I woke with a start and a splitting headache. Looking around, everything seemed somewhat surreal and I had no clue as to my whereabouts. Trying to coax my brain into action, I doused my face with cold water. The best indicator of my location was right there at the drain, but I did not notice.
Thirsty, and feeling as if I had eaten a bale of cotton, I went to the refrigerator. Opening the door was a similarly bizarre experience. A 2 liter (2 liters – really?) bottle of beer and it was called a Stubby of all things. I was thirsty and, as they say, any port in a storm.
Turning on the television only prompted further confusion. What was this show, Hawaii Five-O or Benny Hill? It seemed to be both and McGarrett was driving a Lincoln Mark IV that was right hand drive! Weird.
Enough of that; time to turn the channel. Relieved, it was that old favorite of mine, 60 Minutes. Hey, who is this George Fungus? Where’s Mike Wallace and Morley Safer? Regardless, this report about the fleshy menaces on the beach was enough to make a person either go see for themselves or stay away.
Forget the television; I needed to go for a walk outside to clear my head. And what do I see as soon as I walk outside?
The surreal vibes were staying fairly consistent. I had to look closely – this car was as much a Ford product as old Edsel himself, but it seemed to be such a combination of various different components and unique trim. Examining these various components, a somewhat familiar looking gentleman walked up. He called himself Don.
“Yes, in a way. But what is this? It’s so familiar, yet so foreign.”
Don laughed. “Mate, from the sound of your accent, it makes me wonder which of the three of us is the foreigner!”
Listening to him, Don had such a friendly lilt in his voice, the same as George Fungus. I confess: “Okay; don’t tell anybody, but things seem half a bubble off this morning. Seriously, I haven’t been drinking that much.”
“Drinking is good for you; it kills off those low performing brain cells and makes you smarter. Why do you keep looking at this Fairlane?”
I was getting confused. First thing’s first. I had no clue where I was but didn’t want to sound too wacko too quickly.
“I have never seen a Fairlane quite like this. The Fairlane sedans I am accustomed to seeing look a bit different.
“This one looks some like a Fairlane from some angles but the trim around these stacked headlights brings to mind a 1965 Ford Galaxie.
“Looking at the old girl’s rear, it’s different–it looks like Dick Teague breathed on it. But the Fairlane 500 script is right there. I want to say this is a Canadian model, but the steering wheel is on the starboard side.”
Don smiled. “Stranger, what you have here is a ZC Fairlane; it’s not Canadian, it’s Australian! These ZCs were built from July 1969 to November 1970.”
I’m relieved. “It’s Australian! How the heck did…”
“Mate, we have a long history with Ford around here. And yes, we did get unassembled knockdowns from Canada but we built this car here. Before we built our own cars, we found being in the British Commonwealth allowed us to avoid import tariffs. Having cars come straight from the United States would have been pricey and you blokes build the cabins backwards.
“We often got the bubbles and squeaks from the car companies. Our 1958 models looked a lot like the ’55s from the United States,
“And our 1960 and 1961 Fairlanes were simply 1959 Fords from the United States with some trim changes.”
I was amazed. “So did you have any input on the design?”
Laughing, Don said, “Mate, we often have to improve upon what others have done or just improvise. In 1934, Lew Brandt developed the ute since banks wouldn’t loan money for passenger cars. When the Ranchero was introduced in the U.S. in 1957, it was old hat for us.
“We also had U.S. Falcon designs starting in 1960. When we introduced the XP, we made a bunch of modifications. In fact, Ford Australia took five of them around the You Yang facility in Victoria, driving them for 70,000 miles at an average speed of 71 mph. Two of them rolled over, but still finished–they’re a bloody tough car. This ZC is pretty much a Falcon with a wheelbase stretch of five inches so the passengers out back have more room. Even the doors are interchangeable.”
Finally starting to have some sense of familiarity, I asked, “What’s under the hood?”
“Hood? Isn’t that the sheila from the fairy-tale? You must be talking about the bonnet.”
“Yes, the bonnet. What’s she packing?”
“Standard Fairlanes got a six-cylinder of 231 cubes; the 500 like this one got a 302 V8 as standard issue as well as disc brakes. This ZC also had an option for a 351–that big mob of an engine is 5.8 liters for us metric types. Air conditioning was also available for the first time on the ZC. Weird, but the previous ZB got a vinyl roof option but no air; that’s like getting tarted up without changing your underwear.”
“The ZC was also the first car in Australia with a factory fitted sunroof.”
Don is certainly knowledgeable about Fords. From the sound of it, Ford had a much better naming system than did Holden. Pick a letter followed by an “A” for the first series, then go to “B”, and so on. How logical; explanation of its naming convention certainly doesn’t require a cocktail of nonsense and periodic tables as does the Holden Monaro. However, the Monaro name does impart more auditory titillation than does Fairlane–life is full of trade-offs.
Talking to Don a bit longer, I finally ask him my biggest burning question: “Where in the world am I?”
“Jason, you and your wife came to Melbourne for the Moomba Festival. You really hit the turps; don’t you remember?”
Like an engine that cannot decide if it wants to start, something in my brain catches and it all floods back to me. No more Bundaberg Rum for me; I don’t care how much alcohol helps clear the brain of unproductive cells, Old Bundy doesn’t play well with me.
(Another hearty thank-you to Mr. Don Andreina for providing the photos of this amazing ZC Fairlane; he is truly a man of good taste.)