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Life in the Fairlane


Setting off on a driving holiday through Victoria and South Australia, the 1991 film sprang to mind, but any comparison evaporated rapidly. This was no case of "wild girls on the run" – despite the cowboy hat which featured throughout. Rather, it was a mother and daughter holiday.

Instead of a low-slung '66 Thunderbird convertible our chariot was a solid Ford Fairlane Ghia with a six-speed auto. There were no guns, police chases or hitchhikers (much to the relief of both Ford and my mother). But there were thermal hot springs, wineries and the pleasure of driving the length of the Great Ocean Road.

And the Ghia was the perfect vehicle for such a trip.

As a large car it held the road beautifully. It also had grunt.

Overtaking on the open road can be a fraught business in an unfamiliar vehicle. There is nothing worse than putting your foot down and finding you are at the wheel of a gutless wonder, but this sedan had plenty under the hood.

Cruise control ensured speeding tickets did not become an issue on the open road and another road trip bonus was the satellite navigation system ... which I am sure would have enhanced the chances of Thelma and Louise actually winding up in Mexico rather than over a cliff.

For someone unfamiliar with Melbourne it was a breeze to get from the airport to Sorrento on the Mornington Peninsula simply by listening to its directions.

And for the map challenged it was helpful to find it could be orientated in a similar vein to turning a map book around. It coped with finding a spa and even the ferry trip across to Queenscliff.

From there other features made their advantages known. The leather-trimmed seats were a delight for long hours behind the wheel, the boot contained enough room for suitcases and cartons of wine (no visit to the Coonawarra is complete without a purchase or two), and there was ample leg room in the back if we had found a dreamy hitchhiker along the way.

The downsides all sound like quibbles – but for the record the centre console (which the manufacturer says is "liquid metal") looks more like cheap, shiny black plastic.

The doors were heavy – and usually took more than one attempt to close. And I'm glad I was never faced with the challenge of trying to park this car on a busy city street – even with reversing sensors it could pose a challenge.

LOVE IT LEAVE IT

Ford Fairlane Ghia

Price: $58,625

LOVE IT

A delight on a long road trip. Comfortable, roomy, great stretchy shopping holder in the enormous boot.

LEAVE IT

No good for anyone who struggles with parking – even with the help of park sensors this is a big car.