Fairmont: Race the Foxy Box in Lemons!

By: Eric Rood Photo Credits: Murilee Martin, Eric Rood, Nick Pon
July 26, 2019

At every race, we get asked from time to time about what kinds of cars someone should race in the 24 Hours of Lemons. While we’ve documented the cars we really want to see on our many Wish Lists, some people just want to know what kinds of cars get a little extra leniency during BS Inspections. The answer, almost categorically, is to bring some lesser-known version of a performance platform, ideally from the Malaise Era. The first-generation Cadillac Seville is one very few have heeded, but several teams have already capitalized on “the other” Fox Body: the Ford Fairmont.

The Fairmont, of course, shares its underpinnings with the ubiquitous Fox Body Mustang, but we far prefer the Fairmont’s boxy shape. As such, we’ll typically give it a little more leeway than a similarly prepared Mustang. Here are all of the Lemons-racing Fairmonts that we can dig up.

Property Devaluation

Texas’ Property Devaluation Racing turned up with the first Lemons’ Fairmont, a wagon no less. As the first Fairmont, Lemons organizers pitched trophies at the long-roof Fox Body and its keepers for years. The Fairmont added to a Fox Mustang on the team, but organizers never really noticed the Mustang. And why would you? Wagons rule, after all. The 302-powered station wagon turned out to be plenty quick in Texas races filled with BMWs, Miatas, and well-prepared Taurus SHOs.

In that shark tank, the Fairmont won the Index of Effluency in 2010. Not long after, the Fairmont won Class B twice in a row before being “retired” after the 2012 season with 14 races on its Malaise Era chassis. Better still, the car won the event-specific “Most Irritating to SHOs” award at Texas World Speedway in 2012. That included a fourth-place finish overall at that race behind a Datsun 280ZX and two Miatas.

Lost in the Dark

The aforementioned third-place Miata at TWS belonged to Lost in the Dark and the hurtling Fairmont Wagon must have made an impression on them. Within a year, Lost in the Dark had their own V8-powered Fairmont. This one was a Futura Coupe with the iconic odd-shaped rear glass. With proper Malaise Era brown paint over the corroded exterior and dog-dish-style hubcaps, the Futura looked straight out of a screeching-tire ‘80s cop-show chase scene.

Like the Property Devaluation Fairmont, Lost in the Dark’s Futura also overachieved (a theme you will soon see develop among Lemons Fairmonts). The team finished as high as 13th with it while regularly recording quickest laps on par with Class A cars. Did it have cheaty Ford parts on it? Probably. Did anybody care? Well, it looked exactly like the rattling pile that Uncle Louie drove to Easter dinner for 30 years. So no. Nobody cared.

Billy Beer Racing

Around the same time, a team of California racers put together one of the most solid Class C cars to never win the class. They raced the Futura almost exactly as they found it (mechanically anyway). This one had a 200 cubic-inch inline-six engine and a three-speed automatic with an open differential sporting a ridiculous 2.47:1 final-drive gearing. That meant 85 horsepower into a slushy transmission with a rear end geared for about 300 miles per hour at redline in third gear.

The Billy Beer Malaise Era Forever Racing Futura almost categorically clocked the slowest laps of a given weekend. Yet, the crawling heap managed to beat the everloving crap out of dozens of quick “sports cars” almost without fail. Somehow, they came up just short of winning Class C and were, admittedly, probably overlooked for an Index of Effluency along the way. We think this car is still around in California somewhere and we hope it’ll return some day to claim the IOE it has long deserved.

And if the mechanical credentials weren’t Malaise Era enough, the team painted it in proper race-car beer livery…for the brew endorsed by the colorful brother of the president whose very words inspired the phrase “Malaise Era.” Just magnificent. Drink it in like a cold, refreshing can of the “Best Beer That I Have Ever Tasted.”

UNOH/Team Zero

The Fairmont was notable in its day not only for being the first Fox Body sold but also for being offered with four-, six-, and eight-cylinder options. Team UNOH hailed from the University of Northwestern Ohio, one of several Rust Belt schools with substantial automotive credentials. For the 2013 race at Road America, these UNOH instructors turned up with a lowly four-cylinder Fairmont. That is, you may recall, the same four-cylinder “Lima” engine from the Ford Pinto.

While not as slow as the Simca 1204—which is very, very likely the slowest “race” car ever to lap Road America—the Fairmont certainly lacked speed. And like the Billy Beer Futura, the UNOH Fairmont finished in the top third of the field.

We didn’t see the UNOH Fairmont again until 2018. The team had ditched the Pinto engine. Instead, they returned with a Ford V8, but instead of a boring old Holley atop the intake, they threw on a fantastic high-rise pair of two-barrels in a line. Capped with a ram-air scoop and a Repo Man store-generic-brand “Racecar” theme (top photo), this Fairmont was just about perfect.

Welcome to the Fairmont

Speaking of good themes, another enjoyable Fairmont Futura turned up in California to race in 2015. Sporting a “Welcome to the Fairmont” theme as the “concierge-mobile” for the iconic San Francisco hotel, the team classed up the joint with a frighteningly clean-looking race car. While never really threatening for a good finish, this thing has looked positively quick at times. That included a race at Sonoma Raceway where Welcome to the Fairmont logged the second-quickest race of the weekend in a 178-car field.

Quick as it may be, it’s well driven and looks a million times cooler ripping through the field than a BMW.Maybe the team had a couple of ringer drivers at that particular race…who can say? We do know that a certain NASCAR broadcaster/true-blue car guy has raced this car from time to time.

Super Troopers

Of course, it’s possible that this whole Fairmont business is beneath you, who are perhaps a classy person. In that case, perhaps the Super Troopers’ “upscale” Mercury Zephyr sedan may interest you. Not only does the Zephyr just look somehow comically fitting as a race car, it has come within a hair’s breadth of winning two races outright. If that doesn’t make you smile, nothing in Lemons probably will.

Make no mistake, this mid-size Mercury hustles around a racetrack better than it has any right to do. The drivers tend to make very few errors, which contributes to their success. That said, Lemons judges make little effort to examine this car very closely. And why should they? The worst-case scenario is that an overall victory in Lemons goes to an ochre sedan with a lightbar and crappy front splitter that was originally assembled after three-beer lunches in the depths of the Malaise Era. We’re ok with that.

Now You!

Feel inspired? You should. Get to work now on your Ford Durango conversion. Better yet: There is precedent for you to chase $50,000 in nickels with an electric Fairmont. However you prepare your Disco-era Foxy Box, we’ll be happy to see it at a Lemons race.

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