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New dawn for Fairlane

But he says it is too early to write off the Fairlane nameplate. With a strong history over 40 years, he is confident we may see the name rise from the ashes in the form of an imported model.

Ford Australia has no plans at present to replace the Fairlane as it concentrates on bringing the next-generation Falcon, codenamed Orion, to market next April.

However, Gorman says something out of Ford's luxury Lincoln brand in the US could be a perfect fit to wear the Fairlane name.

“The name has positive brand values,” he says. “I do think it could be utilised somewhere. Longer term you can see the direction that Ford's going and you can see that with the appointment of Derrick Kuzak as global head of product development.

“Clearly Ford CEO Alan Mulally's vision on this is that we have to utilise our capacities and capabilities better globally. And I think that bodes well for us.”

Of Ford's global portfolio, the luxury Lincoln brand stands out as an option and the Lincoln MKR concept sedan could be the answer to Ford Australia's luxury long-wheelbase woes.

The MKR was unveiled at this year's Detroit motor show and shows the new styling direction of Lincoln brand is taking under the influence of Ford's head of design, Peter Horbury.

At 4970mm long and with a wheelbase of 2868mm, the MKR is just 51mm shy of the Fairlane's 2919mm wheelbase and 183mm shorter but offers similar interior packaging.

Currently only a concept, the MKR features Ford's new ethanol-compatible TwinForce direct injection twin-turbo3.5-litre V6 that develops 309kW and 542Nm.

After months of speculation, Ford announced last week that it was pulling the plug on its long-wheelbase Fairlane and LTD models to concentrate on the more profitable Falcon line-up. A battle-weary Gorman, facing a downturn in Falcon sales in the lead-up to the arrival of the next-generation Falcon, says the company could not afford to develop a new Fairlane/LTD alongside the Falcon. Fairlane's Australian history began in the 1950s as Ford sought to cash in on local interest in big American cars.

In the 1950s Customlines were Ford's local luxury flagships. In 1959, the Customline gave way to the huge, chrome-trimmed Custom 300 and Fairlane 500, which became popularly known as the “Tank” Fairlane.

These were replaced in 1962 by the “Compact” Fairlane from the US, which was a smaller prestige car about the same size as the BF Falcon.

In 1965, Ford began importing the Galaxie as its flagship Australian car. Although it was a solid seller Ford felt it could do more if it engineered and developed a home-grown luxury large car.

In the mid-1960s work was well under way with the XR Falcon and local Ford designers decided to graft the rear guards and boot off the US model Fairlane on to an XR Falcon body and add a new front end and 128mm to the car's wheelbase.

The result was the Australian-made Fairlane Custom and Fairlane 500 which debuted on February 27, 1967. The six-cylinder Custom was priced from $3080.

With its prestige looks, luxurious interior, longer wheelbase, superior ride quality and strong towing capability, it became an instant hit with private buyers and spawned a whole new market segment that brought luxury motoring to the masses.

In its first year on sale, 9000 six-cylinder and V8 Fairlanes were sold. Since then, Ford has developed Fairlanes alongside each generation of Falcon.

In 1973, Ford launched the ultimate Australian luxury car, the Ford LTD.

The popularity of the Fairlane and LTD models continued through the 1970s and '80s with more than 180,000 long wheelbase vehicles produced during that time.

Over the past 40 years more than 270,000 Fairlanes and LTDs have been built.

In the early 1990s, Ford launched a prestige version of the Fairlane, called the Ghia.

When the BA range was launched in 2003, Ford returned to a two-model Fairlane line-up by releasing the Fairlane G220. A mid-range sports model, the G220 was introduced to satisfy a growing demand in the market for a sports-luxury package.

With the launch of the BF series in late 2005, the 5.4-litre V8 received a 10kW upgrade to 230kW, resulting in the Fairlane G220 being replaced by the Fairlane G8.

Ford's long wheelbase line-up today comprises the Fairlane Ghia, Fairlane G8 and LTD. Unfortunately, private buyers have deserted Ford's long-wheelbase local luxury line-up. Today, Fairlanes and LTDs are largely bought by fleet operators and taxi companies.


Related stories:

Ford Fairlane: King of the Road


Ford Farewells Fairlane and LTD


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