McPHERSON — Sometimes a particular car just grabs you. That’s what happened with John Harper and the 1964 Ford Fairlane hardtop. He’s on his third one and is pretty sure this one will never be replaced.
“My first car was a ’64 Fairlane Sport Coupe, maroon with a black interior, a 260 V-8 and 4-speed transmission,” said Harper. He bought the car when it was a year old, but succumbed to the restyled ’66 version of the car.
“I traded it in on a ’66 Fairlane 390 GT with a 4-speed,” he said. But the crisp, clean design of the ’64 Fairlane hardtop never left his mind.
“They’re nice sized, not too big and the visibility is phenomenal. There are no blind spots,” Harper said. So in 1967, when he found a yellow ’64 Fairlane 500 hardtop equipped with a 289 V-8 and automatic transmission, it wasn’t a hard sell. He bought the car and drove it for several years before moving on to something else.
Harper is 70 and nearly a half century after he bought his first one, the thought of having one last ’64 Fairlane was now coming into focus.
“I had been looking for quite some time. I was looking for one I could enjoy right away,” he said, as opposed to a project car that needed a full restoration.
“I found this one on eBay. The guy had posted 20-some pictures and it looked real sharp,” Harper said. He talked to the owner and learned the history of the Wimbledon White over Cascade Green Sport Coupe.
The first owner had traded in her recently wrecked ’62 Fairlane on the brand new ’64 at a Kentucky dealership. She drove it sparingly and then handed it down to her son, who passed it on to a nephew, who sold the car to someone in Texas. It stayed there for only a week before passing on to its new owner in North Carolina, who had the car for about three years when Harper spotted it for sale online.
“It only had 47,000 original miles on it and still had its original paint and interior,” he said. A deal was struck and he arranged to have the ’64 Sport Coupe shipped to Kansas, paying extra to the transport company to place the car on the top deck of the trailer, so another car’s oil, transmission or brake fluid wouldn’t drip on it.
As it turned out, that created another worrisome issue. In the three weeks it was on the road, the truck was routed through Georgia and Texas, where serious hail storms occurred.
“I could just visualize it showing up with all the windows knocked out and the body and trim beat up. It was nerve-wracking,” Harper said. He had insured the car before it was shipped, but still sweated out the long journey.
Fortunately, the Sport Coupe was in good shape when it rolled off the truck, though, and everything the seller had promised.
“It has 16-inch wheels and tires (American Racing wheels and BFG/TA tires) and dual exhaust on it, but those are the only modifications. Otherwise, it’s just like it came from the factory,” Harper said. “Everything works on it, the radio, windshield wipers, the heater. It has power steering and it stops good,” he noted.
Under the hood is a nice, clean 289 V-8 equipped with a 2-barrel carburetor, producing an adequate 195 horsepower. The original orange valve covers and air cleaner are in place, with the engine mated to a Cruise-O-Matic 3-speed automatic transmission.
Inside, the white vinyl bucket seats are in remarkable condition, with the matching rear bench seat looking as good as the day it rolled off the showroom floor. The padded dash shows no signs of age and a full-length center console provides extra storage space for road trips.
But there’s no floor shifter in the console, as the shifter remains on the steering column, a somewhat unusual arrangement.
Harper figures on rebuilding the carburetor and, eventually, installing a 3-core radiator, electronic ignition, an alternator and aftermarket air conditioning. At some point, he may upgrade to disc brakes. Too many people have cut up nice ’64 Fairlane Sport Coupes and tried to transform them into clones of the Thunderbolt factory drag race cars, he says.
For now, Harper’s third ’64 Fairlane hardtop is perfect for area cruising and rod runs just the way it is.
“Most car people know what it is and recognize it,” he said. “In fact, a guy at a gas station told me, `I hate Fords, but boy, that is a beautiful car.’
“I paid a premium price for it, but it’s a premium car,” Harper said.