In the forty seven years it has existed, Ford's Lorain Assembly Plant has produced 12 different nameplates. Most of these models are very well known to Ford Motor Company's rich history. With the final day of production now just a memory, we highlight the models produced from 1958-2005.
1958-1964 F series pick up truck
In the late 1950s and early 1960s," truck" was defined as one thing: Workhorse. Cars were family transportation, while trucks were used for farming, hauling, construction and a myriad of blue collar business tasks. Trucks were extremely durable, dependable, and worthwhile. Ford put a spin on the pick up truck in 1957, when they pioneered the "Styleside box". This new look, paired with the introduction of 4 wheel drive in 1959 made for a winning combination of advanced design and functionality. The trucks were offered with your choice of a six cylinder or eight cylinder engine, as well as a standard transmission or the "Ford-O-Matic". The sales pitch "Brilliant performance and certified economy for '60", matched with a promise of "Greater value for your hauling dollar than ever before" helped Ford Motor Company sell 188,646 units from 1958-1964.
1958-1959 Ford Galaxie
In 1959, one could buy a quart of milk for fifteen cents, a loaf of bread for seventeen cents, a gallon of gasoline for nineteen cents, and you could send a letter to Aunt Betty for a mere four cents. For a price of $3346, you could own a flashy new Ford Galaxie Sunliner convertible. The Galaxie line was offered as a two door sedan, two door Victoria, with four door models available under the same model designations. Further up the ladder were the Sunliner convertible, and the top of the line Skyliner convertible, complete with a retractable hardtop. The Galaxie was offered with a base six cylinder engine, and offered several large V8 engines to help the two-ton cars get out of their own way. 1959 saw a lower compression ratio, enabling the use of lower prices gasoline. Evident in both cars are Edsel styling cues, as well as a lack of enormous rear fins and chrome accents as far as the eye could see. These two models were toned down as compared to their predecessors, yet still flashy and classy all around. Between 1958 and 1959, Lorain Assembly produced 102,869 Ford Galaxies.
1960-1965 Ford Falcon
When the buying public desired an economy vehicle, Ford Motor delivered in the form of the 1960 Falcon. The company was having difficulty competing with smaller import cars, and predicted that more families would own two cars, rather than the old standby "family car". The Falcon was able to rectify this dilemma in every way. First offered with an inline six cylinder, the Falcon was all about economy. The Falcon was available as a two or four door sedan, two or four door stationwagon, and as a Ranchero (which amounted to a hybrid of sorts; Falcon front, Falcon size, truck-like bed). For 1961, the five passenger Futura joined the line up along with the Sedan Delivery. For 1962 and 1963, a diverse selection of Falcons were offered, with the mainstay being the sedans. Several "packages" were offered in 1963, such as "sport coupe", "deluxe model", and "squire". The Sprint model made its debut, along with the all-new 1963 falcon convertible. In 1963.5, the 260 CID V8 appeared, paving the way for what would become the 1964 Mustang. The birth of the Mustang spelled demise for the "little car that could and did". The young buyer's market was attracted to the sportiness of the "pony car". The car remained an excellent "second car" as many women prefered the car for the smaller size as well as the gas mileage. From 1960-1965, Lorain Assembly produced 913,709 Falcons before production was moved elsewhere.
1966 Mercury Cyclone. Photo: Ford.
1960-1967 Mercury Comet
This Falcon cousin was introduced on March 17, 1960. Much like its Ford counterpart, the Comet was something of an econobox, with a modest 6 cylinder engine, four models to choose from, and a base price of under $2,000.00. The Comet was 14 inches longer than the Falcon, which provides for a larger trunk area. The car was virtually unchanged until a exterior update in 1962, which resulted in the car getting an all new rear treatment, making it an easy to distinguish Mercury model. Like the Falcon, the Comet received a V8 option mid year in 1963, at which time a convertible was also introduced. 1964 saw a total redesign, and marked the year that Mercury would make quite an impression at the racetracks. The Caliente model made a strong debut, offering everything from your six cylinder grocery getter to a 289 cubic inch performance car. The hi-po model was the Comet Cyclone, featuring a 220hp V8 engine and less of the common chrome trim. 1965 saw yet another exterior freshening, with the front end receiving the redesign. The 260 cubic inch was discontinued this year, and a new fiberglass hood was offered as a $108 option. In 1966, the Comet again saw a major redesign as well as the introduction of the performance-oriented "GT" designation. The Cyclone GT convertible also served as the 1966 official Indianapolis Pace Car. 1967 Comets remained virtually unchanged, and over seven years, the assemblers in Lorain churned out a whopping 792,628.
1966-1970 Ford Fairlane
When Lorain began building the Fairlane, the car already had a proven history. In 1966, the redesigned Fairlane offered a "GT" and "GTA" designation, available in either a hardtop or convertible. The basis of redesign was to accomodate the "FE" series of engines. The "GT" came with a standard 390 cubic inch mill, with a special camshaft, performance manifolds, and topped off with a 4 barrel carb. The "GTA" offered an optional "Sportshift" Ford-O-Matic, and either could be had with the "racer's dream" 427 cubic inch engine. The Fairlane received a modest facelift in 1967, and the once-standard 390 V8 was now an option; the 289 was the new standard. The GT/GTA received standard front disc brakes as well as vinyl bucket seats. The optional 427 was still available, with a mere 200 produced. In 1968, while retaining the same wheelbase, the Fairlane grew dimensionally with a redesign. The "Torino" series was introduced, as well as a sports roof model. The new standard engine was the 302, with the 390 being an option, and the 427 remaining an option for half of the model year. The second half of 1968 saw the replacement for the 427, which was the 428 Cobra Jet Engine. For those looking for even more performance, a Super Cobra Jet was also offered. 1969 saw a minor exterior facelift, and a striping package, heavy duty suspension, and wide oval tires. The three Torino models carried over, with the Cobra competing with the Plymouth Roadrunner. 1969 saw the debut of the Talledega model, engineered to compete in the NASCAR circuit. The 1970 model saw a major redesign, and the introduction of the 429 cubic inch, 360 HP big block. The wheelbase was up an addtional inch, and the car was overall 6 inches longer and 2 inches wider. While a bench seat was standard, numerous race-oriented parts were made available. This included a "drag pak", as well as the Cobra Jet Ram Air 429 engine rated at 370hp. From 1966-1970, 545,983 Fairlanes rolled off the assembly line.
Darrell Waltrip drove this Montego at Talladega in 1972. Photo: MSI / Nigel Kinrade.
1968-1976 Mercury Montego
The Mercury Montego was born in a time when bigger was better, and the automakers delivered. The 1968 model was virtually a reskinned 1968 Comet, with more luxury appointments, and a higher pricetag. 1969 marked the debut of the 351W engine, and very minor changes otherwise. Designations included the MX, MX Brougham, and the GT. The 1970 Cyclone Spoiler was aimed at the race crowd, with the big block 429, as well as distintive exterior styling cues. The cars weren't made with gas mileage in mind, which became apparent in the models with the larger engines. The cars could be ordered with the "drag pak" options, which features higher compression ratios, steeper rear gears, and a wide selection of other quarter-mile enhancements. The 1971 model remained large and bulky, but sold well and made great family haulers. 1972 and 1973 offered a Montego GT designation, and the cars could be had with the 351 CJ engine. The Montego also made its mark in Nascar at this time. 1974 saw a major redesign that made a big car even bigger. This model became more of a family car than it had ever been, and the performance world was losing life in all corners. The four door top of the line Brougham sold well, but as typical of cars of this area, it was a heavy, underpowered car with a very modest design. 1975 and 1976 models looked much like their close-cousin (Torino), but once again, the performance was all but gone. Between 1968 and 1976, over a half of a million Montegos rolled out of Lorain, Ohio.
1971-1976 Ford Torino
Anyone who remembers the series "Starsky and Hutch" has been familiarized with the Ford Torino. While the model originated on the Fairlane platform, the Torino was in a class all its own. The 1971 model looked virtually identical to the Fairlane, and was, in a nutshell, a top of the line Fairlane designation. In 1971, you could have anything from a performance model to the high class Brougham, with plenty of luxury and visual appointments. 1972 saw a complete exterior redesign, which was well accepted by the buying public. Due to stringent emissions laws, a performance package could be had, yet it was a marginal performer. The convertible was dropped, and "Gran Torino" was introduced to replace the previous "GT" designation. The 1973 was nearly the same, although federal regulations mandated a redesigned nose, which was much flatter, visually. Like the Montego, the Gran Torino was redesigned in 1974, moving away from high performance and towards the family car market. While the Gran Torino Sport, as seen in "Starsky and Hutch", was still considered a performance model, the market was simply dwindling. 1976 was the final year for the nameplate, as it was replaced by the LTD II. When all was said and done, the men and women of Lorain Assembly built 823,766 Torinos between 1971 and 1976.
1977-1979 Ford LTD II
The 1977 Ford LTD II was the company's answer to a Torino replacement. Conforming to the large cars of the time, the LTD II was a massive, luxurious land yacht that was priced nice. With power windows, door locks, plush split bench seats, and all the bells and whistles, the LTD II was an excellent seller. The 1978 LTD II "S" model offered a striping package and stylish Magnum 500-esque wheels, setting the car apart from the base model and the Brougham. The interior could be considered as very posh for it's era. Being of a large dimension, the cars were offered with engines big enough to pull the weight as well. From 1977-1979, 318,607 LTD IIs were built at the Lorain facility.
1977-1997 Mercury Cougar
A long established nameplate, the Mercury Cougar began rolling down Lorain's lines in 1977. The car shared underpinnings with both the Thunderbird/LTD II of this era. Like its cousins, the Cougar was a large car, with model designations ranging from the base model to the Brougham to the XR7. The XR7 was to be considered the sporty model of the group. The cars had painted wheels, body accent stripes, and a well-optioned interior. The big cars sold well, and changing with the times, Ford downsized in 1980. This redesign was the birth of the "Box body", which ran from 1980 through 1982. The XR7 designation carried over, but the Cougar was in somewhat of a styling rut, and sales suffered. In 1983, remaining on the Fairmont-derived chassis, the redesigned Cougar was accepted by the public with open arms. The new model, while retaining Mercury's upscale image, was a sporty midsize entry into an ever expanding market. The "Fox Cougar" was a cat of a different breed. Where the previous Thunderbird/Cougar twins were nearly indistinguishible, the new model was easy to identify. With Jack Telnack at the helm, the design team created a Cougar that anyone would be proud to own. The proof was most apparent when the Cougar, a Mercury secondary model, outsold the Thunderbird in 1983. 1984 saw the return of the XR7, which touted a turbocharged 2.3 liter four cylinder engine. The Cougar had an available 5.0L V8 engine, in addition to the base 3.8 V6. 1985 and 1986 remained unchanged save for minor updates. 1983-1986 were outstanding sales years for the nameplate, which, paired with the Thunderbird cousin, outsold four of the competitors cars by a two-to-one margin. The 1987-1988 models saw a major revitilization, which "euro style" headlights, wraparound taillights, and minor interior updates. The XR7 was no longer available as the turbo four cylinder, as the 5.0 V8 replaced that mill. The car had new safety features, and reminiscent of the previous few years, these cars sold like hotcakes. 1988 was the final year for the Fox-chassis Cougar. The 1989 model year brought a major change, both inside and out. This year marked the introduction of the MN-12 platform. While heavier, the car was much more refined and aerodynamic. Independant rear suspension made its debut, and the wheelbase was stretched nearly nine inches to allow for more interior leg room. During this model year, a V8 was not available. Buyers could choose the base V6 LS model, or the all new supercharged 3.8L V6 engine in the XR7. Also new was the availability of a standard shift transmission in the XR7 model. With $2 million invested in this complete redesign, the project was a "hit or miss". As you've probably guessed, Ford Motor Company hit it big. The MN-12 twins held outstanding sales. The XR7 supercharged V6 was available in 1989 and 1990, but was dropped in 1991 and replaced with the 5.0 V8. The pushrod V8 was available until 1994, when the 4.6L V8 was introduced. Sales held steady, and much to the dismay of the Cougar loyal, the model and platform was dropped in 1997. In the end, 1,366,939 Cougars and 442,394 XR7 models were built at Lorain Assembly.
1980-1997 Ford Thunderbird
When Thunderbird production began in Lorain in 1980, the Beach Boys hit "Fun, Fun, Fun" was a classic tune, and the nameplate itself was well established. For the next two model years, sales of the Thunderbird slumped, just as they did with the Cougar. The "box platform" didn't do well, nor did the idea of four doors and a station wagon. In 1983, both the Thunderbird and the Cougar received extensive redesign under a team directed by Jack Telnack. During this era, Ford introduced the Turbo Coupe designation. This submodel consisted of a 2.3 liter OHC turbocharged 4 cylinder engine, and could also be paired with a stick shift. Buyers could also choose a 3.8L V6 as well as a 5.0L V8. Sales quickly picked up, and stayed very consistant. In 1987, a new, "aero" Thunderbird made a debut. The design was more refined, with a sleek new front and rear, new interior apointments, and 16" snowflake wheels on the Turbo Coupe model. While the freshened up Thunderbird remained on the Fox-chassis, it was flashy enough to catch the eyes of Motor Trend, and was awarded the prestigious "Car of the Year" for 1987. 1987-88 were stellar sales years for Ford Motor Company, with both the Thunderbird and Cougar models far exceeding the sales expectations of corporate. In 1989, a new 'Bird was introduced. The complete redesign entailed over two million dollars invested and the birth of a new platform that would be utilized for the Thunderbird, the Cougar, and the Lincoln Mark VIII. The MN12 cars were considered "world class automobiles". The ride was smooth, the engines quiet, the handling excellent. 1989 would also mark the year of a new submodel, the Super Coupe. This car featured an Eaton supercharged 3.8L V6 engine, was available with manual or automatic transmissions, 16" wheels, a sleek body kit, leather seats, and all the bells and whistles. The big news with the MN12 platform was that all models would receive an independant rear suspension and a new interior based around the "cockpit design". Although only one engine was available for 1989 and 1990 (the 3.8L V6), the cars continued to show high sales. Once again, the Thunderbird was awarded "Motor Trend Car of the Year" in 1989. In 1991, the 5.0L V8 became available in the Thunderbird, and remained an option through the 1993 model year. In 1994, the MN12 saw a minor exterior freshening, and the 4.6L SOHC V8, which replaced the discontinued 5.0. The Super Coupe remained available through 1995, when it was dropped completely, leaving the LX as the lone model. 1996 saw another very minor redesign, with new headlights, a new front and rear fascia, and new "Thunderbird" script emblems on the rear deck. A little know fact is that Ford's "Special Vehicle Team" had an interest in the Thunderbird. In 1996 and 1997, several models were built at Lorain Assembly. These models were to feature the DOHC 4.6L, 17" Cobra R style wheels, larger brakes, as well as various exterior updates. Just prior to the March 17, 1997, announcement that the Thunderbird and Cougar would be discontinued completely, the SVT prototypes were dismantled within the assembly plant. The MN12 cousins sold consistantly throughout their Lorain run, outselling every car in their segment by at least a two-to-one margin. This wasn't enough to save the car. When the last one rolled off the line in September 1997, a sign saying "That's All Folks" adorned the decklid. Today, over eight years later, devoted Thunderbird/Cougar fans still seek out their favorite models, some looking for daily drivers, others looking to preserve history.
1961 Ford Econoline Series. Photo: Ford.
1961-2005 Ford Econoline
Introduced in late 1960 as a 1961 model, the Econoline van made history as Ford Motor Company's entry into the compact truck market. Originally available with your choice of two 6 cylinder engines, the Econoline was geared towards primary commercial use. Available as a cargo van, eight passenger wagon, or a pickup truck, the Econoline remained virtually unchanged until 1968. This year saw an exterior update, twin I beam front suspension, available optional air conditioning, an available V8, and an engine that was moved forward to prevent easy "tip ups". The 1970s brought on stringent emissions standards, resulting in an available fuel evaporate system which was mandatory on California destined vehicles. 1975 brought about major changes, including a complete redesign with body on frame reconstruction, improved options and packages, and a broad engine selection. Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Econoline became an even more technologically advanced machine. The vans now had power steering and halogen headlamps, and were much more appealing to the eye. The 1992 Econoline was named "Motor Trend Truck of the Year", with a complete redesign, new interior apointments, and a more aerodynamic look. A 7.3L powerstroke diesel was now available, and the Triton series of engines made their debut. As with the very first Econolines, the commercial units largely accounted for the high sales, with everyone from telephone companies to airports to shipping carriers using the tried and true Ford van. At the turn of the millennium, Ford introduced more "family friendly" packaged, based around entertainment, kids, and travelling. Loaded up with desirable options, the Econoline made an incredible family vehicle, but wasn't exactly popular with the soccer mom crowd, leaving the base of sales once again in the commercial segment. The 1992 design has been improved on for 15 model years, with minor exterior updating, interior changes, and optional packages. On December 14, 2005 at 11:00 am, the final Lorain-built van rolled off the assembly line, much like the Thunderbird/Cougar did in 1997. Assembly of the van will resume at Ohio Truck Plant, Avon Lake, Ohio. With a 44 year history, numerous awards from various companies, and high commercial sales, hopefully the Econoline continues to strive for many years to come. Approximate total assembled by the men and women of Lorain Assembly Plant: 7.5 million vehicles.