ZB Ford Fairlane (1968-69)
Introduced in 1968, the ZB Fairlane was the second iteration of the first generation of Australian designed Fairlanes. Beginning with the previous model, the ZA, Australian Fairlanes differed in design from the Fairlane models produced in the United States. Ford used this distinction to market the ZB Fairlane as being a homegrown design and, therefore, more suited to Australian conditions.
Ford Australia offered two models of ZB Fairlane which are called the Custom and Fairlane 500. The Fairlane Custom was the base model and the Fairlane 500 was the premier variant. Both were four-door saloons based on the XT Falcon and American designed Fairlane models.
The Custom was designed to be a blank slate so that customers could then choose the options to add. The options list for the Custom model included the 302 ‘Mustang’ V8 engine, power assisted steering, power disc brakes, Ford’s SelectShift automatic transmission and vinyl roof.
The Fairlane model was considered an intermediate size vehicle and a place between Ford’s popular compact Falcon and its oversized luxury Galaxie models. Aesthetically, it is a well proportioned blend of the two, with a sporty Falcon front end and a chunky and spacious Galaxie-style rear.
Ford cited the Fairlane as “the luxury motor car more people moved up to than any other” on account of its high build quality, thoughtful design and reasonable price, which started at $3,734 for the basic model. This was not that much more than the top-of-the-range Falcon which was, at the time, the Fairmont wagon, selling for $3,381.
The ZB’ exterior was not greatly altered from the previous model, and the car featured only minor revisions such as square taillights in place of the ZA’s rectangular units. The Fairlane badge on the ZB’s rear was also written in script rather than block lettering.
Ford offered a choice of two engines with the ZB, both of which are larger than the previous models. The Custom came with a 221 cu six-cylinder engine that replaced the 200 cu “pursuit six” of the ZA. The Fairlane 500 came with a 302 cu Windsor V8, which replaced its predecessor’s 289 cu engine. The Windsor engine was a small block V8 that was also fitted in Ford’s popular new Mustang model, which had launched the previous year in the US.
The Fairlane 500 came with Ford’s Cruise-O-Matic automatic transmission as standard, while the Custom model was fitted with a 3-speed manual transmission. This gave the owners the chance to choose between manual or automatic transmission if they upgraded to the V8 engine.
Ford Australia introduced a host of new safety features with the ZB model, including safety rim wheels with performance and load rated tyres, a dual hydraulic braking system and an external wing mirror. The passenger compartment is heavily padded throughout, including the full width of the dash, the windscreen pillars, door frames and steering wheel hub.
Taken from the Galaxie model, the dash has a horizontal speedometer, inset push button radio and walnut accents. Standard features include front seat belts, zone toughened safety glass and a rear view mirror that yielded on impact.
The Custom variant has a single bench seat in the front with a pull down armrest, while the Fairlane 500 has individual front seats. There is a padded section between the front seats that can be used as a seat if the armrest was folded away.
There was a range of five different interior vinyl colours to choose from for each model. These were colour keyed to match the range of 15 exterior paint colours. They included mountain blue, green haze, springtime yellow, vintage burgundy, peacock green and nightmist blue with flat and metallic finishes.
From March 1968, Ford Australia built 10,708 units of the ZB Fairlane, before it was replaced with the ZC Fairlane in June 1969.