1965 Ford Fairlane 500 US Army Staff Car Is Junkyard Treasure

Jackson Wheeler
6 Min Read


While the Pentagon buys all sorts of rough-and-tough combat vehicles for the United States military, it also purchases plenty of ordinary cars and trucks for hauling personnel and equipment around its installations.

I run across the occasional ex-military pickup during my junkyard travels, but a Vietnam War-era Detroit sedan still sporting olive drab paint and US Army serial numbers is something you won’t find every day in your local Ewe Pullet. This one showed up recently in a family-owned yard just south of Denver.

Fort Carson isn’t far from this car’s final parking spot, so it seems likely that it served its country at that facility prior to being auctioned off. Did it spend some time overseas, driving officers around Frankfurt or Saigon? My friends who restore old military vehicles tell me that most of the Pentagon’s files on the subject burned up in a fire during the early 1970s and that there’s no practical way to look up this Ford’s travels with the Army.

1965 ford fairlane 500 us army staff car in colorado wrecking yard

Murilee Martin

All we have to go by here is what the car tells us. The door tag says this Fairlane was built at Kansas City Assembly on July 6, 1965, (and the tag’s gray color means the car was painted in Ford’s newfangled acrylic enamel; because the car was sprayed in Army-spec olive drab, the COLOR field on this tag is blank).

The DSO code, in civilian usage a two-digit number that specifies the sales office that issued the vehicle to a dealer, starts with 83 (meaning “government purchase”) followed by four digits identifying the purchase order.

1965 ford fairlane 500 us army staff car in colorado wrecking yard

Murilee Martin

Uncle Sam’s property tag is found on the glovebox lid, right next to his Twenty Commandments for Good Drivers. Just like G.I. Chevelles and Belvederes of the era, this car’s official designation was AUTOMOBILE, SEDAN, 4-DOOR. Remember, soldier, smoke at halts only and be proud of your record and your vehicle!

friends of murilee martins father, camp ripley minnesota

Murilee Martin

My father was a soldier at Minnesota’s Camp Ripley, near Brainerd, around the time this car was new. He held a very important role there, which had some official designation but was always referred to as the Beer Sergeant. The Beer Sergeant was responsible for selecting and purchasing the beer to be sold on the base, and his job was to drive into town (presumably Brainerd but maybe all the way to the Twin Cities), meet with the sales reps from Pabst, Schmidt, and Grain Belt and obtain the precious suds.

chevy beauville road trip with olympia

Murilee Martin

My father, who hailed from the beer-centric Luxembourgish region around Rollingstone, was very proud of his crucial service as Beer Sergeant and I grew up hearing tales of his cutthroat negotiations with beer salesmen (actually, he always got the Grain Belt because it was the cheapest, and beer quantity has a quality all its own to Minnesotans)… but I never thought to ask him about the make and model of the Army-issue vehicle he drove on those missions while he was alive. Maybe it was this very Fairlane!

Ford sold huge quantities of Fairlanes for government and fleet use during the 1960s, and most of them were base-model cars. This one is a more prestigious Fairlane 500, unusually, which means it has nice-looking chrome body trim that the cheapest possible ’65 Fairlane sedans lacked.

1965 ford fairlane 500 us army staff car in colorado wrecking yard

Murilee Martin

This car may be a step above the base Fairlane, but in this case that step was very short. The engine is the 200-cubic-inch (3.3-liter) straight-six, which Ford continued to install in new cars all the way through the early 1980s. This one was rated at 120 hp, which wasn’t bad for a car that scaled in at a mere 2863 pounds.

The interior is done up in the no-frills cloth-and-vinyl stuff appropriate to 1960s Detroit fleet machinery.

1965 ford fairlane 500 us army staff car in colorado wrecking yard

Murilee Martin

The transmission is the very affordable three-speed column-shift manual. The Pentagon wasn’t about to pay extra for an automatic.

Radio? Air conditioning? Padded dash? Ha! You’re in the Army now! At least there’s an ashtray with nearby lighter.

1965 ford fairlane 500 us army staff car in colorado wrecking yard

Murilee Martin

Just so no absentminded Army file clerk could lose the two-year factory warranty, it was provided as a decal stuck next to the ashtray.

I think this car was sold at auction after the Army was through with it, then just sat somewhere for decade after decade. Those years of neglect gave it a glorious patina, but also rendered it an unsuitable candidate for restoration. Mid-1960s Detroit midsize sedans aren’t worth much now, and nearly all collectors of military vehicles prefer the types that saw combat use.

1965 ford fairlane 500 us army staff car in colorado wrecking yard

Murilee Martin

What strange corrosive liquid burned these holes through the fender?

There’s a lot of history in every car graveyard, if you know where to look.

The big car of its class.

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Jackson Wheeler is a skilled editor at Speedofdaily.com, specializing in automotive content. With a background in Journalism and Automotive Engineering, he combines his passion for cars with his writing expertise to deliver captivating articles. Jackson's deep knowledge of automotive technology and his racing experience make him a valuable asset to the team, providing readers with informative and engaging content.
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