jeffro

    I see the perfect sleeper!

  8. JW

    My dad bought a used one specifically for a loaner to us 4 kids if we needed it, because at the time he wouldn’t let any of us use his cars which were always luxury Caddies, Lincolns or Mercurys.

  9. chad

    Gimmie da wagon w/a 3.3 & auto!
    What’s yer askin price?
    (chrlsful@aol.com)

  10. Dean

    R.I.P. Or Rust in peace. 🤤

  11. Classix Steel

    Never saw this as a classic with all the other sportier model cars in the world .

    I could of had a running one for two hundred last year from family but passed with cream colour and six banger etc. with little to no rust . I prefer stang muscle cars or even cool rancheros in fords .

  12. Fred w.

    My wife was a teenager in the early 80’s and was provided a 4 door former “company car” Fairmont by her dad when the engine blew in her Grand Prix (she told him the motor was making a noise and he ignored her). She considered the Fairmont serious punishment.

  13. Dean

    Agreed👆

  14. Daniel wright

    We had two both wagons…one bought used was a mess of Bondo and primer. We called it the death mobile. It ran far longer then it ever should have. It was still going long after we sold it. The other was red with plaid seats. It died at 120,000 miles. It simply refused to start, after a few months of trying we scrapped it.

  15. ARussng

    The Fairmont Futura Coupe was originally a downsized Thunderbird design proposal to be based on the new Fairmont body and platform. The newly downsized Torino based 1977 Thunderbird was setting sales records so it was decided to delay further downsizing of the Thunderbird and instead pull the Fairmont-based Thunderbird design proposal ahead for 1978 1/2 production as the Futura coupe marketed as a smaller companion to the larger Thunderbird. The Thunderbird was finally downsized for 1980 on a longer wheelbase Fox platform featuring a unique exterior design which was criticized for looking awkward and boxy. Sales plummeted and it was not popular with buyers. An urgent redesign of the Thunderbird was ordered for 1983 featuring the new wave of aero design which was a runaway sales success. After 1983 the Futura coupe was discontinued along with the other Fairmonts.

    The grille pattern of the Futura purposely mimicks the 1960 Thunderbird.

  16. jdjonesdr

    I was given one once for a bar bill by a GI returning to the states. Still looked like new, but when we got in for a drive, the first thing I asked him was “What’s wrong with the motor” because the acceleration was incredibly slow.

    He told me it was like that since new. You couldn’t spin the rear tires in gravel if you tried power braking it.

    I sold it on and got my bar bill paid and made a few extra bucks.

  17. Rick

    I sold an unmolested, desert driven, 1980 Futura last year for $2500. 70k Miles, ran like a (very slow) Swiss watch. Gold with a gold interior, it was an’80’s time capsule. The interior was made with the most brittle, low-grade plastics ever, and the QC of the interior assembly was abysmal at best. I could mat the pedal on an empty highway for miles and go no faster than 74 mph. Couldn’t peg the 85 mph speedo. I miss it sometimes, but only because I happened upon one of the cleanest ones left in existence. I was going to drop a 302/5-speed/8.8 in it, but I wound up selling it to a co-worker who had longed for one like his folks owned back in the day. Now it’ll be babied and cared for as -is in perpetuity, and that makes me happy.

  18. Joe M

    These looked cheap when they were new. Being a 1980 I’m sure alot of customers passed these up for clearance 1979 Thunderbirds.

  19. Gay Car Nut

    I remember the Ford Fairmont Futura. While I loved the practicality of the Fairmont sedan and wagons, I also loved the appearance of the Futura coupe, particularly of the grille.

  20. Gay Car Nut

    @ Adam T45: Sadly indeed. How the hell do things like that happen? Where did things go wrong, where we have to rely on other countries to produce our products?

  21. David Miraglia

    I owned a 1980 Fairmont Futura with the six cylinder back in the early 1980’s.
    I’d hate to rain on anyone parade. But that car was better than its piece of junk successor the Tempo. The car lasted until 1989 when I replaced it with the Tempo and replaced the junky Tempo with a Chevy Celebrity.

  22. Maestro1 Member

    I had a Futura for a while, lightly equipped which means Power Steering and Brakes and an Automatic but a V-8. It was quick and poorly built. The car was successful here on the Left Coast with a V-8 but many were sold as commuters with the 6 cylinder. I’d consider this only if there was a V-8 in its near term future.

  23. Phillip Tenney

    I bought one with a turbo 4 cylinder and automatic and it was pretty peppy until the catalatic converter broke to pieces and the pieces clogged up the turbo and it stopped turning. Boy was it slow but still ran ok.I took the turbo off and cleaned it out and then hollowed out the converter to clean out the rest of the crap;.That made it more normal and peppy again. I have only seen one other Futura with the turbo engine since then.It had 2 converters one in front of the turbo and one farther back on the exhaust system.

  24. Lonemalt

    I remember you had to push a turn signal stalk to honk the horn. Not the best idea.

  25. angliagt

    We had a ’78 Fairmont wagon,Black with a Red interior.
    Nice,clean looking car,& the 6 cylinder was about the most
    reliable thing out there.I put some Mustang TRX wheels/tires
    on it,which lowered it slightly,& the handling wasn’t too bad.
    With the roof rack,it looked like a police car at night.I used to
    have fun coming up behind someone,& watch them slow down
    & look in their mirror.They’d slow down,just to be sure.
    To me,it was the right (family) car,at the right time.
    We kept it about 11 years,& only sold it because a drunk driver
    hit & totaled it.

  26. Dave Henry

    I really liked the looks of the mini-T’bird Futura and Zephyr Z7 and had. A two tone blue Z7 for my Ford management lease car. My wife and I went out for dinner the first night I had the Z7 home. When we came out of the restaurant, she said, “I thought you ordered a Z7!” Sure enough, the passenger side had a Futura badge on the C-pillar. Talk about badge engineering. Other than that, which I had fixed, it was a great little car.

    • Gay Car Nut

      I think I remember the Fairmont Futura more than the Zephyr Z7.

  27. Bill Owens BillO Staff

    For the most part, I think the oldest age vehicle you normally see on the road is a 20-25 year old car. Most of them look like they may be headed for the junk yard. The good ones that age are in somebody’s garage and not brought out much. That’s when they start to become classic. North Carolina, and probably most states, considers a car a classic at 25 years.

  28. Wayne

    The car featured is the color combination that my Durango started with. (sadly still does until mods are completed) Mine is an ’81 and it has the same steering wheel/cruise control switches.
    Hey Rich S.! I will be striping an SVO for parts for my Durango. Do you want the power windows and wiring? I am keeping my manual windows.

  29. Jubjub

    Yes, these were major BMTs…Basic Mode or Transportation. Should’ve had a barcode and just said Sedan, coupe, wagon or whatever.

    Something else that led to their disappearance…they were pretty tough contenders in compact demolition derbies. I have heard of them referred to as “Little Imperials”.

  30. John

    I worked for the Fed Govt. We had whatmust have been hundreds, if not thousands of the Fairmont, mostly in grey with the “US Interagency Motorpool” lettering on the doors. They were as close to being “Generic” cars as could be imagined. It’s possible that the reason you don’t see many today is that they were invisible, sorta like an extra in Hollywood movie. You know they are there, but you can’t remember a single one of them.

  31. LS MOORE

    We had a few of these as detective cars back then. Speed and interceptor capability wasn’t on the menu. Just basic investigator transportation.

    They were really just a 4dr go-kart. You put it in gear, pushed the skinny pedal and steered but never had to worry about braking or neck-snapping acceleration.

    With the beefier rear sway bars that came with the HD package, these could be tossed around city streets with alacrity. I enjoyed the fact they fit downtown sidewalks and walkways, so as an urban perp chaser, they couldn’t be beat!

    • John

      Exactly.

  32. Joe Rodriguez

    I bought a used ’78 (first year of Fairmont production, so at its buggiest) Futura sport coupe in 1980, which was the only lemon I’ve had to date. I sold it about a year later. I liked the looks, though, and seven years later bought an ’83 (last year of production, so best chance of bugs corrected) Futura 4-door, as my backup car, which proved pretty reliable.

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