Not that long ago, a 1978 Ford Fairmont popped up on Fresno Craigslist. Picture this:
A farm hand saves up a HUGE chunk of monies (for him) and walks into the local Ford dealership, not speaking a whit of English. He proceeds to buy the most spartan car he possibly can, a Fairmont sedan devoid of such luxuries as full size wheelcovers, whitewall tires, vinyl top, cruise control. He orders an automatic and A/C, as after all – this is Fresno and it’s a frickin’ BLAST FURNACE of a town for about five months out of every year.
The proud owner then proceeds to drive the hell out of this anemic three-saltine -boxes-duct-taped-together design for a whopping 38 YEARS! Assuming this was likely a $5,000 car new, the parsimonious original owner managed to keep his depreciation to about $120 a year by hanging onto it for nearly two generations. To put this in perspective, the average price of a new car today is about $33K, which translates into over $4,000 per year of depreciation in the first year. The original owner was a genius.
In Christian’s words:
I got the car from the original owner, who didn’t speak any English. The odometer reads 73,000 miles, so either that’s rolled over quite a few times, or the car has lived an unimaginably rough life. There is dirt everywhere, deeply saturated into every corner, absorbed into the upholstery, caked to the undercarriage- everywhere. It’s a plain-jane base-model straight six car, with five currently functional cylinders. It runs and drives exactly how it looks- haggard. But it’s extremely comfortable, surprisingly reliable, and, in my opinion, beautiful. Plus, it was only $500!
Five hundred Benjamins. In 1978 dollars, that’s a little over 135 bucks.
It’s cool these days to drive cars with patina. This blue beast has that in spades, inside:
It’s just a car.
When this was built in 1978, it was the best handling, best built compact car available from the Big Three, as they were called back then. Believe it or not, underneath that very boxy body is the underpinnings of the next gen Ford Mustang and the rebirth of muscle cars – but that was still about four years out. It was a disposable car, designed to last seven years, yet here’s one, running on five cylinders nearly 40 years later, still doing what it did best – move people from Point A to Point B in relative comfort.
In a day an age when fat old farts sit aside $50K Chevelles, shoebox Fords and Tri-Five Chevy’s approaching six digits, Christian reminds us of the time when you could buy a car for a couple hundred bucks, lavish a little attention on it and, well…Love it. Christian loves this car. We do, too.
Well done, Christian. Well done.