Note: This article is reprinted from the April 2013 issue of Collectible Automobile.
If Frank Sinatra had been a Ford man, he might have sang about how 1963 was a very good year. In Dearborn, it certainly was.
At the start of the model run, Ford’s four passenger-car lines wore freshened styling. For the midsized Fairlanes, the most obvious change was a restyled front end along the lines of the year’s full-sized Fords. The rear fenders still wore small fins, though.
Fairlane offered only two- and four-door-sedan bodies when it was introduced in 1962. For its sophomore season, it added four-door station wagons and two-door hardtops.
The latter was limited to the tonier Fairlane 500 series, and was offered in two versions. For a base price of $2,324, it was possible to get a Fairlane hardtop with a front bench seat.
Then there was the Sports Coupe, which added front bucket seats, a console, spinner wheel covers, and Sports Coupe script on the decklid. It was the only ’63 Fairlane to wear three Buick-style “ventiports” on each front fender.
But the really big news came several months later when Ford’s “half-year” model program arguably reached new heights. The basic idea was to introduce model variants and engine options partway through the selling season to reinvigorate interest in the company’s products.
The best remembered of Ford’s “19631⁄2” additions are almost certainly the Sports Hardtop semifastback two-door Galaxies. The legendary 427-cid V8 was another midyear intro, and the Thunderbird Landau hardtop received a new appearance package.
The compact Falcon got in on the action with a new two-door hardtop that shared its general shape with the Galaxie Sports Hardtop. Then, too, there was the sport-themed Sprint model and Falcon’s first V8, a 164-bhp 260-cid small-block inherited from the Fairlane.
The Fairlane was not ignored in mid-1963. While there wasn’t a flashy new model, there was the availability of a thrilling “High-Performance” 289-cid V8 engine that was good for 271 bhp and 312 pound-feet of torque. Performance goodies on the new mill included a four-barrel carburetor, a solid-lifter cam, and header-style exhaust manifolds. Modified heads ran 11.0:1 compression. The new 289 was offered only with a four-speed manual transmission.
The “Hi-Po” 289 was a natural fit for the Fairlane, since it was the third basic version of the 221-cube small-block V8 that Ford conjured up for the model’s introduction in 1962.
The 289 was strong enough to move a Fairlane from 0 to 60 mph in less than nine seconds. A 289-powered hardtop starred in one ’63 ad with the tagline “Wait till you feel Fairlane’s Sunday Punch!”
The 271-horse 289 is probably best known for being available in the most successful of all half-year Fords, the “19641⁄2” Mustang. Thus, it’s a bit ironic that the engine first appeared as one of the least-known 19631⁄2 additions.
The 1963 Fairlane 500 Sports Coupe featured here has the 271-horse 289/four-speed power team. It is also equipped with several other options including whitewall tires, rocker-panel moldings, wire wheel covers, AM radio, and seat belts. When new, the Fairlane priced out at $3,415.30.
The Corinthian White hardtop belongs to Kenneth Kowalk of Eaton Rapids, Michigan. He is the fifth owner of the restored car.