WE’VE had quite a few feature cars lately that have enjoyed long-term ownership. More often than not they’ve been the owner’s first car, hotted up to follow the trends of the time. This thoroughly modernised ZB Fairlane, owned and built by Jon Sandham, follows that script. It’s never been mothballed, and has been Jon’s daily driver for much of its life.
This article was first published in the December 2019 issue of Street Machine
“My dad had a ZD for about 16 years and he was going to give it to me when I turned 18,” Jon says. “When I was about 17 it had engine problems and he sold it. A couple of years later he bought the ZB and I hounded him. I said: ‘Mate, you owe me a Fairlane,’ so I ended up buying it off him.”
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That was back in 1990, so it was a pretty clean car that was mostly stock, but it wasn’t going to stay that way for long. “I stripped the car back to bare metal and spent two years building it with a lot of help from my dad, and got it ready a month before my wedding. It was plain red with Weld Draglites and I drove it like that forever. It was my only car; it was my work car, everything,” says Jon. Of course, he’s being a bit modest. He sent me a video of the car cruising past on his wedding day and that bright red paint and low stance over big and little Welds was a killer combo.
While the flames it used to sport were cool, the Mazda Stormy Blue paint the ZB now wears suits the classy and modern build ethos to perfection
After many years of street use, the paint was starting to show a few signs of wear and tear, and Jon contemplated repainting the whole car until a good mate talked him out of it. “About 10 years ago a good friend of mine who worked at Ford, Andrew Owens, said I was mad. He said: ‘The paint is great, it’s just got issues at the front; we’ll put some flames on it.’” So that was the look the big old girl rocked for a number of years, until one fateful afternoon when Jon’s brother asked if he could borrow the car.
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Jon designed the directional wheel centres in conjunction with the Mag Wheel Centre for a unique look. Brembo brakes on all four corners haul up the heavyweight cruiser
“I had never lent my car to anybody, but his car got damaged in a bad hailstorm and he had promised to use it at his mate’s wedding. It was an XM wagon with a V8 in it, a nice car. Anyway, the day came when he borrowed my car for the wedding. Five minutes later I got the phone call: ‘Jon, I’ve smashed the car.’”
Jon welded up the fuel filler on the quarter panel and had to figure out another solution, so he hinged the tail-light, which then needed to be narrowed for clearance, necessitating LED bulbs
Don’t worry, Jon still talks to his brother and looks at the silver lining of the story rather than the cloud. “In the end, it’s just a car and he’s still alive – which is the most important thing. The car has a lot of emotional attachment to me, but so does my brother! He keeps telling me he did me a favour, because look at it now!” he laughs.
There’s even a Windows computer fitted into the boot that allows remote access to the FuelTech EFI software, so tuning touch-ups can be performed from anywhere in the world. Yet another clever feature is the space-saver spare fitted to the underside of the bootlid
At that point, a lot of people would have rolled the car into the back corner of the garage and not looked at it for a couple of years, but Jon’s not that kind of guy and got stuck into the rebuild straight away. Initially, the plan was to return it to how it was when he first built it, but then Jon decided to change the engine – and that was the turning point. With a blown 348 Windsor up front, Jon knew he didn’t want to roll around on leaf springs and 60s suspension geometry.
The low-profile Weiand blower was designed to keep everything tucked under the bonnet. Hidden underneath the genuine alloy shaker scoop is a four-barrel throttlebody modified to accept two injectors. Eight more injectors are hidden in the spacer block between the blower and intake
He decided to run a four-link rear end and strengthen the chassis to take the power of the new engine combo. He also fitted a McDonald Brothers tubular front end, and because he wanted the car to sit as low as possible, he raised the transmission tunnel, which of course meant he couldn’t use the original bench seats any more. It was a snowball that was gradually getting bigger and bigger, but it was all good; Jon knew what he was doing and he tackled it all at home in the garage.
A Jesel belt-drive, electric water pump and Astra electric power steering keep the pulleys to a minimum, while wiring has been routed through tubes to keep everything neat and tidy
One thing that should grab your attention with this car is how well thought-out and well-executed all of the modifications are. Jon is a tool maker by trade and spent many years working at Ford maintaining the production line, so he knows how things go together. He also knows how to problem-solve and design the solution to said problem, so there are plenty of neat little tricks on this car that may not initially jump out at you. Have a close look at all of the pics and read the captions; there’s a lot going on!
One really neat feature is a storage compartment in the engine bay – the perfect spot to keep some detailing gear when you’re getting your car shot for SM
About the only thing that has carried over from the previous build is the shaker scoop. “I didn’t really want to keep the shaker scoop for this build, but it was just so important to the car, if that makes sense – it always had the shaker,” Jon says. “It was probably my toughest decision on the whole build. That and the colour, because it was always red. The colour went, but the shaker stayed.”
The interior has had a thoroughly modern update while keeping a few of the late-60s styling cues. The old strip speedo and idiot lights have been replaced with Auto Meter gauges, while the BA Falcon seats were modified front and rear and split by a full-length console that Jon moulded in fibreglass. The neat surround around the shifter was modelled in CAD, 3D-printed and finished with metal-look paint
A new addition to the car is the electric sunroof, partially necessitated by the roof damage resulting from the accident, although its origin may come as a bit of a surprise. We all know you could get sliding sunroofs on Falcons and Fairlanes of the era, but what Jon used was the entire roof skin, electric sunroof and hoodlining from a late-80s Jaguar! Getting the Jag hoodlining to match up with the Fairlane’s interior took a bit of doing, but compared to the rest of the modifications that were carried out, it was pretty straightforward.
Due to the aforementioned raised tunnel, the car now sports four individual bucket seats from a BA GT. They’ve been sliced and diced to fit and then split with a custom-made console moulded from fibreglass over a wooden buck. The door cards are all custom-made and cleverly hide the electric window motors – which attach to the spline of the original mechanism – and also create a space for the speakers to mount. There’s also a full entertainment system in the car controlled by a Samsung tablet mounted in the console.
The door cards were completely redesigned and fabricated in MDF and polycarbonate, although Jon did keep the original handles. The entire sunroof and moulded hoodlining was grafted in from a late-80s Jag
There’s plenty of trick stuff going on in the engine bay as well, but like the rest of this ZB, a lot of it is hidden. On top of the Horny Performance-built Windsor sits a Weiand blower topped by a four-barrel throttlebody, which is then covered by the shaker scoop. It all sounds pretty straightforward until Jon explains what he had to do to make it fit under the bonnet: “I bought the lowest-profile throttlebody I could, but they didn’t have one with built-in injectors, so I machined my own holes and brackets to mount the two injectors in the front. Their function is purely to lubricate the supercharger,” he says. “I bought a Chevy supercharger because I didn’t want the offset snout. Because I don’t have a dizzy, I didn’t need that; plus the Chevy superchargers are bigger than the Ford ones. I also got a Windsor lower manifold, then I made a spacer plate that hides the injectors. We CAD-designed it with the eight injectors and an intake air temperature sensor.”
A Samsung tablet controls the music and entertainment system, while the FuelTech dash, headlight, heater, wiper and electric handbrake buttons are hidden behind a flip-down panel
With eight EGT sensors and the whole shebang controlled by a FuelTech ECU, it’s a well-behaved engine with ample horsepower. “It’s remote-start, so from inside my lounge room I’ll hit the button and it will start and warm up while I’m still having a cuppa,” Jon explains. “Then I’ll jump in and go for a drive.”
So, this Fairlane is basically like a new car – only a shitload cooler.
1968 ZB FAIRLANE
Paint: Mazda Stormy Blue
Type: 348ci Dart Windsor
Heads: Edelbrock E-205
Valves: 2.08in (in), 1.60in (ex)
Radiator: Aluminium radiator with Spal fan
Exhaust: Twin 3in
Ignition: MSD booster
’Box: C10 fully manualised
Converter: Eliminator 3800rpm stall
Diff: 9in, billet centre, 3.5:1 gears
Front end: McDonald Brothers tubular arms
Rear end: Four-link
Shocks: Viking coil-overs (f & r)
Steering: Electric power-assisted
Brakes: BF GT Brembo (f & r)
Rims: Custom three-piece; 20x7 (f), 20x12 (r)
Rubber: 245/35/20 (f), 325/30/20 (r)
My wife Sue and my kids JJ and Courtney; Nathaniel Ardern for tuning my FuelTech; Brian Muscat from Western Street Trim for the leather trim; Chris Farrugia for auto electrical work; Andrew Owens for the trim paint; Clinton at Horny Performance for putting the engine together; Tom Yankos for the 3D work on the console buttons; Simon and Charles at Promaz for the injector spacer plate; Vince at Auto Passion for body and paintwork; special thanks to my brother for his involvement in getting the project started