In the spring of 1966 my mother, Faye Coley, was overjoyed with the
prospect of finally buying her very
first new car. She loved the new styling on the Ď66 Fairlanes, and on April 29th, 1966, went new car shopping
in her old Amythest purple Ď57 Chevy station wagon...alone.
I remember her telling my Dad before leaving that she wanted a Ď66
Fairlane 500 with a 289/automatic.
Eventually she arrived on the lot of Julian Harrison Ford in Rome, Georgia. After explaining exactly what she
had in mind, the car salesman tricked my Mother into buying a Fairlane with just a few more options.
The salesman diverted her attention from the Fairlane 500ís she had driven to a gleaming Springtime Yellow
GT/A sitting right in the middle of the showroom floor. After all, this was the most expensive Fairlane they had
at the dealership...why not sell it to some unsuspecting woman.
As she tells it, it was love at first sight... the sound of that big 390...those black racing stripes...she had to have it! And so, for $3229.04 minus the $478.44 they allowed her for the old Ď57, she owned the car.
As a testosterone-happy 15 year old, my pants legs rolled up and
down about three times when she came idling
into the driveway that Saturday afternoon. I remember her tooting the horn and punchiní the engine with a big
grin on her face from ear to ear. I had never seen a GT Fairlane before, and never knew they existed! At
the time, I was ďrestoringĒ an old hand-me-down 1949 Ford, and the Fairlane made the Indian Red rims
and fender skirts on my old Ď49 look totally outdated. I still remember the smell of that warm engine paint
and the little metal tinks that the engine made as it cooled.
The first thing she did was to order some of those Fingerhut clear
plastic seat covers...you know the ones with
the bubbles in them...and had them installed over those beautiful seats. I hated those covers! They were hot in
the summer and cold in the winter...and looked awful. But they sure protected those seats.
The following year my high school sweetheart Janie (now my wife of
34 years) and I went to our High School
Junior/Senior Prom in Momís Fairlane. Iíll never forget cruising from the A&W to Jimís Burgers in Summerville,
Georgia, with the sound of that 390 warning those pesky Chevelles and GTOs to keep their distance.
Mom used the Fairlane as a daily driver until 1976, and like many
other big cube cars of the Ď70ís the gas crisis
forced her to retire the old Fairlane to the occasional trip to the grocery store. She stored it under a carport for
many years, always keeping the registration current and starting it at least once a week to keep everything
working. Not many people wanted the old Fairlane in the late Ď70ís. Muscle cars were being sold for scrap
and nobody wanted those old gas-guzzling big blocks...but she did.
My Mother is not a rich woman, and after going through a divorce in
1978 things only got worse. She earned a
living in a hosiery mill, and in the late Ď80ís and early Ď90ís people started to express an interest in ďthat old yellow
FairlaneĒ under her carport. I know she needed the money, but absolutely refused to sell her first new car (she did
buy her second new car in 1979 - and still owns it).
In 1995, Mom had a series of strokes and has since had heart by-pass
surgery. She was concerned that the
Fairlane might waste away if someone didnít give it the TLC that she had for 30 years. I had restored several cars
over the years, and that winter she made me an offer I couldnít refuse. She told me that she would give me the
Fairlane (me being the oldest son) if I would promise to restore it to exactly the way it looked in the Spring of 1966.
The only restriction...make it as close to original as possible. No problem... I can do that! After all, I remember
exactly what it looked like that first day! How could I forget.
I transported the Fairlane to my home in Soddy-Daisy, TN, and
started the disassembly and cataloging process the winter of 1995. It
didnít really seem like work to me because all that dirt and grease was
kind of personal dirt and
grease. I took hundreds of pictures to help me put everything back together. On a limited budget I knew it would be
years before a lot of this stuff would go back on the car, and at my age, I tend to forget. As I pulled nuts and bolts
off the car I put them into Ziplock Baggies and identified where they came from on the car. The 390 still ran
surprising well with 92,000 miles on it, but since I needed to pull it for restoration, I went ahead and rebuilt
everything as close to factory specifications as possible. The C-6 was freshened and I replaced the converter just
to be on the safe side. This was to be an occasional driver, so I wanted the drivetrain completely rebuilt. The 3:25
posi 9-inch rear (Tag ID WFB-C) was detailed and new seals, bearings, lube, etc. replaced. The manual brakes are
all rebuilt using NOS wheel cylinders and semi-metallic brake pads. The exhaust manifolds were cracked, leaking
and definitely in need of replacement. At one point I had considered headers, but really wanted the original look
under the hood. I found a great used set of manifolds through AutoKrafters and pitched the old ones.
The car had been repainted once in 1984 by my brother Donnie to its
original color. My Mom couldnít afford to
replace the GT stripes on the car, so Donnie masked them off and saved them. I took lots of photos of these
stripes to help me get the new ones on when it returned from the body shop. The body was super straight and the
paint still looked pretty good, but was showing its age. I knew a repaint was the only way to make it new again.
After completely stripping the trim, windows and interior from the car, I transported the shell to Goobís Body Shop
in Dunlap, TN, for a fresh coat of PPG Springtime Yellow. Goob Johnson paints street rods and muscle cars as a
primary business, and I knew he would give the Fairlane a first rate paint job. And he really came through!
My own health problems in 1996 caused the Fairlane to be put on hold
for awhile. I started the re-assembly in
ernest in the Spring of 1997, working on the car every chance I could. I used Firestone F-70x14 Redline tires
from Coker Tire in Chattanooga on the original steel rims.
I did change out the exhaust to a Flowmaster
system (she had replaced the exhaust with
Midas mufflers in the 80ís). The Flowmasters sound more like I remember the car sounding back in 1966 than
any other mufflers Iíve heard. I kept the H-pipe and routed the exhaust exactly the way it looked the first time
I saw the car... turned down, just barely showing beneath the rear bumper.
The bumpers were re-chromed and all the stainless was polished. I
did replace the plastic part of the GT emblem
in the grill because it was cracking. The interior is all original except for new carpet, headliner, bucket seat
bottoms and the front door arm pads. Everything else was just cleaned and detailed.
I finished the car last year and invited my Mom to go with me to its
very first car show in Dayton, TN. She met me
at the show, and saw the completed car for the first time that day. Iíll never forget that little tear in the corner
of her eye. I think the Ď60ís music they were playing in the background made it even more special. For that
moment in time it really was April 29th, 1966.
We won an award at the car show that day, and my Mom displays it on
a shelf at her house. The two of us cruised
home in her old Fairlane with the wind rushing through the vent windows. We pulled into the drive, and a familiar
smell of fresh, warm engine paint filled the air. And I could hear those little metal tinks as the engine cooled.
I feel pretty good about helping to save the Fairlane, but I feel
even better about making my Motherís
memories of 1966...and her first new car...last for many years to come.