The Ford Fairmont is a compact car produced by Ford Motor Company for the North American market. Introduced for the 1978 model year, the Fairmont was produced in several bodystyles until it was replaced by the Ford Tempo for the 1984 model year. The Fairmont was the successor to the Maverick; its Mercury counterpart was the Mercury Zephyr, which replaced the Comet.
The Fairmont and Zephyr marked the introduction of the long-running Ford Fox platform, used for a wide variety of later models. Those most closely related to the Fairmont included the 1980–1982 Ford Thunderbird, the 1981–1982 Ford Granada, the 1979–1993 Ford Mustang (and 1979–1986 Mercury Capri), and the 1982–1987 Lincoln Continental.
At the beginning of production, the Fairmont was sold as a two-door and four-door sedan along with a five-door station wagon. During the 1978 model year, the model line was supplemented by a specialty coupe with a different roofline known as the Futura, a name which first appeared in the Ford Falcon line 17 years before. The Fairmont Futura featured an unusual two-piece vinyl roof with an upswept central roof band, borrowed from the larger Ford Thunderbird of the same time period, originally inspired by the 1955 Ford Crown Victoria. The Fairmont was a stunning success for Ford; the 1978 model set the record for production of a new model, eclipsing the record held by the 1965 Mustang. While retaining a conventional rear-wheel drive platform, the Fairmont was efficiently packaged and offered excellent passenger and cargo room for its size. Contemporary reviews uniformly praised the Fairmont and it was favorably compared with contemporary Volvo and BMW models. Rack-and-pinion steering gave the Fairmont much better handling and roadability than its Maverick predecessor and despite its roomier interior, lightweight components were used which gave the Fairmont better fuel economy than the Maverick.
The front fascia of the Fairmont differed from that of the Mercury Zephyr at the time of introduction. While the Zephyr always had four headlights, the Fairmont had only two, with the exception of the Futura coupe. As part of a minor facelift for the 1981 model year, the entire Fairmont lineup received the four headlight treatment as well.
A police car version was built in 1978 by Ford's Special Order Department, for 3.3 Litre and 5.0 Litre models.
A wide variety of engines and transmissions were available, including a 2.3 L OHC inline-4 and a 3.3 L Falcon Six inline-six. Two V8s were available - the 255 cubic-inch (introduced in 1980, which was the 302ci with a smaller bore) and the 302 cubic-inch - that were borrowed from the LTD and LTD II. Transmissions included three- or four-speed manuals and the more commonly ordered three-speed automatic. A turbocharged four-cylinder carbureted 2.3 L engine from the Mustang line was offered in 1980. A few turbo four-door automatic sedans were used for testing by the California Highway Patrol.
In 1981, a second generation of the Granada was introduced. Sharing the Fox platform with the Fairmont, it was positioned as a premium model while the latter took on a basic, entry-level role. A year later, the station wagon model was moved to the Granada lineup and the Futura name which had originally only been used on 2-door Fairmont models was also applied to 4-door models.
For 1983, in a major shift in the Ford model lineup, the Granada nameplate was discontinued while the car itself underwent a minor facelift and took on the LTD nameplate. 1983 would be the last year for the Fairmont (Futura), still produced as a 2-door notchback sedan, 2-door coupe, and 4-door sedan. It became one of the last Ford vehicles not to carry the iconic Blue Oval logo, which returned on most vehicles in the 1982 model year. As Ford switched to lighter, more aerodynamic cars with front-wheel drive, the Fairmont was replaced by the all-new Tempo for 1984.