Someone once said, “To know where you’re going, you have to know where you’ve been.” This quote rings true for many aspects of life. And having said that, the Ford Blog has a special treat for you – a cool history lesson on the blue oval’s iconic compact cars.
Ford has produced some of the world’s most famous compacts since the segment became popular in the 1960s. So get ready to take a step back in time – before the days of Twitter and Facebook – and see how these cars were a small revolution for the industry, both in terms of performance and technology. And check out all the totally awesome vintage advertisements!
Fun fact: the basic architecture of the Ford Falcon was borrowed by Ford’s designers of the original Mustang.
This is Ford’s first modern compact car. Launched in 1960, it was produced until 1970. The Falcon featured a front engine/rear-wheel drive configuration and was powered by a series of inline-6 cylinder and V8 engines. The original engine offered 85 horsepower with 138 pound-feet of torque.
Throughout the years, the Falcon was offered in a variety of styles – from sedans to convertibles and even a Ranchero pickup. The Falcon was extremely popular and received design updates in 1964 and 1966. In terms of technology – well, let’s just say that seat belts, power steering, power brakes, a radio, a remote-control trunk release and a parking brake warning light were optional on the 1964 model!
Fun fact: at introduction, exterior paint carried distinctive names including Anti-Establish Mint, Hulla Blue, Original Cinnamon, Freudian Gilt or Thanks Vermillion — along with more casual names, including Black Jade, Champagne Gold, Gulfstream Aqua, Meadowlark Yellow, Brittany Blue, Lime Gold, Dresden Blue, Raven Black, Wimbledon White, and Candyapple Red.
Ford unveiled the compact Maverick in 1970 as Falcon’s successor and it lived until 1977. Like its predecessor, the Maverick used rear-wheel drive and was available with the inline-6 cylinder and V8 engines producing 105 hp and 210 hp. It was originally offered only as a two-door sedan, but a four-door version and a station wagon came in the following years.
In terms of technology, “Select Aire” AC could be ordered, but the car’s effective ventilation system made this unnecessary! Many amateur mechanics like the V8 Maverick because it could be tuned up to get the Mustang’s power, but at a much lighter weight and price tag!
Fun fact: in 1979 and 1980 turbocharged Fairmont models were used by the California Highway Patrol. These engines were the same as the ones used in turbocharged Mustangs!
With gas prices on the rise, the Fairmont replaced the Maverick as Ford’s compact car from 1978 up to 1983. It was Ford’s first compact model with a 4-cylinder engine, though an inline-6 and V8 were also offered. Sedan, coupe and wagon versions were available at various times throughout its five year-history.
At the time, the Fairmont was considered a stylish and thoroughly modern car, especially the Fairmont Futura, and experienced record sales in its first year. The car was consistently praised for its excellent passenger and cargo room, as well as fuel economy. Ford’s own Thomas J. Feaheny said it best: “It has many sophisticated engineering innovations, excellent package efficiency and great fuel economy. The Fairmont combines the best of both American and European technology and beats the imports at their own game.” The Ford global strategy was already in place!
Ford released its new Escort compact in 1981 to replace subcompact models, the Pinto and Fiesta. It was the company’s first front-wheel-drive compact car. It became one of Ford’s all-time best-selling models, remaining in production until 2003 with major updates in 1990 and 1996.
It also came in a variety of hatchback, wagon and sedan configurations. The second generation of the Escort was one of the first Ford automobiles to feature the distributorless ignition. It also featured a new electronically controlled 4-speed automatic transmission, as well as an independent rear suspension, both uncommon in cars of the time in this class.
Fun fact: Wind tunnel testing during the conception of the Tempo resulted in more than 950 different design changes.
For 10 years (1984 to 1994), the Tempo was Ford’s way of building towards a more ergonomic, environmentally friendly, fuel efficient and aerodynamic design philosophy. It was Ford’s first downsized compact car. Available as a sedan or coupe, it offered various inline 4 cylinders or V6 engines in certain model years.
Like so many Ford compact cars, the Tempo was a revolutionary design that received few changes over time. Both the front windshield and rear window were set at 60-degree angles, with the trunk of the car being placed higher than the side windows to allow for greater fuel efficiency and airflow. While the car sold well, its innovation and aerodynamic design paved the way for the even more groundbreaking Ford Taurus. The 1985 Tempo became the first production sedan to feature a driver’s side airbag.
Since 2000, the Focus has filled Ford’s compact car segment. Like Ford’s original compact, the Falcon, the Focus has been offered in a wide variety of body styles including a three- or five-door hatchback, a four-door sedan, a two-door coupe and a five-door wagon. And the first generation Focus, produced until 2007, won numerous awards.
The current generation is offered in sedan or hatchback, and is powered by a 2-litre inline-4 cylinder engine, which produces 160 hp with the automatic transmission. It is also available in a more powerful and dynamic version, the Focus ST, or with zero emission in its 100% Electric version.
What is your favourite Ford compact car? Let us know in the comments below!