Ford Australia is showcasing a range of rare historic vehicles as well as its latest models as part of 100th birthday celebrations of Ford's global operations on June 16, 2003.
The collection represents a vehicle from every decade over Ford's 100 years of operation:
1903 Ford Model A
The Model A was the first car manufactured by Ford after the establishment of the company in 1903. The 31st car to drive out of Henry Ford’s new factory in 1903 was a 2-cylinder, 2-seater car simply called The Ford, and later to be called the Model A. It was delivered on August 4th 1903 to Mr F. E. Avery of Columbus, Ohio just 160 miles (256km) from Detroit, Michigan.
The purchase price was $600 for the basic car, however, there were several ‘extras’ such as headlights $9.60 and the tonneau (extra two seats) for $80. All told there were 1,700 Model A cars built – the first 625 had an 8 horsepower engine and the later Model A cars, designated AC, had a 10 horsepower engine. Very few remain intact today. Two cars came to Australia in 1904 but all trace of them has been lost.
This car is owned by Francis Ransley of Wynyard in Tasmania. Francis is an avid collector of early Ford cars and has a remarkable collection. He bought this car in the USA, in fact, it was found about 300 km from where it was built in Detroit!
1915 Model T
In 1908 Henry Ford astounded the world by producing the Model T. This was a car that was comparatively cheap to buy, was simple to drive and could be repaired by the local blacksmith – there weren’t any big car dealerships around in those days!
The Model T became the best-selling car in the world and eventually more than 15,000,000 were built. In 1913 Henry Ford introduced a revolutionary way of making cars – mass production. This changed the whole automobile industry and made the Model T the most affordable car in the world.
In 1916 he lowered the hours worked by each employee to eight hours a day and increased wages to $5.00 a day. Needless to say, he had no trouble in attracting workers to his many plants around the USA. The bonus to Ford was that now most of his workers could afford a new Model T.
1926 The Geelong Model T
Ford Motor Company of Australia was formed as a subsidiary of Ford of Canada in April 1925. By July that year Model T cars were rolling out of a converted flour mill just across the road from the Ford Discovery Centre in Gheringhap St, Geelong.
Prior to Ford commencing production in Geelong, Model T chassis and drivelines were imported and sold through separate State distributors who then built their own Model T bodies for each vehicle.
Work started immediately on the new Ford factory in Melbourne Road and, in March 1926, the first Model Ts were built there. These cars were unique in that they had Ford-built bodies and, unlike those rolling off the lines in the USA, could be bought in a whole range of colours instead of only black.
1932 – The Ford V8
The really big news in 1932 was the launch of the Ford V8. Ford wasn’t the first company to produce a V8-powered car but it was the first to produce a really affordable V8. The advertising slogan was “65 horsepower –65 miles an hour”.
The V8 revolutionised the car industry. Ford V8 cars and trucks would have become an instant success were it not for the Great Depression that put so many people out of work and devastated the economy.
However, due to the development of the new V8, Ford was able to keep its production lines going and survived - unlike many other motor manufacturers of that time. The Ford V8 started the trend towards more powerful engines and faster vehicles, thereby changing the face of motoring in Australia forever.
1934 The First Coupe Utility
When a farmer’s wife from Gippsland wrote to Herbert French, Ford’s Managing Director, in 1933 asking him to build a vehicle that she “could take the family in to church on Sunday and her husband could take the pigs to market on Monday” – an idea was born that spread around the world.
The job was given to a young Ford designer, Lewis Bandt. He worked out how to combine the front section of a V8 sedan with a steel-sided utility truck rear end that had the strength to carry a heavy load yet still ride and drive like a car. The Coupe Utility was born.
The Ford V8 Coupe Utility was launched in 1934 and was an immediate success. Within six months it was being copied by other makers but the Ford was the first. Lewis Bandt stayed with Ford until he retired in 1972 and was responsible for many other innovative vehicles such as utility versions of the English Ford Anglias, Prefects, Consuls and Zephyrs, plus the Falcon station wagon, a Falcon hardtop convertible and a Cortina fastback.
Following his retirement, Lew Bandt discovered a 1934 Coupe Utility in a barn and restored it. He was tragically killed in a road accident driving his beloved ‘ute’ in 1987. Ford Australia, with the help of the Early Ford V8 Car Club, restored the vehicle as a permanent tribute to a motoring genius – Lewis Bandt.
1940 – 1945 The War Years
During World War II, Ford Australia turned its whole manufacturing, engineering, design and assembly operations over to the war effort. As well as building cars, utilities, vans and trucks for the Defence Forces, Ford built ocean-going ships, marine mines, Armoured Bren Gun Carriers, ambulances, trailers and machine tools. It also reconditioned aeroplane engines and built auxiliary ‘belly’ tanks so that fighter bombers could reach the Japanese-held islands to the north of Australia.
One of the most famous vehicles produced during World War II was the Jeep. Designed originally by the Bantam Car Company and developed by Willys and Ford, the Jeep became synonymous with Allied victories from Europe to the Pacific. Jeeps carried soldiers, ammunition, guns and supplies and did double duty as ambulances. Ford Australia produced hundreds of Jeep trailers for use in the Pacific areas.
Throughout the war Ford built tens of thousands of Jeeps in its American factories.
1950s – Post War Prosperity
The 1950s were boom years for Australia with high prices and unlimited markets for wool and wheat. The country prospered and the car that illustrates that prosperity better than any other was the Ford Customline.
The big, powerful, comfortable Customlines represented the affluent lifestyle of those who could afford them and became the dream of those who couldn’t!
They were loved by farmers who needed a fast and reliable car for long distances on rough country roads, yet they were just as much at home outside a luxury hotel or restaurant or picking up patrons from the theatre.
With their chrome laden grilles and bumper bars (made from real steel!), sumptuous interiors, three-tone paint jobs and powerful V8 engines, Ford Customlines were the ideal ‘big car for a big country’.
The car of the sixties was certainly the Falcon. It brought modern styling, automatic transmission, superior ride comfort and a choice of powerful engines into the mass market.
It started the intense rivalry between Ford and Holden that still exists to this day. The Falcon introduced disc brakes and V8 engines into the mass market as well as safety items such as seat belts when safety wasn’t as much to the fore as it is nowadays.
The advent of the Falcon stirred the Australian motoring industry to start building more efficiency, more safety, more luxury and much better quality into its products. The big winners were the Australian motoring public as the manufacturers tried to outdo each other.
1970s – The Muscle Cars
Few cars stir the senses more than the sight and sound of a red-blooded Falcon GT HO in full flight. The ultimate muscle car of the late sixties and early seventies was the XY GT HO Phase III. Whether it was storming down Conrod at Bathurst or grumbling along Lygon Street, the Phase III could take your breath away.
When Ford Australia launched the world’s first 4-door GT, the XR, in 1967 there were few who would have dreamt that this was the start of an era. It was the car that began a legend that continues today with the new FPV GT.
The Falcon GT has become the most collectible Australian-built car and, of all those marvellous GTs, it is the GT HO Phase III that is the most sought after.
It was so outrageously American with its broad blue stripes and Cobra decals yet the XC Cobra was an instant success. The Cobra was born from an idea by the then Assistant Managing Director at Ford Australia, Edsel Ford, as a means of using up the last 400 Falcon 2-door hardtop bodies prior to the launch of the new XD Falcon.
Hardtop sales had virtually slowed to a stop following the demise of the GT in the previous XB model. Edsel Ford was a keen follower of motor racing and hit on the idea of using the American racing colours of white with broad blue stripes and cashing in on the image of the Shelby Cobra Fords.
If Edsel’s name hadn’t been the same as the one over the front door, this idea probably would never have seen the light of day. The cars were designed and built and each one individualised by its engine and serial number and the small numbered dashboard plaque.
The production run could never have been increased as there were no more 2-door bodies so the Cobra was immortalised and took its place in the wonderful history of Ford as a unique model.
1980s – Follow The Leader
The intense rivalry between Ford and Holden reached its peak in 1982 when, for the first time since the days of the Model T, Ford took market leadership in Australia. The writing was on the wall when the XD Falcon was released in 1979 and started challenging a new down-sized Commodore for the top-selling spot.
The XD was technically one of the most advanced Australian-built vehicles with a new, more fuel efficient engine. It used lightweight plastics in body parts and in its revolutionary fuel tank – the first plastic tank on a production car in the world.
The successor to the XD was the XE, a more refined, smoother riding and more economical car that took the Australian market by storm. It wrested leadership from Holden and set the scene for a decade of dominance in the industry.
The XE Falcon introduced the alloy head, Watts Link rear suspension, progressive rate springs, new front suspension and optional 5-speed manual transmission as well as superior corrosion protection and such luxury features as adjustable lumbar support on the front seats.
Of all the XE models none had more cachet and charisma than the ESP version. The European Sports Pack included alloy wheels, sports suspension with Bilstein gas shock absorbers, high-performance tyres, limited slip differential and Scheel sports seats as part of its standard equipment.
1992 – The Ultimate Capri
Ford Australia created history in 1989 when it produced the Capri Roadster because this was the first Australian car to be exported to the United States. The Capri was also unique in that it was built in-house, unlike all other convertibles that were sent from their assembly plant to an outside supplier to have the soft top fitted.
More than 50,000 of the convertibles were sold in the USA in just three years and some 10,000 were sold in Australia and New Zealand. It was awarded “Best Convertible” in the USA two years’ running. It outsold all other convertibles in Australia as well as a great number of fully imported sports and luxury cars.
Of all the Capri models, the most beautiful and collectible is the Tickford-designed and built Clubsprint. The unique front and rear end styling, plus the fibreglass tonneau that fitted over the rear seats and incorporated twin head rest fairings like the early Thunderbirds, set the Clubsprint apart from anything else on the market in 1992.
2003 – The GT Returns
Enthusiasts everywhere welcomed the news that Ford Australia, after 27 years, was returning the GT as a permanent addition to the Ford line-up. In between there have been two anniversary models built in limited numbers but the 2003 FPV GT is the start of an exciting new phase in Ford Australia’s long and colourful history.
The GT for the new century has been built on iconic GT history. It delivers on all fronts –technology, performance, styling – and is more than worthy of carrying such a prestigious nameplate. It is the ultimate Ford performance vehicle to take us into the new century – and what a ride that will be!
The Next 100 Years
One hundred years after the release of the first Ford vehicle, Ford Australia is unveiling a prototype exterior of the first new vehicle of the company's second century – the Ford Territory.
Due for release in early 2004, the Territory is an Australian-designed and built all-wheel-drive vehicle, designed to meet changing driver needs. It offers car-like styling and vehicle dynamics with the versatility of a four-wheel-drive or people mover.
The Territory is set to redefine the local automotive market. It continues a tradition of innovation and ingenuity for the Blue Oval in Australia that includes the launch of the world's first Coupe Utility nearly 70 years ago.
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