Australia’s Biggest Land Yacht – The Ford NC Fairlane

Welcome to MotoringBox. Today, we’re looking at one of the largest
sedans ever built in Australia. The Ford NC Fairlane. But first, we’re gonna go back in time. The Fairlane name might be familiar to some
North American viewers as a model sold by Ford there from 1955 to 1970. The American Fairlane was introduced into
the Australian market in 1959, and was assembled locally using kits sourced from Ford of Canada. This continued through until 1967, when Ford
of Australia released their new locally-developed Fairlane. The ZA was based on the Australian XR Falcon
of the time, and sat above it as a sort of longer wheelbased, more luxury orientated
model. This proved to be a winning formula, and Ford
Australia continued to offer the Fairlane version alongside every Falcon model which
followed. The ZB, ZC, ZD, ZF, ZG, ZH, ZJ, ZK, ZL, and
finally the NA Fairlane of 1989 were not only longer than the Falcon models on which they
were based, but also had their own unique styling while sharing almost all of the same
mechanical components. Now this brings us through to the NC Fairlane
which was introduced by Ford of Australia in 1991. Now, one very important upgrade that came
with the NC Fairlane was the return of the mighty 302 Windsor V8. Now the reason I say important, is because
the last time a Falcon or a Fairlane ever came with a V8 was back in 1982 – when it
was dropped because of the whole fuel crisis that was going on at the time. Now this car sold brand new in the 90s for
$41,000, which is about $75,000 in today’s money. There was also an LTD version, which had a
leather interior, and a few other trinkets which sold at the time for $55,000 – or about
$100,000 in today’s money. That’s a lot of cash to pay for what was essentially
working class luxury. And as a result, Ford only sold about 14,000
NC Fairlanes, and around 1,800 DC LTDs. But enough about that. Let’s take a look at this NC Fairlane, my
NC Fairlane, and see what makes it unique. Now the first thing I want to talk about is
the sheer size of this thing. The NC Fairlane measures in at more than 5.3
metres – that’s over 17 feet long. No other Fairlane before it or since were
any longer, and in fact, I’m really struggling to think of any Australian built car which
was any longer. If you know of one, let me know in the comments
below. But let’s go beyond the NC Fairlane’s size
and look at it’ styling. Now ever since I saw one of these back in
the 1990s as a boy I’ve always been a fan of how they looked, and when this one came
up for sale I simply had to have it. The sort of squared off, yet rounded American
styling with its wide headlights and front grille arrangement. The full wrap around chrome body mouldings,
and the blacked out B and C pillars which provided one of perhaps the earliest examples
of what manufacturers nowadays refer to as a floating roofline. As a piece of 1990s automotive styling, I
think it looks great, but it isn’t all smooth sailing. Now let’s see if you can spot something wrong
here. No? How about now. That’s right, this long-wheelbase luxury limousine
has incredibly small rear doors. It’s kind of one of those things that you
can’t un-see after you’ve seen it. Now, this is because the Fairlane shares its
doors with the shorter wheelbase Falcon on which its based. And when Ford of Australia were lengthening
the body, they simply added it here. Now this allowed Ford of Australia to set
the rear seats a little bit further back for increased leg room, and their small size doesn’t
really affect the operation – there’s an incredible amount of space here and you can still get
in and out extremely easily. But, when it comes to looks? You decide. Next up we’ll talk engines. Now the Fairlane was available with an Australian
developed 4.0L straight six. But it could also be optioned with a 5.0L
Windsor V8. But if you think that Ford borrowed it from
the Mustang in the States, you’d be wrong. Now whether it was for cost or durability’s
sake, the Windsor V8 engine offered in the Fairlane was actually imported from Canada,
where it was used in all of Ford’s F-Truck models. In order to fit this engine into the Australian
Fairlane, the inlet manifold had to be reversed for right-hand drive packaging reasons – and
this meant the rest of the air-inlet and many of the belt driven accessories are also on
the opposite side of the engine bay compared to left-hand drive vehicles. The 5.0L V8 developed adequate power for the
time – 165kw – and 388Nm of torque – which was all sent to the rear wheels via a BTR
4-speed automatic transmission. There are cars with 4-cylinder turbocharged
engines today which absolutely destroy this thing in terms of power and fuel economy. Plus, if you’re stuck in stop-start city traffic,
you can expect things to get much, much worse. Now there was one other thing which I thought
was quite interesting. You’ll notice there are two air ducts here
on the front of the engine bay. Now the first one here runs to the airbox
and then into the engine – nothing strange about that. But the second one is actually for the battery. The battery has it’s own air inlet and shroud
to protect it from all of the heat circulating around inside the engine bay. Now I’m sure there are probably other vehicles
out there which have something similar, but is the first time I’ve ever seen it and I
think its pretty cool. Now the main drawcard for the Fairlane has
always been interior space, and in that regard it does not disappoint. There is simply an insane amount of space
in this car. Inside you’ll find a full velour interior
with lounge style front seats, and one of the most comfortable and deeply padded rears
seats I’ve ever experienced. The amount of leg room back here is also pretty
amazing – I’m around 6’1″ and with the driver’s seat positioned to my liking there’s still
a huge amount of space back here for a second person of my size – and more. But apart from the comfort and the space,
passengers here don’t get a lot else. There’s a fold down centre arm rest, a map
light on each side, a lovely strip of actual laquered wood, electric windows and an ashtray
for your cigarette. Up front, the wood and velour theme continues,
except you’ll notice there aren’t any electric window switches on the door. That’s because Ford decided to put them down
here on the centre console, completely unlabelled. If you stab away at them you’ll soon work
out that the outer two switches control the front windows, the inner two control the rear,
and the centre switch locks out the rear window controls for back seat passengers. You’ll also notice that the driver’s window
is auto-down, and it achieves this by physically holding down the switch until the window reaches
the bottom. The NC Fairlane also shares it’s entire dashboard
with the ED Falcon on which it was based, and as a result they look largely the same. The NC Fairlane however did receive a few
upgrades. For a start, the Fairlane gained a semi-digital
instrument cluster which is quite unique. The speed and mileage figures are displayed
on oldschool LCD displays – exactly like that calculator you used back in primary school. While the tachometer, fuel and temperature
gauges remain analogue. But perhaps the most interesting thing is
over on the left. Now it was typical for most cars of the 90s
to have a generic warning light which would illuminate whenever a door was left open or
not closed properly. But the NC Fairlane goes one step further,
and actually provides you with a dedicated diagram of the car – and shows you exactly
which door is open at any given time. And this also includes the boot / trunk, and
even the fuel flap. To me it is crazy that Ford would dedicate
so much space on the cluster for this information, but well, they did. Moving across and you’ll find the Fairlane’s
automatic climate controls. Both the air conditioning and heater on this
car are incredibly powerful, and they can be set to your liking by simply adjusting
the temperature up or down and the computer handles the rest. Most of the other controls are spelt out in
English, although curiously Ford decided to hide some of the more specific ventilation
options under this little spring loaded door. Next, we have the trip computer – and I know
what you’re thinking, how rediculous does this thing look. I’d say people back in the 90s probably weren’t
even impressed by this. Firstly, you have your instant fuel economy
which will show you the Fairlane’s fuel thirst in realtime. But I wouldn’t recommend using this because
the figures you’ll see will truly shock you. In daily driving it’ll swing anywhere from
8 to 99L/100km. That’s a range of 29mpg down to just 2mpg. Slightly less alarming is the average fuel
economy, average speed and range remaining figures. But perhaps the funniest thing on this entire
vehicle is revealed when you go to set the date and time. Here, you’ve got the hours and minutes as
usual and then you need to set the year. But hey, it’s 2018 now so let’s sort this
out. So you press search to increase the year until
you reach 1999… but there’s a problem. Now at this point I bet you’re thinking…
aha! The next years going to be 1900 – because
of the whole Y2K / Year 2000 bug right? Well you’d be wrong. It’s 1972. I mean who signed off on the design of this
unit? For a car that went on sale just 7 years before
the year 2000… it’s absolutely crazy. Moving down and you’ll see that this Fairlane
still retains the existing factory stereo, and at the time I’m sure it was all very impressive. There’s certainly no faulting the sound quality
– it’s great even by today’s standards. There are 8 speakers in total, and a subwoofer
on the rear parcel shelf, and the headunit itself offers FM radio and cassette tape options
as you’d expect for the time period, plus access to up to 6 CDs loaded into the stacker
in the rear of the vehicle. Well that’s about all there is look at in
here, so let’s take the big Fairlane out for a drive. Okay, driving the NC Fairlane. Well if you thought this car looked big on
the outside, it feels even bigger in here to be honest. Despite its size, the NC Fairlane isn’t as
heavy as you’d expect – it weighs in at 1,600kg, or around 3,500lbs. For a car of this size it’s actually pretty
good. Not that it really helps fuel economy or performance
though. Now a V8 NC Fairlane will do 0-100km/h in
about 8 seconds… on a crest of clutch fan noise… and probably drink a couple of dollarydoos
worth of petrol in the process. But once you get up to highways speeds, things
do kind of even out a little bit. Cruising along about 100km/h you could probably
expect 10L/100km? For what it is the V8 produces pretty decent
torque… not a lot of power, but the torque is there. Which is pretty useful when you’ve only got
4 gears to play with. And off the line… it’s pretty slow really. But the gearbox does have two shift settings. There’s an economy setting which is pretty
much normal, and Power which does let the RPMs go a little bit higher and shift a little
bit firmer. Big Australian Fords like the Falcon and the
Fairlane really feel at home on these sort of undulating 100km/h Australian country roads. They sort of waft along and soak up all of
the undulations and potholes in the road, but also they’re kind of stiff enough to inspire
you in the corners with a little bit of confidence. It’s certainly not like one of those old American
Cadillacs where they kind of lean into the corners like a boat. It’s actually, for what it is, handles pretty
well. The seats? They’re pretty much as comfortable your sofa
is at home and it’s really good for sort of long distance trips. At speed the engine itself is also pretty
quiet. Most of the time it almost sounds like it’s
running on air, even though the trip computer assures you that that is simply not the case. But while you’re wafting along at speed there’s
one thing you should probably keep in the back of your mind. And that is that the Fairlane has no safety
equipment of any kind.. really. There are no airbags, there’s no traction
control, stability management. It does however, have ABS… except for the
times when it doesn’t. So get comfortable. Just not too comfortable. Safety features aside though, I think the
NC Fairlane is the perfect car for those who are looking for a piece of Australiana that
they can cruise along in, in comfort and style. Without costing too much money. And, like me, if that sounds like you, then
you can’t really go wrong. Well thank you for joining me, I hope you
enjoyed the video. If you did, like, share, comment, subscribe…
anything you want. If you’ve got any questions about the Fairlane,
hit me up in the comments below – I’ll do my best to answer them. And uh, I’ll see you in the next one. Bye guys!