Sleeper Sedan: 1980 Ford Fairmont Turbo

Ok, maybe for 1980 this was a sleeper, but I bet even today it would surprise a few hotshots a few yards after pulling away from a stoplight. This is a 1980 Ford Fairmont Turbo sedan and it’s on the website with an asking price of $4,500! I think this car would be super fun to own. If it wasn’t for the factory turbo hood there is no way that anyone would be able to tell what’s under the hood. More on that mystery powerplant later..

The body on this car is amazingly well-preserved, having only traveled 35,000 miles. The first owner drove it 27,xxx miles and the second owner purchased it from the caretaker of the first owner and drove it 8,000 miles before parking it in 2001. It was started periodically, according to the story by the seller. The seller mentions that only 1,158 Fairmont turbos were produced in 1980.

The interior looks pretty nice and clean. It’s a fairly basic interior without even having power windows, which seems strange now, but in 1980 it wasn’t standard equipment in most vehicles like it is today. There are a few blemishes inside, as you can see from the worn carpet on the driver’s side foot well and some dirty door panels, etc.

The rear seat looks good as well. There is lots of legroom back there and it looks pretty clean, which a 35,000 mile car should be. Now, on to the mystery engine.

The engine in question is a 140 cubic-inch, 2.3L turbo inline-four from the Mustang and it was only offered in the Fairmont in 1980. Here’s what the 2.3L turbo engine looked like in the Mustang. The turbo with a select-shift three-speed automatic in this Fairmont would have been an $823 option. Believe it or not, this engine would have had 150 hp compared to just 88 hp in the standard 2.3L inline-four! And, this was a carbureted engine which featured a draw-through system where the air and fuel mixture was drawn from the carb and into the engine through the turbine blades. This same system was available on the 1979 and 1980 Mustang. There are reports, however, including in the Standard Catalog of Ford, that none of these engines actually made it into production in a Fairmont! And, the VIN decoder says that this engine is non-turbocharged/turbocharged 2.3L four-cylinder, so that’s no help! So, did this one somehow slip through the doors of the factory in Kansas City where the car was made, or is it a tribute car made decades ago? Hmm.. it’s a mystery..


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  1. Billy

    Seems to me that there was a Turbo option on the Fairmont, though the hottest I ever personally saw was a 200 inch six. Or maybe it was an option on the Futura. I seem to also recall a 302 option.

    • Greg

      I sold cars back then and had a loaded 80 Futura demo and it was a 2.3L turbo. Never saw a standard Fairmont turbo before until this one.

      Like 1
      • Dennis Melton

        They made the futura with the 4 cylinder turbo charger . I just bought one yesterday. With factory turbocharged engine

  2. nessy

    Boy, talk about a rare car. I remember reading about this car in either Car and Driver or Motor Trend. I believe it was a test of all the Turbo cars that were available in 1980. I think their top pick was either the Riviera S Type or the 924 Turbo. I would think there can’t be more than 100 of these Fairmont Turbos left, if that many….

    Like 2
    • Stephanie Davis

      I have a 1980 Fairmont Futura coupe with the factory 2.3 turbo and Automatic in the floor. I have owned it since 1986.

      • Billy

        They were pretty cars.

      • RichS

        I’ve seen a couple Fairmont turbos over the years and they were both coupes. One of them was a beautiful red/silver one at an auction in Phoenix around the time you got yours. It had a bad vacuum modulator that was sucking trans fluid into the intake. It went for a little over $600 and I regret not buying it to this day. This one, especially in base model trim (dual headlights instead of quad) has me wondering.

      • Rob hoff

        I’ll buy it from you, ditch the auto trans for a four speed manual of the era upgrade to 87 t-bird turbocoupe plus 250 horses leave the rest as stock as possible, seriously ill buy it from you.

      • Trevor

        Yes, they exist. I have one from British Columbia that I bought off the original owner. It now resides in Ontario. It is a well documented option in the sales brochure.

  3. Jeffro

    Wish my grandmother had bought this to drive to church and grocery store. I love sleepers. I would install stock hood and do some engine mods.

    • macvaugh

      I am not believing the sources that claim none were made, because I saw one in Mississippi when I was getting a recall done on my Pinto.

      As to Jeffro’s suggestion that he would install a stock hood, that wouldn’t work. The one I saw had that air-cleaner an inch above the normal hood level to allow space for the plumbing to the turbocharger.

    • Nova Scotian

      150hp 4 banger is no sleeper in this car. I had a 6cly one in beige. It was o-k. Got the job done. Now one with a 302 juiced up…

  4. Theodoric

    Not saying this isn’t a turbo car, but the seller posted 2 photos of the air/smog pump thinking it was the turbo. I’d definitely be highly skeptical of this one and do a careful inspection before making a purchase. On the positive side, it’s super clean!

    • Rocko

      Turbo would be under the carb.

      • Theodoric

        Right. Just saying if the seller thinks the air pump is the turbo, it would be wise to be at least a little suspicious. Caveat emptor and all.

    • Scat Pack

      Man I’ve checked that pic out as well and I find it odd that no one has called it out yet.

  5. Woodie Man

    Ok guys….stop kidding around.

  6. Gunner

    Interesting. Never knew there was a turbo Fairmont. Too bad the VIN does not decode to it being a turbo specifically. My money says it is factory though. Does anyone have an example of where a VIN did not match the running gear, but it was still believed to be factory? Interesting topic. I have seen this senerio before where the manufacturer is “generic” about the running gear in the VIN, but do not recall where. Never was a fan of the Fairmont line. If I had to pick Detroit for this year, I would have to be a Screaming Chicken. :)

  7. nessy

    Yes, this car was really offered but only for a short time. I’m going to dig out my old Car and Driver issues because there was a road test done sometime during 1980 and the test car had that same hood. However, the test car sure looked alot better with nicer wheels and a stripe package if I recall.

  8. flmikey

    …I’m thinking it’s real…can’t see anyone doing this, plus, it’s a different hood from the regular Fairmonts….plus, I would think a 4-door Fairmont would have an automatic on the tree….

    • RichS

      If I remember correctly, the turbo option also mandated the floor shifter due to there being interference with the column shift linkage

  9. David H.

    I remember the brochures for the turbo version of the Fairmont back in 1980. My dad was planning to order a new car through the diplomatic sales program, and this car was the one we spec’d out, with the turbo. I remember that hood lump, and wondered later why we didn’t see turbo Fairmonts driving around.

    Ultimately, we waited before buying a new car, and bought something else turbocharged on the Fox platform — a 1985 T-bird Turbo Coupe.

  10. Jumping g

    I didn’t think any turbocharged Fairmonts made it to general population. I do know of a few of them testing as California Highway Patrol cars.

  11. David Montanbeau

    I am one of the engineers that worked on these cars at FOMOCO in Dearborn MI. These are the biggest dogs on the highway. They are also a plumbers nightmare. We worked 24 hours, 7 days a week to get the 1979 turbo Mustang to run decently for the Indy Pace Car. Turn the pistons 180 on the connecting rods and gain 20HP. LOL
    1979 Mustangs with the 2.3L Turbo 4cyl w/4spd manual-4380 units

    • John Frank


      Just out of curiosity, how did turning the pistons 180° change things? Better swirl? Its a real head-scratcher to me

  12. Luke Fitzgerald

    Suprised it’s still going

  13. Joe Nose

    Was detonation ever a problem in similar suck-thru / post-carb setups with a hot engine?

  14. Adam T45 Staff

    How does this compare with the Australian Ford Fairmont from 1980. This one was available ex-factory with a 351ci Cleveland and either 4 speed manual or automatic transmission. Do our American friends like this?

    • Pat lamb

      That’s a great looking car styled like a 70’s beemer…US fairmounts were DULLMOBILES

      • Adam T45 Staff

        The starting point for styling was the English Ford Granada. Ford Australia then developed the car from there. By the time they were finished there was nothing (literally) that was the same as the Granada. This was the sort of work that Ford Australia was capable of. Unfortunately they shut down as a manufacturer in Australia in October of this year. All Fords in Australia will now be imports.

  15. David Miraglia

    Had a Ford Fairmont Futura with a six. solid, dependable and smooth. Superior to the crappy Tempo I got latter.

  16. Gary Merly

    “Well look at that! Would you look at that!”

  17. eskild

    ADAM T45…….The English “Granada” as u call it was not English.In England they were called Consul.Everywhere else in Europe it was German Granada.I have owned 12 of these great looking cars !! Came With many different engines…1.7-,2.0 – ,2.3 and 2.8 liters.The last was 6 cyl… England they had 2,6 and 3,0 engines V6,never heard of an Granada/Consul with an V8 in it,but in Australia maybe. Great cars thow !!!!

    • Adam T45 Staff

      eskild – Thank you for reminding me. I’d actually forgotten that they were German. The whole “English” thing was a media mistake from when this car was first released. Almost every motoring journalist made the same mistake, and I can now remember Ford correcting them. What they derived from the Granada was the basic styling. The under-pinnings were all Australian developed. The Australian cars were available with four engine option. There were two x straight six cylinder engines (200ci/3.3l or 250ci/4.1l) and two x V8 engines (302ci/4.9l or 351ci/5.8l). Sorry for the confusion!

      • Eskild

        No problem…….btw those English versions was a complete disaster

      • Adam T45 Staff

        And these were the catalyst for Ford assuming number one in new vehicle sales for the first time in Australian history!

  18. angliagt

    The turbo was listed in the brochure,or an ad,
    I can’t remember which.
    We had a light Blue Z7 turbo coupe here in town
    back in the ’80’s.An older woman drove it.I haven’t seen it
    I thought that it was cool that they ever sold them.

  19. John

    Interesting that this car has generated the most comments. I have ever seen. My first car in 89 was a 79 2 door Futura coupe.Brown,sunroof , plaid seats and 8 track. Biggest P.O.S that I ever owned. I still miss that car in an odd way,and would have liked to have it now to work on.

  20. PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

    There it is, on the cover of the ’80 Fairmont Brochure

  21. Rocco

    I bought a ’80’s Fairmont/Futura 2-door for my niece in ’86. It had a 2.3 4cyl.(non turbo) with a 4-speed(3-speed with OD). Wasn’t fast, but a good first car for a high school girl. Not one problem. She moved away, and gave the car back. Sold it for more than I paid.

  22. chad

    nearing the end of an era 200ci / 3.3 L straight 6 ended in ’83 altho the 300 / 4.9 cont thru an efi till the end in ’96. I have the 250 / 4.1 repowering a ’66 bronk. Fine motors (144, 170, 200, 250 and 240 / 300. All 1960 -1996).
    The above may / may not have a turbo but didn’t it originate as the “pinto motor” or “Lima” another near 30 yr run?

  23. Marion

    They do exist,had one

  24. Randy

    I also had a 1980 fairmont, with the 2.3 turbo. By today’s standards, it would be a boat anchor, but compared to what was out there, then,it was actually pretty quick. The turbo motor was really better suited to the automatic, rather than the crappy 4 speed that came in the Fox body turbo Mustangs, 1 of which I also owned. With the automatic, they shifted under full boost, whereas with the 4 speed you lose boost when you let off the throttle, to upshift. Power shifting of course eliminated letting off of the gas, but the previously mentioned 4 speed was such a pile of poop that a power shift into 2nd gear had about a 50/50 chance of being successful.

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