Following the success of the limited edition GT Falcon from 1992, Ford Australia repeated the dose in 1997 with the EL-based GT Falcon for the 30th anniversary of the nameplate.
It was a bold, brash design that took the sleek lines of the donor car and added a bulky body kit, a huge rear wing, bonnet scoop and a grille some would refer to as “Darth Vader”. The styling was wild and aggressive, just what Ford needed to counter the HSV Commodores of the time.
Like its predecessor from five years earlier, the EL GT sported a tuned 5.0 litre V8 mated to either a four-speed auto or a five-speed manual gearbox.
The motor was a tweaked version of the same power plant found in the sporty XR8 with power increased from 185kw to 200kw. These are not big numbers today but were impressive back in the late 1990’s.
It was a shouty “look at me” car but Ford was smart enough to know that wasn’t for everyone.
So in 1998 they released the Fairlane By Tickford, a limited edition version of the long wheel base luxury Falcon that was essentially loaded with all the GT running gear. In terms of a gentleman’s express, it certainly fit the bill with its muscle car performance juxtaposed with its plush leather interior and all the luxury appointments of the day.
Besides subtle badging, a mesh grille and unique 17-inch alloy wheels, there was little to differentiate the car from the standard Fairlane. While this made it a true “wolf in sheep’s clothing” it surely made it hard for some buyers to justify the additional $18,000 sticker price over the “basic” V8 Fairlane.
What you did get was most of the GT mechanicals (tuned down to 195kw), the larger GT brakes and retuned suspension to add a slightly sportier touch to the comfortable luxury ride of the standard Fairlane. There were also modest interior changes but with most of the upgrades being either under the bonnet or under the car, it proved a hard sell for Ford with only 106 rolling off the assembly line.
This means they’re rare so you won’t see them for sale all that often.
Ford would return to the formula with the TL50 with AU-based FTE range a few years later, but the Fairlane By Tickford was Ford’s first genuine attempt at competing with HSV’s Statesman and Senator.
It was all short-lived as low sales figures meant the TL50 concept was not carried over to the B-Series and FPV.
However, the Fairlane By Tickford remains a rare beast that can put you behind the wheel of (almost) the EL GT package for a fraction of the price.
The best part is that only the most astute Ford fan will recognise what you’re driving and everyone else will leave you alone.