Having a particularly slow one at work, so I thought I'd make a foray out of the legal world in to automotive journalism...
(note: nothing quoted in this is to be taken as fact. Research undertaken involved driving to work this morning, and asking my boss if his car "went hard" He assures me it does.)
FAIRLANE REVIEW: A TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE
1977 ZH Marquis v 1995 NF Ghia v 2003 BA G220
The big Aussie man needs a big Aussie car. Simple. If you're reading this, chances are you'd rather push a Skoda than drive a Statesman, so that kinda narrows the field. Ford first released the Aussie built Fairlane wa-a-a-y back in the 60's with the ZA, and haven't stopped since. The choice of models to review for this article was easy: the 3 closest Fairlanes to where I sit now - my own ZH, my father's NF and the boss's BA. My family has a long history with these beasts - between my father and my grandfather and myself, we've had: a '63 Yank Compact, ZC, ZH, ZK, ZL, NA, NF and AU.
So... What are our criteria for the working man's luxury car? For no particular reason, I identified these as - size, grunt, buttons and velour.
Fairlane owners are drivers. A weekend jaunt to the Blue Mountains (from Cairns) is nothing to us. Therefore, we need a big cruising machine. On a clear Brisbane morning, I can almost see the front of the ZH's bonnet from the drivers seat. A cd tossed on the backseat requires a search party. A 1977 manual lists the cabin width of a Marquis as 64 metres, and the total vehicle length as "Gosh, the tape measure isn't that long!" This trend has continued right up to today, where parallel parking a G220 in town becomes a skills test requiring a shop window, a quantity surveyor, a crowd of interested bystanders and a good panel beater.
These generous dimensions allow Fairlane drivers many advantages over drivers of smaller cars. How often do we laugh as we watch someone whip their Astra up the highway at 120kph, knees on the steering wheel, forehead against the windscreen, harangued by wife and kids at his shoulder and back? All as we sail past at a very comfortable 135, legs stretched, air-con and stereo on, crownie in hand, missus somewhere over the other side of the car and not a care in the world.
For outright size, the ZH obviously tops the list. Un-manouverable, un-parkable, unbelieveable! For interior roominess, however, the NF and BA are streets ahead. Legroom and headroom in the newer Fairlanes is second to none, all in a far more compact package than the older models.
What would a Fairlane be without a ball-tearing lump of iron up the pointy end? (a Mercedes, most probably...) Ford first wedged a Windsor V8 in the Fairlane back in... er.. the 60's. From there they progressed through 289, 302 and 351 Windsors, 302 and 351 Clevelands, Back to 5.0l Windsors and now in to the 5.4l modular V8. And let's not forget the mighty Ford I6's that have graced more economy-minded Fairlanes over the years - 221 Super Pursuits, the awesome 2v 250's of the 70's, the groundbreaking EFI crossflow motors of the 80's and the Tickford 4.0's of the 90's.
In this case, the three cars compared are of vastly different spec levels. The ZH tested was powered by a moderately worked 302 Cleveland, putting around 180hp through the wheels. The NF is a standard Inline 6, rated at (from memory) around the 165kW mark. The BA G220 is powered by a 5.4 litre modular V8, rated at 220kW.
Unfortunately, the writers experience of the G220 was limited to several short passenger trips, due to trust issues with the owner. Both the ZH and the NF have been extensively thrashed over a 12 month period. Overall, all cars have been very impressive. Straight line performance would obviously go to the G220, with outstanding performance from the base model 8 banger.
The NF has proved supple and surprisingly fast, in an "oh my god, please slow down Nick" kind of way. For good, ol' fashioned grunt though, the 4-barrel Clevo revving out through 4500 rpm cannot be beaten. Whilst it might be the slowest of the lot (mostly due to weight and gearing factors), the sound and the kick-in-the-pants given when the ZH hits second gear is heavenly.
These are luxury cars, right? And how does one ultimately define luxury? Buttons. Features. Gadgets. All three cars tested had these in an abundance. Some examples -
ZH - Buttons for up/down aerial, heaps of buttons for up/down windows, buttons that (sometimes) move the seats up/down/forward/back/tilt), multi-speed wipers, buttons that change the air fron warm to hot, buttons that turn map lights on.
NF - all of the above, plus funky climate control screen, buttons that lock and unlock the doors, buttons that pop the boot, buttons that pop the fuel cap, trip computer thing that tells even more convincing lies about the amount of fuel left than I do...
BA - all of the above, plus a very cool sat-nav screen and some other stuff.
The amount of velour in a car is another vital test of luxury. There's nothing better than settling back in to a soft, fluffy seat to begin a long journey. In this category, the NF wins hands down. EVERYTHING is velour. Seats, headlining, door trims, radio, steering wheel, bonnet... The ZH is a close second, with lovely white velour seats and accents on the door trims. The BA, however, is a real let down in this department. Red leather covers all in sight. Whilst some may say this is superior to velour, I would tend to disagree - cold in winter, hot and sticky in summer. My boss mentioned something about the girls loving a leather backseat, but I had my hands over my ears at that stage.
All in all, three classic pieces of Australian motoring history. Ultimately, a decision cannot be made as to which is superior. The ZH's classic lines will appeal to anyone who owns an oil refinery. The NF's inexpensive luxury is an excellent choice for the entry-level buyer, or the retiree wishing to tow a caravan around the country. The G220 represents the pinnacle of current sports-luxury motoring, perfect for the executive who still fancies himself a bogan, but wants a big shiny car to impress his colleagues too.
351C ZH MARQUISINATOR
Presenting, at great cost to management:
.020 over 351 Clevo, 10:1 comp, ported 302 heads, blueprinted and balanced, custom ground cam, Edelbrock intake, 600 Holley, K&N air filter, Custom Zip-Ties(tm), MSD ignition, Genie extractors, 2 x 2.5" exhaust, 2800rpm stally, rooted C4