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The beginning of the 1960s was a transition time for Detroit, with the generous curves of the 1950s giving way to harder edges and a leaner look. And the while the compact Falcon’s introduction garnered most of the headlines for Ford, the completely redesigned full-size 1960 Fairlane was longer and larger than ever. The car’s new design moved away from the vertical tailfins of the second generation and towards a more space-age look. The only parts in common with a 1959 model were in the drivetrain, and the car rode on a new 119-inch wheelbase. The company also introduced the Galaxie at the top of the range, relegating the Fairlane to the lower middle end of the full size market, and in fact the Fairlane became the least expensive Ford line.
Engine options for the 1960 Fairlane included a 223-cid inline six-cylinder engine rated at 145 hp, and a pair of V-8 engines at 292 and 352 cid, with the former making 185 hp and the latter ringing up either 235 or 300 hp depending on carburetion. The 1961 Fairlane options list had all of the 1960 engines as well as a 390-cid big block V-8, and both a 144- and 170-cid six-cylinder engine.
Body styles for the 1961 Fairlane were two- or four-door sedans and a rare two-door business coupe that came with a parcel shelf in place of the back seat. The 1961 models featured a two-door club sedan and a four-door town sedan, while the uplevel Fairlane 500 was sold as a four-door town or club sedan or a two-door club sedan.
The 1960 Fairlane featured a horizontal fin that stretched the entire length of the body, capped with a chrome accent trim. The body sides were sculpted, with wheel arches that trail off to the rear, suggesting speed. The greenhouse was designed with small pillars, giving the car an open feeling. Bumpers are handsome, yet understated. Taillights in this year are an unusual half-round over the rear bumper.
For 1961, Ford smoothed the sides of the Fairlane. The designers also shortened and angled the fins, starting at the front door handles and flowing back to the rear end of the car. An additional cut-line was placed on the front fenders, ending at a smooth driver’s side door. The front end was also less elaborate, making the car substantially smoother. Emphasizing the space-age look, the taillights went to the round jet-engine look along with the rest of the Ford line.
Large, roomy, and pleasantly styled, the 1960 and 1961 Ford Fairlane is surprisingly rare today, though the variety of configurations mean that there is likely a Fairlane to fit virtually any need if it can be found. Most enthusiasts seek out the more powerful four-barrel 352-cid V-8 engines in 1960 cars and the 352 or 390 engines from 1961. Of the two years for this transitional model, 1960 offers more glamorous bodywork, though some buyers prefer the smoother lines of the 1961.