Whatever year you attend the Muscle Car And Corvette Nationals (MCACN) in Chicago each year you will likely see a car you have never seen before and likely never even knew was built. Such was the case for me again at the 2019 Show. There as you walked into the huge collection of cars was a 1966 Ford Fairlane GTX. A typical custom car from the 60s, but with a twist. It was not a custom from some hot rodder, it was a factory car.
When we think of muscle cars most of us immediately think of Hemi cars, 396 Chevelles or Boss 429 Mustangs. If you say custom cars then I generally think of the 1950s and some of the very wild cars that looked more like factory dream cars than speed machines. However, today we fondly remember “day two cars” as muscle cars even though they had many custom touches. Customs are a bit of a lost chapter in muscle car history. In 1963, the Ford Custom Car Caravan was created by Ford’s Jacques Passino in partnership with model maker AMT. Who remembers building plastic models of our dream cars before we could even dream of driving? I know I sure do.
The Ford Custom Car Caravan toured dealerships and local venues to help promote the new car. Virtually all Monogram and AMT and other scale-model kits were usually sold with lots of custom parts. The kits often featured drawings of custom cars on the boxes.
In late 1964 and early 1965, Ford built a prototype to introduce its newly restyled intermediate 1966 Fairlane. It was to be part of the traveling Custom Car Caravan. The Fairlane was an intermediate sized car and had great styling and optional engines to easily qualify it as a muscle car. The sleek styling included stacked headlights and a slight fastback roofline. Ford decided to send famed customizer Gene Winfield a few renderings so he could add some of his unique style to the prototype Fairlane. Ford installed a 427 side-oiler medium-riser engine in the prototype just to let everyone know that it was serious about the performance of the new Fairlane.
The Fairlane GT-X debuted in January 1966 at the Detroit Autorama. It was also featured in the March 1966 issue of Car Craft magazine. The Fairlane GT-X was sometimes referred to as the Fairlane A-Go-Go, a term often used in the youth market to describe beautiful girl “Go-Go Dancers”. It toured until early 1967, and then with the completely larger new 1968 Fairlane body soon to be released it was no longer needed or displayed.
Martin Vieau was the tech advisor for the Fairlane Club and would often answer letters for those who had questions about Ford’s midsize model. In 2000, Martin received a letter from someone who claimed to be in possession of the Fairlane GT-X. Excited at the prospect of seeing this great prototype, Martin made the drive to Ohio to view the car. He was unaware that the car still existed. Upon inspection, Martin was elated to find that most of the original, one-off prototype components and custom parts were still intact.
Eventually, Martin purchased the car and immediately called Gene Winfield He explained that he was the new owner of the Fairlane GT-X. The first thing said, was that when the car was ready for paint, “I’m your guy to paint it.” It took eleven years for Martin to begin the restoration process. Winfield did paint the car exactly as he had painted it in 1965
1966 Fairlane GT-X Promotional Custom
Owner: Martin Vieau, Cambridge, MN
Restored by: Owner; painted by Gene Winfield
Engine: 427ci side-oiler medium-riser V-8
Transmission: C6 3-speed automatic
Rearend: Ford 9-inch with 4.11 gears
Exterior Color: Pearl White with Metallic Blue Pearl stripes
Interior: Custom Metallic Blue Naugahyde bucket seats
Wheels: 14×6 Hurst
Tires: 7.75-14 Firestone Deluxe Champion