Ford Fairlane ZJ
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1
The popular XD Falcon
was joined by the ZJ Fairlane in May 1979
, featuring for the first time the six-window profile, something that would quickly become the hallmark of Australian built luxury Ford's. The luxury Ford range was also simplified somewhat, the Marquis being dropped and the range now consisting simply of either the Fairlane or LTD.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Fairlane's introduction was its base price. At A$11,191 it was only a little more expensive than the superseded model - a graphic illustration of the effectiveness of Ford's economy of scale strategy. And in all the dynamic areas the ZJ Fairlane was the equal of almost anything else then on the market. As far as comfort and the passenger environment were concerned it was better than most.
The new Fairlane was also smaller and lighter than its predecessor as it shared its floorpan with the Falcon Wagon. Fortunately though the engineers were able to maximise interior space so that, inside the cabin at least, the new model was actually bigger than before. The LTD also used the wagon floorpan, meaning both Fairlane and LTD were the same size. Of course there needed to be some way of differentiating the models, so Ford introduced a bold new twin-headlight design featuring squared-off surrounds. The tail lights were also an evolution of the ZH Fairlane
Inside, the all-new interior was just as roomy as before. The simplified dash was now made from plastic. It was a slightly different design from the XD Falcons, but incorporated the new cableless speedometer
. Mechanically the ZJ Fairlane was the same as the XD Falcon/Fairmont range. The 4.9 litre V8 engine, together with a "T" bar centre console mounted shift automatic transmission and power steering were pretty basic in design. The 5.8 litre engine was an option and, oddly enough, so was a column shift for the transmission.
Engine performance and gear ratios were also on par with the XD Falcon
. Unlike the XD Fairmont Ghia which had all-over velour treatment for the door trims, the ZJ Fairlane used only a panel of this material, the rest of the door trim being covered in colour coded vinyl. Cloth covered seats were standard, along with upholstered front seat headrests. There was cut pile carpet throughout and there were courtesy lights in all four door openings. Air-conditioning
was standard. Nearly everything else was similar to the Fairmont Ghia, except for the dash treatment.
Here the same printed circuit instrument panel was used, the basic car getting a central speedometer, flanked on either side by combined fuel and coolant temperature gauge (left) and combined oil pressure and voltmeter (right). Unlike the XD however, this was not placed in its own binnacle. Instead it was incorporated in a wider facia that extended two thirds of the way across the car incorporating a vertical panel containing the "climate control" knobs. Beneath the facia extension, everything else was much the same as the Falcon with pushbutton radio (including power antenna) and a digital clock. Similarly, the console between the front seats was the same as on the XD, containing air-conditioning
ducts into the rear passenger compartment. The steering wheel was straight from the Ghia.
As mentioned above, at launch, the Fairlane came standard with the 4.9 litre V8, with the 5.8 being optional. After several months of average sales, and fleet sales being almost non-existent, Ford were to re-think the Fairlane's engine line-up, and introduced the more economical 4.1 straight six as standard from December 1979
. Both the Fairlane and LTD were upgraded in July 1980
. There was a new alloy cylinder head
, making the car much lighter, and electronic ignition, while the all important sound system was also updated.
In August the same year, Ford released the "Sportsman" series in an attempt to re-kindle flagging sales. The Sportsman featured wool-tweed trim on both the seats and doors, along with a then popular two-tone paint finish. Available two-tone colours included black over silver, metallic midnight blue over white, metallic wedgewood blue over midnight blue, metallic brown over ghost-gum beige - and all combinations could be reversed. The initial 325 Sportsmans came with the 4.1 L6, however later iterations came standard with the 4.9 litre V8.