The Odditty of Ottis

After Ottis, all others pale. An American Ford; non-descript, basic transportation… that is until you got to know Ottis.

“Fair Lane” was the residence and estate Henry Ford had built for himself in Dearborn Township. Named after an area in County Cork, Ireland, the birthplace of Mr. Ford’s foster grandfather, Fair Lane was a masterpiece designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Ottis was a Ford Fair Lane. Introduced in 1962 as the first “mid-sized” car, the Fairlane was the bigger-than-a-Falcon, smaller-than-a-Galaxie alternative.


This is a 1962 Ford Fairlane - not Ottis. Ottis was green.

I was introduced to Ottis in this manner. Bro Tom got his drivers license exactly 40 years ago in 1968. I think he borrowed Dad’s cars for a year or so, but he eventually got his own. Previously loved by long-time friends of the parents, his first car began life as a 1962 Ford Fairlane.  The four-door white over medium-green sedan was powered (a loosely applied term) by a 170 cubic inch, straight 6 cylinder engine with a two-speed Fordomatic transmission. Tom had a vision that the car needed an identity (he was right) and figured he’d paint “Ottis” in Old English white lettering (over the rust) on both rear fenders. Ottis.

Tom eventually got a muscle car – a 1970 green Barracuda. Now abandoned, Ottis needed adopting and in 1972 I had a need for wheels. With $50.00 burning a hole in my GR Press carrier bag pocket…  I took the plunge. Driving around the west side of Grand Rapids in Ottis created attention! I procured a brown fedora, wrapped a red bandanna around the rim, thinking it was a perfect completion to the Ottis look. A fresh definition of cool I guess.

Ottis had a sensitive side of his personality. He sometimes got upset. For example, when the driver’s door was slammed a little harder than “gently,” the window dropped down into the door with a startling plunge. With considerable coaxing and manipulating the window crank “just so,” the glass was able to be raised; it was only worth that effort when it was raining or snowing. Otherwise the window was down most of the time and my left arm was always tanner.

The eight track tape player had a voracious appetite. I think the first tape I lost was a Black Sabbath masterpiece – Paranoid. Yes, Ozzy met his match way back in 1972 – Ottis.

Ottis had great ventilation. In addition to the “automatic” driver’s side window, and those vent windows that doubled as cigarette smoke eliminators, Ottis had something extra. The floor pans were rotted out. That additional airflow had it’s advantages. On dates with girlfriend, an amusing diversion was dragging sticks through the floor along the road under our wheels. Quick disposal of unwanted items was another plus. There were more disadvantages than pluses – unintentional disposal of wanted items for instance. Oops, I dropped my favorite (insert noun) on the floor and now I can’t find it! The aroma and aura of exhaust was a more serious downside.

Ottis had an addictive personality. His craving for oil was my introduction to the term miles per quart. That ended up not being a huge problem for me since I had a job at a gas station that had drums of “bulk oil” selling for 15 cents a quart.

I didn’t have Ottis that long. Jerry, a Canadian in the U.S. on an expired student visa, and no green card, and an all around good guy at the gas station bought Ottis from me for $100. So he lived on. But we’ve lost track of each other. He hasn’t written in years. Ottis, that is, not Jerry.


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