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1976 - 1979
L6 and V8
up to 5.8 litre
up to 290 bhp
3 spd. auto
Top Speed:
Number Built:
1 star
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1


The introduction of the ZJ Fairlane and the FC LTD luxury Fords, based on the XD Falcon, demonstrated just how much thought Broadmeadows had put into its program for the 1980s. So many of the parts that made up XD, ZJ and FC were totally interchangeable, and were manufactured on the same machine ensuring savings in tooling and manufacture.

It was obvious from the get-go that the ZJ Fairlane was styled subtly to give a sort of American look. A four headlamp front end and Americanised grille, plus that longer look provided by the high positioned rubbing strip along each side, all altered the look of the car so that it was very different to the standard XD Falcon. The LTD on the other hand had a definite Mercedes Benz flavour, and very clear European overtones.

During 1978 Ford sold almost 2000 of the P6 version LTD, and this figure increased by a thousand after the FC hit the market and throughout the 1979 model year. There was little doubt that Ford held sway when it came to locally produced luxury cars, but the total market of around 10,000 units per annum had been a happy hunting ground for imports which accounted for 70% of all sales. The LTD's "pseudo" European styling had been evolved to try and alter all this.

There was plenty of money to be made in the higher price brackets in view of the fact that cars in that segment cost only a fraction of the sticker number's excess over more standard models. Better still, unlike the Europeans, Ford did not have to struggle with import quotas and price hiking duties. Placing the lengthwise rubbing strip at the same height as on the Fairmont Ghia shortened the LTD's looks a little, while the square grille seemed to most to be an unashamed Mercedes copy along with the square headlights.

Smaller Dimensions - Better Use of Space

As was the previous Fairlane/Marquis range, the ZJ Fairlane was based on the Falcon wagon's 2946mm wheelbase. But for the first time the FC LTD ran on the very same dimensions, having the same body shell as the Fairlane rather than the 3073mm wheelbase seen on the previous FB LTDs. Weight of both the ZJ and the FC was down a fair bit too. The Fairlane dropped from 1717 kg to 1629 kg, slimming a worthwhile 88 kgs off the total. The LTD did even better (which we think wouldn't have been that hard in view of the car it replaced) dropping from 1869 kg to 1697 kg for a loss of 172 kgs all up. Both were still considerably heavier than the base Falcon's 1367 kgs however.

Despite the big reduction in overall length, rear leg room remained generous at 1086mm, but slightly less than in the previous P 6 which boasted 1100mm. Rear headroom was improved though at 950mm from the old 925mm. Rear shoulder space remained unchanged from previous measures, but hip room went down a little to 1480mm from 1520mm. For the front seat passengers headroom was better and legroom improved, the latter measuring 1047mm compared with 1031mm in the P6. Both shoulder and hip space were improved too. So, overall, it was a very successful packaging exercise by Ford.

Ventilated disc brakes were fitted as standard all round on both. The Fairlane was fitted with 14 inch steel wheels and six inch wide rims as standard featuring elaborate trims, shod with ER 70 H14 steel radial tyres. On the LTD you got styled alloy wheels of the same dimensions, but mounted with 205/70 HR 14 Michelin steel radials, complete with an asymmetric tread pattern. Even though the same bodyshell was used on both cars, the stylists achieved enough to make them sufficiently distinguishable from each other so that the higher priced version stood out. The LTD had a reshaped valance under the front bumper, necessitated by the square grille. Then in the rear quarter windows, the Mercedes theme was taken further with the plastic louvres. The almost austere air of the LTD contrasted a great deal with the Fairlane's, brought about by the egg-crate grille design. Overall though, nobody had much trouble telling them apart.

Plenty of Standard Kit

The unashamedly Mercedes-like FC LTD again followed the mechanicals of the XD range, coming standard with the 5.8 litre V8, along with automatic transmission, power steering and all the other features of the Fairmont Ghia. From that point onwards the luxuries started to pile one on top of the other. Interior trim was in line with the Ghia, complete with velour inner door padding. Deep cut pile carpeting was featured throughout, while the seats were trimmed in real leather. The driver's seat had full power adjustment for height, rake, to and fro movement, the same going for the passenger front seat too. There was also a power operated central door locking system. In-car entertainment was provided by a new AM/FM pushbutton multiplex radio cassette stereo system, complete with four speakers and a power antenna. All the other interior features of the Fairlane were in the LTD's specification, but with the addition of new rear seat head restraints.

LTD FC Cartier Edition
The LTD's instrument panel has the full "S" pack as standard, including tachometer and speedometer in two large matched dials, surrounded by smaller individual gauges to look after oil pressure, water temperature, fuel level and voltage. The rest of the facia followed the Fairlane, although the console between the front seats carried the power seat and window controls. And despite the comprehensive list of standard kit, you could still add options to the LTD, including the same choice of exterior finishes as well as interior trim colours. You could also order the Levant grain vinyl roof in colours designed to blend with the paintwork. If required, crushed velour trim could be ordered throughout. Additional packs included the outback set, plus three different tow kit packages.

While the LTD had 75% of its parts in common with the XD Falcon, the remaining 25% were specifically ZJ/FC. Although most of the panels could be pressed on the same equipment, some required an extra tool to be inserted in order to achieve the correct shape. The hood had a new panel, as well as the boot lid and tie rear guards. This was necessary in view of the six inches of extra length over the XD. It also allowed the fitment of a larger fuel tank. But not all of the length went into boot luggage space. In the interests of comfort, the rear seat was moved back around an inch, eating into luggage area.

The brake booster diameter was increased to 11 inches, which assisted with better feel of the all disc braking effort. Suspension changes included a general softening of spring and shock absorber rates, offset by the use of thicker anti sway bars, the rear now being up to 188 mm. In addition to this, the leaf springs were fitted with revised front eye bushes. These were oval, and they allowed vertical compliance without excessive fore and aft movement, providing far better ride with much less harshness and vibration sensitivity.

In October 1979, prompted by research indicating the V8s were losing favour, Ford announced that the standard Fairlane and LTD powerplant would be the 4.1L six. The decision was marked with the release of a luxury limited edition of the LTD - the Cartier Edition. Fairlane and LTD enjoyed an upgrade in July 1980. There was a new alloy cylinder head, making the car much lighter, and electronic ignition. The sound systems were also updated.

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