ZD Fairlane (1970-72)

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Vehicle Overview

The ZD Fairlane was the fourth iteration of the first generation of Australian Fairlanes and the last model that would be produced simultaneously in Australia and the United States. 

The Fairlane had been designed in the US since 1955 and was first imported to Australia in 1959. Initially, the cars were assembled in Australia from imported parts, but in the mid-1960s, Ford began to produce the parts locally. For the most part, the bodywork was the same on the Australian and US versions with slightly different front ends. 

In 1971, the Fairlane and Falcon names were dropped in the US, with Ford’s intermediate models being rebadged as Torinos. The Falcon and Fairlane would continue production in Australia, with the Ford Australia design team given the freedom to design uniquely homegrown cars.

The ZD Fairlane was a luxury four-door sedan and was available in two variants, the Custom and Fairlane 500. The Fairlane 500 was the fully-featured model and the Custom was a more basic variant that could be specified to the customers’ needs.

Aesthetically, the ZD Fairlane is very similar to its predecessor, the ZC, with only a few minor cosmetic alterations. The rear lights on the ZD feature separate indicators and are inset into the bodywork, whereas on the ZC, they’re one-piece rectangular units. The ZD has an ornamental rear grill that runs beneath the boot lid, as well as smooth undecorated wheel trims. The front of the car received a revised grill, the bonnet emblem was removed and the Fairlane badge was repositioned on the passenger side. The ZD retained the distinctive stacked headlight design of the ZC model. 

The ZD model was released with a new range of engines, starting with a larger 250 ci six-cylinder unit as the basic engine in the Custom variant, in place of the 221 cu of the previous model. Two V8 engines were also available, a 302 cu and 351 cu. The V8’s had the same displacement as the ZC, but Ford chose to replace the Windsor units of the previous models with the more heavy-duty Cleveland engines. The Cleveland engines had larger ports and valves than that of the Windsors, which meant that they could run at faster speeds and produce more horsepower. 

The Fairlane 500 came with the smaller V8 fitted as standard, however the 351 could be optioned for both variants. Only one manual transmission was available, which was the 3-speed, whereas the previous model was optioned with both 3 and 4-speed manual transmissions. The automatic transmission was standard on the 500, whilst the Custom was optioned with a manual transmission as standard. The Fairlane 500 was optioned with the “SelectShift” automatic, which was column mounted. The SelectShift automatic could be used in either automatic or manual modes. The automatic transmission was also available with a floor-mounted T-Bar shifter.  

The Fairlane 500 featured a number of mechanical advantages over the base custom model besides the automatic transmission. For instance, the 500 benefited from 11-inch disc brakes on the front as well as power steering.

Inside the passenger compartment, the Custom was now optioned with individual front seats as standard, with bench seats of the earlier models available as an extra only. The Fairlane 500 featured better quality “woven” upholstery than the Custom which was fitted with basic all-vinyl trim. 

Both models received a long list of optional extras, which included air-conditioning, tape player, push button radio, centre sports console, vinyl roofing, tinted windscreen, rear seat belts, and an additional wing mirror for the passenger side. The ZD was also the first Fairlane model to be available with a sunroof.

From November 1970, Ford Australia built 12,797 units of the ZD Fairlane, before it was replaced with the ZF Fairlane in March 1972.