1969-1972 Ford Fairlane 500 ZC-ZD - Buyers' Guide

By: Cliff Chambers, Rob Blackbourn, Photography by: Nathan Duff

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Gotta love a big and burly V8 Fairlane!

 

Ford Fairlane ZC-ZD

Bookie or bank manger, millionaire or small town mayor, your ZC-ZD Fairlane crossed every divide in 1970s Australia and looked absolutely at home when parked outside Parliament or an outback cattle auction.

These were the cars that established Ford Australia as the nation’s go-to source of tough, roomy prestige cars.

The original ‘Aussie’ Fairlane released in 1967 was a near-duplicate of the US model with a local nose. It did well in the showrooms though, with ZA and ZB models mustering almost 20,000 sales in the space of 27 months.

fairlane-500-1.jpgIn this hue the Fairlane makes a bold statement

Ford spent that time devising a ZC model that would bring Fairlane buyers a muscular new shape and allow it to challenge on equal terms a variety of more expensive imports.

| Read more: Ford 427 R-code Fairlane review

ZCs used the same wheelbase and basic structure from the ZA/ZB cars but new sheet metal emphasised the car’s size and presence. Most obvious were vertically-stacked headlamps and a revised grille, square-edged rear quarters that looked like they came from a Lincoln and wraparound tail-lamp clusters.

The ZC enhanced its new shape with a broadened range of colours plus optional vinyl roof covering. An expanded options list included the 351 cubic-inch (5.8-litre) V8 which was shared with the Falcon GT.

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The base model was a six-cylinder Custom with 3 speed manual transmission (although most sold were automatics), a bench front seat, drum brakes and cross-ply tyres. These cost $3330, or $1040 less than a V8-engined `500’ that came with disc brakes, reclining bucket seats, plasti-wood dash trim and stainless sill mouldings.

| Reader ride: 1971 Ford ZD Fairlane 500

Even basic items like a radio were optional (at an extra $123), with air-conditioning adding $407 and Australia’s first factory-fitted steel sunroof at $163 extra.

November 1970 brought a facelifted ZD model with slight changes that would make a world of difference to the Fairlane’s market presence. The grille changed from polished steel strips to a chunky new design, additional body embellishment and brushed metal hubcaps.

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The colour range was expanded and spectacular and no Ford dealer display was complete without a ZD in Wild Violet or Vermillion Fire to drag in the customers.

ZDs with the optional 351 engine, disc brakes and ER70 radial rubber were regarded as viable alternatives to the GT Falcon but without the loud striping or insurance costs. Although disc/drum braking was big news back in 1970, anyone planning to use their ZC/ZD as a tow car should opt for a one that’s been converted to four-wheel discs.

RESTOMOD ZD

The car you see here was originally photographed as part of a bigger cover story on Wild Violet Fords, back in 2015, but we never got a chance to feature it properly.

fairlane-500-3.jpgFive slots and red walls hint at its GT origins

Then owner Darren X told us: It’s a very, very rare eleventh-month 1971 K-Code car. A mate of mine found it as a painted shell with a lot of new old-stock parts and put it all back together minus the original dealer-fitted Continental roof, which I’ve since put on. Not many were sold with the Continental roof and most people have never seen one.

At the moment it has the 383 stroker in it when I bought it but I have the original block and heads if we ever decide to return it to original specs.

It originally came with a factory T-Bar auto but it’s got a Top Loader now, which is great as well. I’ve had a few HOs in my life and still have a couple of them tucked away, but this is the first ZD Fairlane I’ve owned and I only bought it because of its rarity.

fairlane-500-front.jpgOne thing it aint lacking is chrome

MARKET REVIEW

ZC/ZD Fairlanes have been with us for close on 50 years yet they survive in surprisingly healthy numbers. Around 25,000 were made, with production split almost equally between the two Series. However today you are more likely to find a ZD – especially genuine 351 cars – than the same specification in a ZC.

Condition significantly influences the money a car is likely to achieve. So too does authenticity. Plenty of reference material is available against which to check build numbers and paint codes. A car with ‘K’ as the character in its engine code was built originally with a 351 V8. Cars with a different letter and a 351 will have acquired the engine later.

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ZCs and ZDs in decent condition with 302 (4.9-litre) V8s can still be found below $20,000 but from there the money being sought increases rapidly.

The 351 end of the price scale now begins at $30,000 and might exceed $50,000 if the car is documented in a scarce colour combination like our Wild Violet cover car with a good selection of original accessories.

MANUAL FAIRLANE - SURELY NOT!

While a factory original Wild Violet ZD Fairlane can raise a few eyebrows, Ford’s Broadmeadows assembly plant produced another interesting variation on the theme. A Ford Head Office executive back in the day who usually leased GT Falcons, agreed to his wife’s request that just for a change he order a Fairlane as his next company car. The one snag was that he was a rusted-on three-pedal man. It had to be manual, and a V8.

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After the predictable response from the bureaucracy that V8 Fairlanes were strictly ‘auto-only’, he dug deeper into the option sheets and discovered that a V8 ZD Fairlane could be built in manual form (three on the tree), but not as a Fairlane 500 – it had to be the base-model Fairlane Custom .

Produced as a Diamond White ZD Fairlane Custom, with a 351-2V/three-speed manual driveline, and for good measure a bench front-seat, it was one of the more unusual cars in the Head Office car park.

fairlane-500-engine-bay-3.jpgDon’t believe the sticker, it’s a 383 stoker under the filter

VALUE RANGE - FORD FAIRLANE

FAIR: $12,000
GOOD: $27,000
EXCELLENT: $40,000 (ZD 351)

(Note: concours cars will demand more)

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BUYER'S CHECKLIST:

BODY & CHASSIS

Rust is the big killer of these cars and with good replacement panels in short supply the cost of rejuvenating a seriously rusted car is hard to justify. Those which present reasonably well still need to be checked for rust beneath body mouldings, in the doors, lower edge of the boot-lid, around the rear window and inside the boot. Used rust-free doors cost $200-300, new bonnets are $800-900. Check the ZD grille for chunks of missing plastic because undamaged grille inserts are hard to locate. Decent used bumpers have been seen recently at $350 each and new ones are quoted at $550. Rechroming original bars can cost more than $1000 per pair. Complete kits of body rubbers aren’t cheap at $1800 per set.

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ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

Ford V8s are durable, easy to fix and cheap to replace. Look for oil leaks around the heads, power steering pump, welch plugs and water pump. Start up exhaust smoke can signal worn valve guides, a continuous blue plume means a $3000-5000 rebuild. Non-standard carbs fitted to V8-engined cars can cause problems. Fairlanes usually have a C4 auto that unless severely abused will survive indefinitely. Signs of a ‘box needing a rebuild include abrupt upshifts and gears taking longer to select at rest. Three-speed manual or the scarce four-speed are equally durable. Standard diffs or the limited-slip unit that was mandatory with the `351’ engine will leak oil but should not whine or clunk.

fairlane-500-pedals.jpgPower Disc brakes. Mandatory in this beast

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Fairlanes and Falcons share suspension design so expect creaking and thumps unless the joints, arms and bushes have been recently replaced. Edge worn tyres mean immediate work. Leaf springs crack and in extreme cases the mounting pivots and shackles can fail. Look for rust around spring attachment points. Shockers especially fronts need regular replacement. All-drum cars are scarce and why bother when everything to maintain a disc-front car or convert one from drums is available. New master cylinders cost $200 and exchange boosters are $350. Ensure the handbrake works and releases easily. New cables and pulleys are around $100.

fairlane-500-interior.jpgGT-wheel and manual shifter; two features rare in a Fairlane. Optional leather trim works a treat

INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

Cars with their original seat vinyl are keenly sought and still not difficult to find. If the seats are torn or badly discoloured, adjust your offer to cover the cost of new trim. Original vinyl is still available but you might need to compromise on colour. Carpet sets and new headlining are off-the-shelf items. Electrics generally give little trouble although the headlamps benefit from halogen inserts. Starter motors can get noisy well before they fail. Factory air-con came either fully-integrated with extra dash vents or with an under-dash outlet. If the A/C isn’t working, allow $1500-2500 for repair or replacement.

1969-72 Ford Fairlane 500 ZC-ZD specs

NUMBER MADE: 12,513 (ZC); 12,797 (ZD)
BODY: all-steel, unitary construction four-door sedan
ENGINE: 4089cc six-cylinder, 4942cc or 5766cc V8 with overhead valves and downdraft carburettor
POWER & TORQUE: 186kW @ 4600rpm, 481Nm @ 2600rpm (351)
PERFORMANCE: 0-97km/h
8.9 sec, 0-400 metres 16.6 sec. (351 auto)
TRANSMISSION: three or four speed manual, three-speed automatic
SUSPENSION: independent with coil springs, wishbones, anti-roll bar and telescopic shocks (f); live axle with leaf springs and telescopic shocks (r)
BRAKES: Drum (f) Drum (r) or V8 – Disc (f) Drum (r) with power assistance
TYRES: 6.95 x 14 crossply, ER70H14 radial (mandatory with 351 engine)

 

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