Home » Cars You Should Know »The Carchive » Currently Reading:

The Carchive: The 1981 Ford Fairlane

Chris Haining June 12, 2014 Cars You Should Know, The Carchive 15 Comments


Welcome back to The Carchive, where we have an economy-class ticket for a flight into history, before collecting some outdated, forgotten luggage from the creaky carousel after landing.

Apropos of nothing my hand randomly plucked this brochure for the Australian Ford Fairlane out of the darkness and, on the basis of it being a dismally short publication, we’ve accidentally established a theme after the three-page Peugeot brochure on Tuesday. Start nibbling your Vegemite sandwiches, we’re off Down Under.

“Reflecting the requirements of today’s prestige car driver.”

We’re looking at Ford Australia’s largest automotive offering for 1981, the ZJ series Ford Fairlane. This was derived from the then current XD generation Ford Falcon, a machine which was itself visibly inspired by the European Ford Granada. The links between the Fairlane and the Falcon could barely be more obvious if they tried, to the extent that they even shared rear doors despite the Fairlane’s extra wheelbase. Just look at the amusing effect between the rear door shutline and the wheelarch.

There was a busy look to the Fairlane, with numerous separate panels of side window glass and quad headlamps levered into the nose to continue with a traditional Fairlane theme. Most importantly, the car had that total lack of any curvature presumably demanded by the Australian Prestige Car buyer.


“In short, we suggest you will find the distinctive and highly appointed Fairlane is a prestige car in tune with today.”

Up until this brochure materialized within the impenetrable walls of The Carchive, I had looked upon the ZJ Fairlane from afar with a sense of wonderment. Photographs and descriptions of it portrayed a European Ford Granada MK2 with gigantism- extra length added here and there, bigger engines and who knows what level of obscene, debaucherous luxury.

The reality, it appears, was not quite as I expected. Though the list of optional gewgaws and trinkets which could be specified certainly fitted in with my luxury preconceptions, the underlying machine seems to be a far more utilitarian device than I had imagined. The illustrations show that keep-fit window winders are fitted, seat-back coverings are of vinyl and there is no rev-counter. Ford Fairlane was a big, basic car.


If you needed luxury, you needed an LTD. Not included within this gossamer-thin brochure, the LTD had luxury to spare, and V8 motivation beyond the “Inherently economical” 4.1 litre inline six of the Fairlane. There was a restyled front end, too, losing the slightly contrived quad lamps and gaining integrated headlamps and a swanky grille.

But that’s a story for another day.

(Disclaimer: All (3!) images are of original manufacturer’s publicity materials, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of Ford Australia. Y’know, my house contains like about seven Australian items, and I think they’re all car brochures)

  • Van_Sarockin

    You poor sods. Even so, it had to be better than our Fairmont.

    • dukeisduke

      I don't know; I'll bet the Fox has better-designed suspension.

    • dr zero

      Our Fairmont was similar to the Fairlane, but based on the shorter wheelbase Falcon. But as Rusty said, if you wanted "true" luxury in early 80's Australia, you needed an LTD.

  • Alff

    "Ford of Australia … Staying within the development budget is job 1."

  • Marto

    The ZJ was always disappointing. Its ZH predecessor hardly looks 80s, but at least it had looks.

    <img src="http://www.shannons.com.au/library/images/auctions/Q3Z5Y5M5L9F8W8A1/medium/1978-ford-zh-fairlane-500-sedan.jpg&quot; width="600">

    This is one of the few unmodded ones I can find a decent shot of. The rest these days have been lowered and given fat wheels. And they look even better…

    • LJSearles

      Loved the looks of that car.

  • dukeisduke

    It's just goofy looking. It reminds me of the second-gen Cressida, but the greenhouse looks all wrong, and what's up with the wide dogleg ahead of the rear wheel?

    And yes, the ZH is better looking than the ZJ. The ZH is a mix of Ford and Mercury styling.

  • Rover1

    Just for context, available with the 4.1litre (250ci) all iron ohv straight six which quickly got an alloy head, 4.9 litre (302ci) Windsor V8 (The same engine as the '5.0' in the Mustang but Ford Australia were more accurate in their metric conversion ) and 5.8 litre (351ci) Cleveland V8. All with leaf sprung live-axle, 3speed auto/4 then 5 speed manual. The only common parts shared with the Euro Granada were those headlights. Wagon and Ute got the longer wheelbase shared with the Fairlane/LTD.
    XD Falcon sedan
    <img src="http://cdn.cbsi.com.au/story_media/339297300/ford-falcon-father-dies_5.jpg"width="400"&gt;
    XD Falcon ute
    <img src="https://farm3.staticflickr.com/2880/12231055234_c68837af2f_n.jpg"width="400"&gt;
    XD Falcon wagon
    <img src="http://www.aus-ford-uk.co.uk/assets/images/BB_spack1.jpg"width="400"&gt;
    As seen earlier on Hooniverse, parts mixing is possible/common, this ute has ZJ LTD front panels fitted.
    <img src="http://hooniverse.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/IMG_5781-700×466.jpg"width="400"&gt;

    • LJSearles

      That wagon is an XE

  • Kris_01

    Is it just me or is there a lot of dashboard influence for the 83 Thunderbird and the 84 Tempo? Interior was more modern than the domestic 81s, even the Escort of the time had a more angular look.

    • Rover1

      They did move their designers around, as they did their top management. Jac Nasser and Edsel Ford II spent time in Australia, Edsel at the time the XD came out. And it explains the shared euro Granada headlights.

  • Rover1

    And not to forget the ute- based panel van,seen here in popular Sundowner surfer special
    <img src="http://i1226.photobucket.com/albums/ee415/Mitutoyo2/6055613078_fa9df526fd_z_zpseec86eb5.jpg"width="400"&gt;

  • SC-AU

    I had the ZK Fairlane as my second car. Loved it! I big luxo boat.

  • Perc

    Is it just me or is the car nomenclature one of those 'Australian things'? Everyone knows if their Holden or Ford is a ZK, XD, ZJ, VN, VE, VF etc.

    It depends on the car make here in Europe. Everyone knows if their BMW is an E39 or an E60 and a W124 owner sure as hell knows he/she's driving a W124. But ask a Nissan owner if they have a N13 or N14 and you're met with a blank stare.

    • Rover1

      it's because the models didn't change on a yearly basis, so in a model changeover year you could have two different models. Even major upgrades like bringing in an alloy head on the XD were just running changes. And look at the differences between an early and late W124.