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Reminiscing – Fond Fairlane memories

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1964 Ford Fairlane 500. Photo courtesy Steve Bousquet.

[Editor’s note: This “Reminiscing” story, edited by Richard Lentinello, comes to us from Hemmings Classic Car reader Steve Bousquet of Tallahassee, Florida.]

It was love at first sight, but the feeling wasn’t mutual. Not yet, anyway.

The year was 1974. I was in college and held down a full-time job at a radio station as I worked my way through journalism school at the University of Rhode Island. What I needed and wanted was reliable transportation that was fun, too.

One Saturday, I spotted a pristine 1964 Ford Fairlane 500 two-door hardtop parked in the Roger Williams Shopping Center in Wakefield, Rhode Island. It was dark green with a black interior, had a V-8, and I didn’t see one speck of rust. I knew it was too good to be true: it wasn’t for sale, but that was just the car I wanted.

I grew up in a Ford family, and before I’d realized it, I loved Fords. My father had a 1949 Tudor, ’53 Customline and a ’55 Club Sedan. Watching NASCAR races on TV in black and white in the 1960s, I rooted for a Ford driver to win – usually Fred Lorenzen in his white Ford Galaxie fastback.

I knew I wanted a Ford, and the lines on that 1964 Fairlane represented the best in Ford styling to me. I fantasized about that car parked outside my fraternity house at URI.

My brother Don, like me a dedicated Ford guy, had an idea. “Put a note on the windshield and offer to buy it,” he suggested. “The worst that can happen is they’ll say no.”

That’s what I did, and to my astonishment, the owner called out of the blue and offered to sell me the car. As it turned out, the Fairlane had a colorful history. There had once been a brief electrical fire in the engine compartment and the wealthy woman who owned the car lost all interest in it and didn’t feel safe driving it. The handyman who did odd jobs for her – and who put the fire out – said the car ran very well.

The man offered to sell me the Fairlane for $600. Sold! That 260 V-8 engine purred, the radio sounded great, it had a big trunk and was simply a great-looking car.

That fall, my girlfriend, Colleen, and I decided to take the Fairlane on a very long trip for Thanksgiving. Her father was a colonel in the Air Force stationed at Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, Maine. It was easily a 1,000-mile round trip, and we encountered a lot of snow in the Maine woods, but the Ford ran beautifully, all the way up and all the way back.

Well, almost all the way back.

We came home through Newport to visit Colleen’s grandmother, and that route required crossing two bridges – the Newport Bridge and the Jamestown Bridge – to get back to the URI campus.

After crossing the second bridge, we came to a four-way signalized intersection. I was turning left and tried to beat the red light as a car came over the crest of a small hill and slammed into the Ford’s right rear quarter. The impact spun the car around. No one was injured but the car was heavily damaged. I drove it for a while after that but it was never the same.

I have worked in journalism all my life – first radio news, then TV and for the past three decades as a newspaperman in Florida, where I am in charge of state capital coverage for the Tampa Bay Times in Tallahassee.

Almost every fall, Don and I and our friends go to the fall regional AACA meet at Hershey, Pennsylvania, where I continue my annual quest for another pristine 1964 Fairlane 500. I’m ready to stick a note on the windshield.