ZH Fairlane (1976-79)
The ZH Fairlane arrived in May 1976 and received significant revisions from the previous model, the ZG Fairlane. The ZH was the third iteration of the second generation of Australian-built Fairlanes. The ZH was aesthetically different from the previous two Fairlane models, but was also wider by over 2 inches and almost 6 inches longer. The effect was a more imposing car with a premium look that perhaps better fit the concept of the luxurious Fairlane brand than that of its recent predecessors.
Ford received criticism that the ZF and ZG model Fairlanes looked too similar to the cheaper Falcon models. The previous two Fairlane models had essentially been lengthened versions of the smaller Falcon four-door sedan. With the ZH model, the Ford designers chose to distinguish the Fairlane with an extensive bodywork redesign.
The new model featured sharper lines with fewer curves and contours, and looked less sporty than its predecessors. It also looked significantly different from the 1976 XC Falcon model despite sharing similar elements such as the rear doors and grill design. The rear was also significantly different, being optioned with distinctive rear lights that were laid out in six horizontal squares.
The ZH Fairlane is a four-door luxury sedan, available in two trim variants, the Fairlane 500 and the more luxurious Fairlane Marquis. Previously, the Fairlane 500 had been the top-of-the-line model followed by a lower-spec model called the Fairlane Custom. With the release of the ZH, Ford dropped the Custom model and created the Marquis, which was fitted with luxury accessories that were previously optioned extras as standard.
Both Fairlane variants had a 302 (cu) Cleveland V8 fitted as standard with the option of a larger 351 (cu) engine available. All ZH Fairlanes came with Ford’s Selectshift automatic transmission, which could also be used manually, as well as a limited-slip differential.
Overall safety was increased with the addition of 11-inch disc brakes on all wheels, which were previously only on the front. Inertia reel seat belts were also fitted in the rear of the vehicles rather than just in the front. This was on top of an already extensive list of safety features, including high-backed front seats, recessed and padded instrument panel and dash, and collapsible steering column. Other features included an impact-absorbing steering wheel, front-end crumple zones for controlled collapse, and zone toughened windscreen.
The Marquis came with a few additional extras as standard which were not included with the Fairlane 500. Some of these were air conditioning, electric windows, and “luxury cashmere cloth” upholstery in place of the Fairlane 500’s leather grain vinyl.
In the brochure for the Fairlane Marquis, Ford boasted the cars were so well-appointed that there was no need for optioned extras. They did, however, offer a choice of two towing packages, two AM/FM radios or a tape player, sliding steel sunroof, and metallic paint options.
The even more luxurious ZH Fairlane LTD called the P6, which was 6 inches longer than the standard Fairlanes, was released in September 1976. The P6 came with a 351 (cu) V8 with a Carter four-barrel carburettor and featured leather upholstery as standard. The P6 also had a Rolls-Royce-esque front end with a centralised grill, boxy design, and oversized headlamps.
While the Fairlanes were a luxury sedan, the LTD range of vehicles were aimed more at the limousine market.
There was no P6 Landau model, but a special edition P6 sedan called the Silver Monarch was produced in 1977. This was to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The car was available in one colour only “Stardust Silver” and featured a red crushed velour upholstery with a silver vinyl roof.
From May 1976, Ford Australia built 22,982 units of the ZH Fairlane, before it was replaced with the ZJ Fairlane in May 1979.