Ford Fairlane 1967 and 2007 Review
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Back then small cars were cheap and cheerful and bought by people who couldn't afford a bigger one, families drove four-door sedans, people-movers were called station wagons, four-wheel drives were rarely seen in town and luxury cars were measured by the metre.
In that environment there was nothing bigger nor better than a Fairlane, and the ZB was king.
Ford had the big-car market sewn up in the '60s; Holden was just moving into the large luxury-car business with the Brougham before they later moved to the more successful HQ-based Statesman and Caprice in the early 1970s, the first real competitor the Fairlane had.
The Europeans in the form of Mercedes-Benz and BMW that would have such a profound effect in redefining luxury cars in the 1980s and '90s were yet to arrive, and Toyota was too concerned about building budget Corollas to think of entering the luxury business with the Lexus.
As the son of a self-employed panel beater who believed British cars were under-powered and there was nothing like the easy driving smoothness of American cars with their big, lazy engines, I grew up in the 1950s with V8 Fords, six-cylinder Pontiacs and Oldsmobiles and the occasional straight-eight Buick.
I was being subconsciously conditioned to believe big was better and American companies built better cars. I was being conditioned to love the Fairlane.
I bought my ZB secondhand in 1975. It had been owned from new by a dairy company in Melbourne and had been driven for its 105,000 miles by one of the company's executives.
Company bosses drove Fairlanes in those days, or at least were driven in them. The ZB was a 1968 facelift of the ZA introduced in 1967, first of the new generation of Australian-built Fairlanes based on the Falcon.
Ford had done a great job in separating the Fairlane from the Falcon. It was clearly different in stature and, importantly, looks.
Much of the Fairlane forward of the windscreen was the same as the Falcon of the day, but with dual headlights and a distinctive grille there was no mistaking it.
It was even more distinctive as it went away, its longer wheelbase and longer tail flanked by elegant vertical tail lights.
The extra five inches in wheelbase length on the regular Falcon was turned into spacious accommodation for rear-seat passengers and its extended tail became an enormous boot.
It may have been a close cousin of the Falcon, but everyone just knew a Fairlane was much more. You could, if you wanted to, buy a Fairlane with a six-cylinder engine, but quite why you would have is beyond me.
Mine was a range-topping Fairlane 500 with the 302cu in (4.9-litre) V8 linked to a three-speed Cruise-O-Matic transmission and driving through the rear wheels like the most cars in 1968.
The V8 produced a modest 156kW, but it was enough to make sure progress was effortless.
The Fairlane's ride was smooth and supple, but the comfort came at the expense of handling.
Though it was predictable and reassuring, the power-assisted steering was vague and it wallowed in the American style when you tried to push it hard through corners, but the Fairlane was not about rushing down winding roads at breathtaking speed. It was more about cruising long distances in comfort.
Inside, the Fairlane 500 came with everything on the Ford options list. The front seats were individual and could be reclined — not the bench seat the six-cylinder model had — and had extra foam padding for greater comfort and support.
Sound deadening was widely used to quieten the interior, the floor was covered in deep pile “wall-to-wall” carpet, the dash was elegantly panelled in “walnut” wood grain, there was an electric clock, reading lamps in the rear, indirect floor lighting and even the comfort and safety of a two-speed heater-demister.
Mine had one, but the push-button radio was one of the few options not included as standard equipment. Likewise you had to pay extra for a vinyl-covered roof, a laminated and tinted windscreen and white-wall radial-ply tyres.
That may not sound so special today, when even the most basic of cars come with all of that, and more, but in 1968 the average car had none of these and the Fairlane was indeed special.
I drove the ZB Fairlane for about two years before selling it, but I still have fond memories of it. I remember the comfortable seating, the roominess, but more than anything else, I remember the smoothness.
Fairlanes still hold a special place in my motoring heart, at least the old ones do.
1967 ZA Fairlane
Price: Fairlane $3080, Fairlane 500 V8 $3885
Engine: 200cu in “Super Pursuit” six-cylinder 3.3-litres; 500: Mustang 289 V8 4.7-litres
Power: 90kW at 4400 revs; 500: V8 149kW at 4400 revs
Torque: 258Nm at 2400 revs; 500: V8 382Nm at 2400 revs
Transmission: Three-speed column shift gearbox; 500: V8 three-speed Cruisomatic automatic
Sales: 9000 in first 12 months.
2007 BF Fairlane/LTD
Price: $58,625 (4.0-litre Ghia), $65,405 (5.4-litre G8): $62,270 $75,525 (V8 LTD)
Engine: Barra 190 4.0-litre six-cylinder, Barra 230 5.4-litre V8
Power: Six-cylinder, 190kW at 5250 revs, V8, 230kW at 5350 revs
Torque: Six-cylinder, 383Nm at 2500 revs, V8, 500Nm at 3500 revs
Tranmission: ZF six-speed automatic
Sales: 2006 — 1105 (Fairlane), 53 (LTD). 576 (Fairlane). YTD 2007 — 576 (Fairlane) 9 (LTD)
1972 Fairlane 9667 sales
1974 LTD 2543 sales
1974 Fairlane/LTD combined 12,123 sales
Range and Specs
Lowest price, based on third party pricing data