The ZH was Ford's answer to all the citiscism of its predecessors. While again
retaining the central structure of the XC Falcon, the designers put much extra
bulk into the car, not only giving it a big car look, but also actually lengthening
it as well.
It may have appeared as a radical increase to the amount of sheet metal
over previous Fairlane's, however the Ford designers needed to regain a huge
slump in Fairlane sales, coming off a high of 50.3 percent to an all time low
of 27 percent in the early part of 1976.
The design relied heavily on that of US built Ford luxury cars, big, bold
and imposing. The equipment list was also improved, standard fitment now
including steel-belted radial tires, a limited slip diff, rear disc brakes
and intermittent wipers.
The "Custom" model was dropped, the 500 now becoming the "entry
level" Fairlane. The new Marquis model was the up-market offering,
it coming standard with air conditioning, power windows and
twin "lounge" seats up front, both with individual arm-rests,
but allowing a third passenger to be accomodated if required.
The impressive front end combined well with an elegant rear styling treatment,
the redesigned Falcon XC
rear doors with a lower
upsweep removed the previous coke bottle style and allowed not only a more airy
interior feel, but gave the car a modern, square shouldered look.
Inside, the redesigned instrument panel was for the first time made from plastic.
To broaden the appeal of the big Ford, a limited edition "Sportsman" model
was released, it featuring a color-keyed vinyl roof, chrome plated door mirrors and
Volante alloy wheels. For those living in the country, Ford introduced an "Outback
Country Suspension Kit", which included a factory fitted tow bar and 128 liter
long range fuel tank, along with firmer heavy duty suspension.
There was little to criticise about the ZH Fairlane, although the boot was
too shallow and small for a car of its size, and the imposition of the petrol
filler made matters worse. Nevertheless the design was bold and elegant, and
it for a time arrested the slump in Fairlane sales. Updates in May 1978 saw
changes to the carburetor in an attempt to reduce fuel consumption, while the
Marquis was now fitted with six-way power adjustable front seats. The ZH was
manufactured between May 1976
and May 1979