The car that introduced luxury to more Australians than any other in the 1960s
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The lineage of the 1968 Ford Fairlane 500 dates back to 1949 when Ford Australia introduced the locally built Ford Custom ‘Single Spinner’, a stylish sedan in a similar size category to the 1968 Fairlane. The Fairlane was named after the Ford family estate, Fair Lane, in Dearborn, Michigan USA.
The ’49 Ford Custom ‘Single Spinner’ was followed by the Ford Custom ‘Twin Spinner’ in 1951 leading to the Ford Customline in 1952. From 1955 until 1958, Ford Australia offered four successive Australian assembled Customline models that became quite popular in the luxury sector with professional and rural customers.
The 1955 Ford Customline offered a 272ci OHV V8 engine, a 3 speed column shift manual and had styling aligned to its US counterpart. For 1956, the Customline’s grille was updated, its roof was lowered 1.5 inches and mid-year saw the introduction of the optional ‘Fordomatic’ automatic transmission.
The 1957 Ford Customline featured chrome side trim styling from the 1956 US Fairlane, a large V8 badge in the grille but it retained the Customline name and it wasn’t until late 1959 that Ford Australia first used the name Fairlane.
The final Ford Australia 1958 Customline ‘Star’ model used the grille from Ford Canada's 1955 Rideau and the side chrome trim from Ford Canada's 1956 Meteor and was perhaps the most stylish of all of the Australian Customlines.
For 1959, Ford Australia re-aligned itself to the latest US Fairlane model, later nicknamed the ‘Tank Fairlane’. This time, the new Fairlane was fully manufactured in Australia and was the first car to roll off the production line at Ford’s new Broadmeadows, Victoria plant. There were three models; the Custom 300, Fairlane 500 and Ranch Wagon.
Ford's new design 1960 and ’61 US Fairlanes did not make it to Australia, but Ford Australia released two minor facelifted versions of the ‘Tank Fairlane’ for the Australian market to cover those years.
Ford Australia imported a downsized ‘Compact’ Fairlane in CKD form for 1962 based on the Canadian Mercury Comet with a 221ci V8 engine. Two facelifted ‘Compact’ Fairlanes followed for 1963 and 1964, with the first 1963 facelift continuing the small tail fin styling but now with a 260ci V8 engine. The final 1964 model had no fins, a 289ci V8 engine and looked very much like a small Ford Galaxie.
Ford Australia offered no Fairlanes for most of model year 1965 and nothing for 1966 with the Falcon, Fairmont and larger Galaxie having to cover the segment.
On February 27 1967 Ford Australia launched its first locally developed ZA series Fairlane based on the 1966 US Fairlane, with 95% local content, a 289ci V8 engine and an optional 200ci six cylinder engine. The ZA to ZD series of Fairlanes were the first home grown Fairlanes that were tailored and developed for the Australian market.
The 1967 ZA Fairlanes used a stretched Australian Falcon XR platform with a 5 inch longer wheelbase of 116 inches and an overall length of 196 inches. The front of the Fairlane was essentially an Australian Falcon with a unique to Fairlane grille featuring twin headlights, while the rear panels and boot were imported and of US design. The comparable US Fairlane of the ’67 and ’68 era had a stacked headlight arrangement which did not appear in Australia until the ZC and ZD series.
The 1968 ZB Ford Fairlane was a mild face lifted version of the 1967 ZA series but now offering a 302ci V8 engine. The popularity of the Fairlane grew rapidly and it soon became a leader in its class. Cars at a similar level of luxury were often double the price. Total production for the Ford Fairlane ZB series was 10,708.
Ford advertising for the 1968 Ford Fairlane stated: “This is the luxury motorcar that more people move up to than any other car”. The Fairlane Custom was the base model while the Fairlane 500 was the top of the range and came equipped with “Twin-Comfort lounge” front seats, a “Mustang V8” engine and a “SelectShift Cruise-O-Matic” automatic transmission.
Ford Australia released an all new, so called Australian designed ZF series Fairlane in 1972 and they were the first Fairlanes in Australia that had no direct connection to a US Ford model as the Fairlane was no longer offered in the USA. Ford Australia did not have the capability of creating full size clay models in Australia at that time, so they sent their 3 top designers to Detroit in May 1968 for an extended stay. Their task was to design the new Falcon and Fairlane range in conjunction with their Detroit design counterparts.
The next series, the Fairlane ZH was built between 1976 and 1979 and still retained the 116 inch wheelbase but featured a larger body. Australia’s unique Ford Fairlane continued through different series until December 2007 when it was finally retired.
Our 1968 Ford Fairlane 500 was purchased new from Bib Stillwell Ford in Cotham Road, Kew VIC by Eric Driver in September 1968 and has been kept by the family since that time.
The 1968 Ford Fairlane 500 is powered by a “Mustang V8” 302ci petrol engine with a 3 speed automatic transmission.
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1968 Ford Fairlane