Dave Gardner’s Custom 1963 Ford Fairlane Station Wagon

As we walked toward the exhibition center at the NSRA Rocky Mountain Nationals in Pueblo, Colorado, we did a double-take. We thought, “Whoa, wait a minute. That Fairlane wagon is a two door. Ford didn’t make a two door station wagon that year.”
Sitting in the shade away from the car was Dave Gardner of Colorado Springs, a Ford ball cap atop his head – a dead giveaway.

Only one of these two door wagons was built, and it wasn’t by Ford…a very rare set of wheels indeed!

We found out the 1963 Ford Fairlane station wagon was a year-long project built entirely by Dave in his home garage. Dave has always had a soft spot for wagons – just not four-door wagons. He thought a two-door Fairlane would be unique, but, Ford never produced any Fairlane two-door wagons from 1963 to 1965. Dave figured the only way he was going to get one was to build it himself.

Dave’s a Ford guy, having built several Mavericks, a 1965 Fairlane 2-door hardtop as well as a 1979 Bronco 4-door, a 1954 F-100 “supercab” on a 1978 F-150 4×4 chassis, and a very nice 1955 Ford Crown Victoria. And those are just a few highlights of his 30-plus years as a body tech.

Left: The small Ford V8 emblem adds some well-earned distinction. Right: The EFI 5.0 Ford engine is from a Grand Marquis and an AOD transmission backs it.

Dave really enjoyed the body lines and loved the fins Ford designed for the Fairlane. Before the build was even started, he envisioned a two-door wagon with 1962 Fairlane side trim and he ran an ad on Craigslist seeking it. A guy called from California saying he had all of the trim and would let it go for $600. At least Dave didn’t have to piece it all together from many trips to the auto recycler!

Now that he’d spent $600 on trim, he’d better go ahead with his plan and find the actual car. Sure enough, there was a wagon in Albuquerque, with the usual rot in the lower fenders and quarters, but that didn’t deter him and he trailered it home. Part one accomplished.

After studying the car for a while, he didn’t want to simply weld the rear doors shut. “The welds always seem to ghost out in the final finish for some reason,” Dave recalled. “No matter how well they are welded up – inside and out – those openings always show.” That only left one solution: find a donor car – a two-door Fairlane sedan for the quarters and doors. A good example popped up in Casper, Wyoming, and he started cutting the minute he got it home. “I wanted it to be a “true” two-door wagon, thus I needed actual doors and quarters from a two-door sedan.” Dave mentioned.

Left: Buckets are out mid-'80s Mustang. Right: A large Ford emblem was added to the tailgate to add a "factory look." The 1956 Ford taillights fool a lot of people.

Dave said that was the fun part of the build. He opened up the whole side of the wagon and grafted on the sedan’s quarters, including the posts. The wagon’s rear door had a stock vent window and Dave wanted that gone. “It just didn’t look correct with a vent window there,” he said. “Because the window was a different shape [the sedans quarter windows are curved], I had one made to fit the new opening. It fits the look of a wagon better.”

With the doors and quarters on and the body sealed up, it was time to figure out what engine and transmission to use. Being the blue-oval man he is, nothing else but a Ford engine would do for Dave. He found a ‘91 Mercury Grand Marquis in Denver with an EFI 5.0 and an AOD transmission with just 85,000 miles on it. He bought the whole car for $850.00 and took the engine, transmission, and wiring harness from it. Before slipping it in, he freshened it up with a new oil pump, timing gears and new seals, but ended up using a Ron Francis wiring harness for its ease of installation.

The engine had just 85,000 miles on it when Dave pulled it and freshened it up with a new oil pump, timing gears, and new seals. A Ron Francis wiring harness was used for its ease of installation.

The front and rear suspension were lowered slightly, and Dave added front disc brakes off a Granada. He also added subframe connectors to beef up the chassis. The steering is a power rack-and-pinion unit out of a 1985 Chevy Cavalier, with a Saginaw Pump. The rear-end is a stock 8-inch piece out of a Maverick. He chose it for the thicker axles, although it was a bit narrower than the stock wagon rear. The ratio is 3:55.

Mayos Upholstery in Colorado Springs, Colorado did the interior using gray leather, fabric, and carpeting.

After spending some months finishing up the body work, including adding a 1967 Galaxie fuel filler pocket and door, and frenching in the ’56 Ford taillights, Dave shot the ’91 Honda Phoenix Red paint himself. Moving on to the interior, he chose a pair of mid-’80s Mustang bucket seats, added a ’63 Fairlane center-console, 3-point seat belts, and a’68 T-Bird tilt column. Under the dash he relocated the windshield wiper motor (a 2-speed wiper, with intermittent sweep) to the inside, where he says,“ Ford should have put it to begin with because it cleans up the firewall.” The last thing he did was mount his gauges in the spot where the radio was. When that was done, he shot the dash and moldings 1964 Dodge Gray. For upholstery he hired Mayos Upholstery in Colorado Springs to finish it up using grey leather and gray fabric.

The dash and all the trim was painted in a 1964 Dodge Gray. The center-console was borrowed from a ’63 Fairlane, and the body was painted in Honda Phoenix Red.

If you look closely at the dash, you’ll notice there are no A/C vents. That’s because the wagon does not have A/C – Dave likes to have the windows down to hear the pipes. Not only that, but there are only a few months in Colorado summers when A/C is needed.

In August, 2017 Dave got out his stainless 1962 Fairlane 500 trim he’d been saving and straightened and polished it all. Before he bolted it on the wagon, he added the Gold foil insert. The front bumper is from a 1964 Fairlane because it wraps all the way around the front, unlike the ’63. All the side glass is tinted and Dave added 1965 Fairlane emblems to the quarter panels. The car was finished in late April of 2018, just in time for the NSRA Rocky Mountain Nats in June. Even “purists” could be fooled by Dave’s build – it’s that good!

Is there another build in Dave’s future? Yep, he says it’ll be a 1960 Galaxie two-door sedan with an entire chassis sourced from a 1989 Crown Victoria.

About the author

Roger Jetter

Roger’s interests in cars started at 14 with a ’40 Ford pick-up until he bought his first ’57 Chevy at age 16. That car is featured in the first two books he’s written about the 1960’s and growing up in the Midwest. He’s authored several more books as well and has built several cars over the years that have received major coverage in magazines and won plenty of awards. His current build is a 1948 Cadillac Sedanet, although his current 'driver' is a '55 Cadillac Coupe DeVille.
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