Last week I caught myself an Aussie beast rarer than the Tasmanian Tiger: a Ford Landau. This example was being driven by an old dear, at least 70 years old, propped up on cushions. I think she saw me with my phone ready to snap, because the car paused for a moment before running off into the wild. Which makes now the best time for an overview of the 1972-1979 Broughamus Fordaustralis.
In 1972, a completely new design clothed the Australian ‘full-size’ XA Falcon range. As per Ford Australia’s product spread, a LWB Fairlane variant was to be made available. For the previous three years, the Australian Fairlane had essentially been a local version of the US stacked-light Fairlane/Comet. This blue example is the April 1972-released ZF Fairlane.
The XA series was designed by the Ford Australia team of Brian Rossi (who sketched the original Hardtop coupe upon which the entire range was based), Allan Jackson, and design head Jack Telnack. These three individuals were transplanted to the US in May 1968 to take advantage of clay modelling capabilities not yet available in Australia.
According to author Joe Kenwright, the ‘final’ signed-off clay from 1969 as shown here featured a protruding centre in the grille. When Bill Bourke, legendary MD of Ford Australia, saw this he decided to pull it from the ‘bread-and-butter’ ranges, and use it on models anticipated to be even more premium than the Fairlane. The Fairlane itself was to have only a ‘watered down’ version of this protruding grille.
The ZF Fairlane styling differed from the XA (Falcon) mostly at its extremities. The lettered bonnet peak and ‘watered down’ protruding grille with crest and twinset headlights alerted you that this was no mere Falcon, Futura or Fairmont; and the rear light cluster was a unique full width strip arrangement. Inside, front seat passengers enjoyed similar high-backed ‘tombstone’ buckets as in the SWB Fairmont (a higher trim Falcon, for those unfamiliar with Aussie Ford nomenclature), and those in the rear could give their legs a bit more of a stretch.
Aussies could choose a ZF from two levels; the Fairlane Custom and Fairlane 500. The Custom came standard with the 250 I6, and with the 500 it was the 302 V8. Both could be ordered with the 351 Cleveland. The body was 198.8 inches long and 74.6 wide. Wheelbase was 116 in. (compared with 111 in. in the SWB models) and track was 60.5 (front) and 60 (rear). If you were too far away to see the badging, the Fairlane 500 could be distinguished by the chrome strip running under the doors.
In 1973, Ford’s highest premium range was launched. Intended as a replacement for the 72 Galaxie LTD which had been brought in by Ford Australia and converted to RHD, the P5 LTD–as photographed here by Glen.h–was much closer in appearance to its Aussie brethren. The snout from the original XA clay model was finally utilised in its uninterrupted horizontal-bar form. And on either side was an Aussie-made first; headlights hidden behind vacuum-operated flip-up covers.
The P5 LTD was even longer than the Fairlane. Wheelbase was increased to 121 inches and overall length to 203.8 inches, with that wheelbase increase being taken by the rear doors. The LTD featured unique side markers front and rear, and the rear quarters were re-profiled with a taller edged ‘fin’. The 351 came standard along with a plusher interior and air conditioning. The extra-rare 1975 LTD Town Car came with a leather bound owner’s manual and an LTD umbrella.
And if the 1973 LTD wasn’t enough to keep the patriotic elite in a frenzy, Ford concurrently launched the Landau. It was a Falcon Hardtop body dressed in an LTD tuxedo inside and out. The first Aussie-built car to feature four-wheel disc brakes, but not the first ‘super’ premium coupe built here (that honour goes to the 1971 Chrysler by Chrysler CH Two Door Coupe). Pictured here is a 1975 model wearing disc wheelcovers from the LTD Town Car (initially a fiftieth anniversary commemorative trim package) .
When you compare the profile with the incoming XB Hardtop, the most visible change to the Landau is the shape of the rear quarter window. This ‘filling-in’ of the metal work, coupled with the high moisture-retention vinyl roof, resulted in much ownership angst and presumably many casualties in the years since. The Landau also received the full width rear light strip from the P5 LTD, which itself was different from the Fairlane version. (The 1973 ZG Fairlane was pretty much the same as the ZF, with an eggcrate-type grille replacing the more horizontal ZF version.)
In 1976 the curvy bread-and-butter range received its final styling warmover as the XC. The longer wheelbase saloons copped a more substantial redesign. Their bodies received a squarer set of edges and ends in keeping with trends in the US market. The ZH Fairlane had the same 116 in. wheelbase as the ZF/ZG, but was now 204.6 in. long and 77 in. wide. The 250 I6 was dropped from the ZH, so the 500 became the base model and the Marquis was introduced as the Fairlane’s top model. Those squarish lines made the ZH perhaps the most harmonious expression of all these 70s super premium Fords.
Again, the LTD received the most distinctive visage, this time with a prominent upright grille that evoked Britain’s finest. Coded P6, this car was now 211.2 in. long on its 121 in. wheelbase. Width was the same as the ZH. Some may say that face is straight off the Cordoba, I prefer to think Ford consulted my Grandfather who had replaced his company Galaxie with a Volvo 164 to carry him in his retirement.
Dimensional differences are most apparent in these profile shots. The white Fairlane was captured recently by fellow carspotter AVL, whilst the lens-flared LTD is the best I could get with my phone camera (apologies). The ZH Fairlane received the newly waist-lined rear doors from the XC sedan, and the P6 LTD carried over the glasshouse and doors from the P5. These two bodies did a very effective job of hiding their curvy origins.
Apparently an updated P6 Landau Hardtop was considered, but never moved past a single styling proposal. Production numbers for the P5 Landau are quoted at 272 or 1385, either way not very many and for Ford Australia, not nearly enough to justify the costs when the base hardtop was nearing run-out mode. 1979 marked the end of the curvy XA-XC period for Ford. It was to be replaced by the squarebox XD range, and the super premium models followed suit. But that story is for another time.
It was astonishing enough capturing an unrestored Landau on the road. Luckier still, I got it with headlights exposed and in use, even though it was still light enough to shoot. But for me the most amazing thing was the diminutive dame driving it. I can still picture her as she glided past; hat pulled down tightly, perched high in the cockpit and totally in control of her power-everythinged 351-engined beast. Ma’am, if you’re reading this, you have my deep admiration. I wish we could have had a chat.