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The Carchive: The Ford Fairlane (NC)

Chris Haining September 30, 2016 Cars You Should Know, The Carchive 40 Comments

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It’s Friday. I’ve eaten a massive jacket potato with baked beans, the sun’s gone down and there’s a bottle of Rioja warming by the hi-fi amplifier. This can only mean one thing – it’s time to relax with a smooth, refreshing car brochure. Welcome back to The Carchive.

Growing up (eh?) in England I was always rather jealous of the greater range of car sizes that Americans could enjoy. The biggest Ford you could buy in England was the Scorpio, which was a little smaller than the Taurus, yet America had the Ford Festiva, which was actually a little smaller than our Fiesta of the time, while we could buy the Festiva in its Kia Pride incarnation if we wanted, anyway.

But Americans had the Crown Victoria, a car sized in a way that even a long-wheelbase Jag XJ couldn’t match. It wasn’t until I was well into my teens that I would learn that Australians had it just as good. And looking back at it now (because, alas, that’s all we can do now), their Ford Fairlane was a remarkably similar package to the Crown Vic.

All images can be resized to make them marginally more legible. Bonzer.

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“The Outback of Australia is no place for the faint-hearted. In this ancient land reputations are earned the hard way. And on the endless roads that roll out to meet distant horizons, one car has earned itself a place as Australia’s pre-eminent long-distance traveller: Ford Fairlane”

Strikes me as a little odd that, in a brochure of almost exclusive interest to native Australians, for whom the inherent dangers of The Bush are drummed in at an early age, it should place so much emphasis on the murderous roads of the outback. As if you’ve forgotten.

Even I knew about the omni-terrifying dangers of the great Aussie wilderness when I was about 8, thanks to watching The Flying Doctors and Crocodile Dundee. And since then I’ve had it reinforced by Bill Bryson’s Down Under.

It’s obviously true, though, that outback roads are serious, and need a car that means business. Like a Toyota Landcruiser. Or a GAF Nomad. Oh, or a Fairlane.

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“To bring relief from outside heat or cold, Fairlane and Fairlane Ghia’s automatic climate control system simply requires you to select your preferred temperature and its computer system, with assistance from the standard air conditioning, will maintain it”

I’m guessing that this was about the most necessary feature in the Fairlane – that and windows that go up as well as down. I’m always pleased when I see Ghia variants of Ford cars; it was a pretty quaint convention when you think about it to pay tribute to that masterful Italian styling house by fitting a few emblems and some upgraded velour. In fact, after it was subsumed by Ford in the ’70s the majority of folk probably just associate the Ghia crest with decorative wood trim in a high-end Cortina rather than a producer of bespoke coachwork. Sorry, a digression. But I miss Ghia. What the hell does Focus Titanium mean? A posh Focus is a Focus Ghia!

Pah.

Anyway, in the Falcon Ghia there was another bonus beyond the increased plushness of the interior appointments. You could have a V8.

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“No other engine has the ability to seemingly shorten distances, flatten hills or make light work of a tow load like a V8”

Yep, all the way from Ontario came Ford’s venerable Windsor 302, rated at 220hp, a worthwhile upgrade from the 186hp you could extract from the 3.9-litre six that came as standard equipment across the Fairlane range.

This was the first Fairlane to revert to V8 availability for a good while, it had been off the menu since the ZK of ’83 which, hey, you can see in a Carchive visit in the dim and distant past.

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“The latest Ford Fairlane is a car that provides prestige driving at a realistic price. But beyond any argument about economics, it’s a car you can rely on, a car you can enjoy”

It amazes me just how similar a package this car was to the 92-on Crown Victoria. They’re both over five metres long, both rear drive, both can have a (North American) V8 – even the side window treatment is roughly the same. Maybe this should have been the Ford ‘World Car’ and not the CDW27 platform? I’m sure I’d have enjoyed seeing a few V8 leviathans on my local roads far more than Americans enjoyed the Contour and Mystique.

The biggest difference between them, to my eyes, was one of honesty in design. With its tufted velour, available white-striped radials and over-indulgence in chrome and fake-wire wheel trims, the ’92 Crown Victoria was a bit, well, gauche. The Fairlane seems like a Crown Vic with all the bullshit stripped out.

And that’s exactly what the straight-talking Aussies wanted.

(All images are of original manufacturer publicity materials, photographed by me. Copyright remains property of Ford Motor Company. Australia, I join you in shedding multiple tears for the demise of home grown models like this)

  • CraigSu

    Well, to be fair to you Brits, in terms of Ford’s car range we Yanks have never gotten the Ka.

  • Zentropy

    But for the front and rear fascia, the car stylistically resembles a Taurus– especially the rear window and C-pillar.

    • outback_ute

      The Fairlane is about 10 inches longer than a Taurus, some of it in the hood and some inside thanks to the wheelbase stretch. The rear deck lid would be lower than the Taurus I expect.

      • Zentropy

        Oh I realize it’s a completely different car, and wasn’t suggesting shared platform or parts. I just mean that from a styling perspective it reminds me more of the original Taurus than the comparable-year Crown Vic.

        • outback_ute

          Understood, I was just getting into the differences that may not be so clear in photos

  • Troggy

    I don’t know about windows that went up and down – I had an (Australian) Fairmont of about the same era and the windows were constantly failing. I think the Fairlanes and LTDs (even more upmarket Fairlane) had the same issues.
    That model of Fairlane was also known for horrible plough understeer when pushed too hard into a corner. Despite that handling, they were still a good way to eat up the miles when crossing the country.

    • outback_ute

      The NC (and EB Falcon) had better suspension geometry than the NA/EA. For some bizarre reason those had 0.5° positive camber to allow for non-assisted steering even though power steering had already been standardised during the XF model. None were ever built without it, yet the compromised setup remained.

      Unfortunately it wasn’t the biggest problem the car had!

  • njriley

    For the few years in which Australia got the 3rd-gen Taurus, it was known as the Taurus Ghia. That was your only choice. It was certainly weird to see; the front end treatment was a little different and IMO better looking than the US version. (Not that that gen Taurus has aged particularly well!)

    That last photo reminds me much more of the 2nd gen Taurus than the Crown Vic, OTOH, except at the front.

  • casho2015

    I had the Fairline ZK. Massive interior with plastic wood highlights and a first MFI inline 6 that chewed juice like a mofo. Dumped the suspension, put stockie wheels on with chrome hub caps. Living that LA dream in errrrrr suburban Australia 😛

  • ptschett

    Wow, they flipped the upper intake manifold on the Windsor engine for some reason; it hung over the left bank on US-market engines.
    I’m biased, but I think our US Crown Vic was the better-looking car, especially by ’95 and with the BBS-ish wheels from the handling & performance package.
    http://oi60.tinypic.com/nyu2v7.jpg
    (Image swiped from someone else’s tinypic)

    Also, I can’t see “have you driven a Ford lately” and not sing the song.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hXE8EjKa2Js

  • Rover 1

    Instead of paying for the top of the line Ford LTD, the el tee dee grille was a $100 option on the Fairlane.
    Most of the Taxi Fairlanes took the option over the standard grille. As a bonus, here in NZ, it meant that your lwb Falcon looked just like one of the Crown Ministerial limousines with a cabinet minister or the PM on board.
    https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7e/1989-1991_Ford_DA_II_LTD_sedan_%282010-12-28%29.jpg/1280px-1989-1991_Ford_DA_II_LTD_sedan_%282010-12-28%29.jpg

    • outback_ute

      Surely something done by the dealers only when the 1988 model had the weird looking body colour grille? Once they changed that to chrome it was better. Otherwise you have to look at the third side window for the shading/strips of the LTD to pick them, apart from the wheels.

      The previous model LTD also had a semi-separate rear audio system, so passengers could listen to a different source via headphones. The DC LTD had a subwoofer on the rear deck, I regularly washed a family members one with the sound cranked to hear it perfectly outside the car, the rear window would give a hand massage thanks to the sub. Had to quickly grab the volume knob when opening the door though, to not deafen the neighbours!

      • Rover 1

        My info from an old Wheels mag on the $100 grille

  • Rover 1

    Somewhat strongly tied into this topic comes this news as reported in the very good Australian ‘Wheels’ magazine.
    https://d3lp4xedbqa8a5.cloudfront.net/imagegen/max/1020/-/s3/digital-cougar-assets/wheels/2016/09/26/76936/Ford-Engine-Australian-manfacturing.jpg

    Very strongly connected, of course, with the demise of the Falcon.
    https://d3lp4xedbqa8a5.cloudfront.net/imagegen/max/1020/-/s3/digital-cougar-assets/wheels/2016/08/11/72467/56-years-of-falcon.jpg

  • Dean Bigglesworth

    My Focus is a Ghia. What that means is that it has a couple of extra lights inside, some extra chrome to make it rust faster, and velour seats. And fake wood.

    • What more could you possibly want?!

      • Dean Bigglesworth

        A V8? Oh and it also has self-levelling shocks in the rear that cost 400 euros a piece to replace.

        I’ve had it for 13 years now, not many automatic 2.0 Ghia wagons around so could be an interesting car to have 20 years from now..

        • I bet that’s a pretty good cruiser. I always had a soft-spot for the first-gen Focus, it was a much better car than it needed to be for the market it was targeted towards. Alas, it rusts like a Millennial Ford, which is to say, determinedly.

          • True what you said about better than it needed to be, but it shove it closer to the Golf, justifying a higher price point. Both moved up by now, replaced by Fiesta and Polo.
            Mine died by rust after 15 years, five of them in salty Norway. Liked it until then.

          • Dean Bigglesworth

            I drive new cars pretty regularly and the thing that always strikes me the most when I get back in the Focus is how well you can see out of it. And how communicative the steering is.

            There’s some other things it does better than new cars too.. Suspension is one, it’s pretty long travel so it can be both comfortable and “sporty” enough. i hate the word “sporty”. The Zetec is also a lovely engine, even though it’s nearly 30 years old by now. Not as efficient or powerful as a modern engine, but it sounds much better than any modern economy turbo and it has character and likes to rev.

            Things I don’t like is the four speed auto that, in combination with the 2 litre Zetec, gives the performance of a 1.6 and the economy of a 3 litre. And also the rust. oh, the rust..

        • There were some projects injecting a V8. Verdict was that the chassis was perfect for lighter, weaker engines and front drive.

          • Dean Bigglesworth

            You can fit a V8 in there pretty easily, FRPP even sold a “bolt-on” V8 + RWD conversion kit. And an aluminium V8 would probably not be any heavier than the cast-iron Zetec.

        • outback_ute

          Sounds like you need the Fairlane – complete with self-levelling shocks!

          • Dean Bigglesworth

            Sure. No such thing here though, want an affordable V8 and it’s either a 80’s/90’s GM B-body or a BMW / Merc of similar vintage. Possibly a 300C.

  • GOOSEBOY

    the NC 1/2 models DID have SVO parts. based on the v8 ghia, all mods were done by mick webb in australia. super rare to find them as they ony made 20 of them: only 3 went to NZ. it was the australian crown victorias mercury marauder model.