Very powerful, quiet, smooth, solid, roomy, comfortable vehicle.
Auto is exceptionally responsive and particularly smooth in changes.
Cruise control functions better than most cars of its decade (VN Calais for example).
Road handling is better than equivalent Holden.
The 1985 ZL Fairlane is a special car - the Fairlane subject of this review, particularly so. It was bought by my father under the Ford Employee Car scheme. He purchased it in 1986 with 13,000km on it, just before he retired in 1987. It had been an executive car. List price in 1985 was $25,050. Most motoring reviewers suggest that the ZL Fairlane was the best Fairlane Ford ever produced. It certainly had refinements that made it the top selling prestige car in Australia for four years (1984 - 1988) until the introduction of the NA Fairlane.
My father was fastidious in the upkeep of his vehicles so that when he died in 1995, my mother continued to drive and service it as always. In July of 2003, my mother started having some minor problems. The exterior door handles were becoming hard to operate. The central locking was playing up and the air-conditioning had to be re-gassed on a regular basis and, horror of horrors, she had a flat battery at a friend's place. Needless to say it was her fault - she'd inadvertently left the ignition on.
However, the previous year at 180,000 km she blew the head gasket. She repaired it for around $1000 with other service items. But an element of doubt about the car's reliability had surfaced. Every service thereafter something little needed doing. The glovebox light, the auto release for the number plate/fuel access, the sloppy auto shift. Yes, the car was wearing out. At 207,000 km Mum decided to trade it in on a 1997 NL Falcon Ghia. I'd always said I'd give her the trade in value and take it off her hands when the time came. However, Mum wouldn't accept. She gave me the car.
It cost about $1500 to roadworthy (including four new tyres worth $440). It needed left and right lower ball joints, all four upper T/arm bushes, left lower rear T/arm bush, fuel hose replacement at fliter, steering box and gear selector adjustment, left headlamp replacement and rust repair to the R/front door pillar.
I've driven it for just over four months and it now has 210,560 km on the digital clock (what Mum missed most in the new Falcon). It's due for service at 215,000 km. The central locking has finally failed and the front passenger door won't open from the inside. The air-conditioning doesn't work. I'm told it needs a new pump. I fixed the oil leak by resetting the rocker cover with silicon gasket. It was running rough at idle and sometimes stalling in drive (Mum's major annoyance before giving it to me). A savvy mechanic suggested I replace the HT leads. However, before I considered the HT leads, I found the distributor in a pitiful state. Mum's mechanic had been neglectful. My penknife cleaned up the white spots and all was well. But I'll probably go ahead a replace the HT leads anyway next service.
Dad's car is unusual in sporting a sun visor. I haven't seen another. It certainly looks like it's come in from the country. The head lining has come unstuck and fallen an inch from the roof. Didn't bother short Mum, but occasionally I have to settle into my seat to avoid it. The interior is in pristine condition but there's little rust lines appearing on the boot edges, etc. I don't keep it under cover.
And worst of all, there's a cigarette burn between my legs in the driver's seat. Dad didn't smoke. He did, but he gave up before the ZL. After the '59 Chev, Dad never drove anything but Fairlanes - and I ended up with best (although I rued the discontinuation of the V8 for those few years). I reckon it'd be nice with a 302 in it.