X FORD'S FACTOR
The XR Falcon, launched in 1966, was ascaled-down version of the American Fairlane. From then on, the Falcon was a more rugged part of Australian culture
A FTER spending big on weight-saving measures in the XD Falcon, Ford had to recycle the mechanical package of the previous XC series.
Its origins go back to the 1966 XR Falcon and remain the model's strength -- and weakness.
The XR Falcon was a smaller, cheaper version of the 1966 US Fairlane: simple , rugged and relatively heavy.
The XD retained the XC's front-suspension steering system and leaf-spring rear axle, but was 116kg lighter and 129mm shorter.
Compared with the Commodore, the XD had a wider cabin on a longer wheelbase in a package that was only centimetres longer.
Though the XD Falcons could not match the VB
Commodore's award-winning European dynamics, their slower response and extra weight could be more forgiving for a younger driver.
Ford then tried to close the gap on the Commodore's dynamics, not always successfully.
1979-1982 XD Falcon/1982-84 XE Falcon/1984-88 XF Falcon
These are variations of the same body. Depending on usage, later is not always better.
If legislators wanted a benchmark car for all-round driver vision and sensible parking-lot protection, the XD-XE Falcon was exceptional: a 332- degree view, visible corners and robust black bumpers.
Extra body protection and vision are a plus for the novice or short driver, though the low waistline dictates a shallow boot.
The XD-XE's exterior mirrors won a design award but their rigid mounting is a nightmare -- they snap off and are fiddly to replace.
The first XD with its cast-iron, cross-flow head was easier to maintain but used more fuel. From July 1980, the 3.3 and 4.1 sixes gained an alloy head supplied by Honda that reduced weight and improved efficiency, but wouldn't tolerate coolant neglect.
The XD sedan's leaf-spring rear end demanded extra strength behind the rear axle, making it better for towing.
The XE sedan was the first Falcon with the Watts linkage coil-spring rear suspension for extra location over the Commodore's Panhard rod, but heavy-duty leaf springs are retained for the wagon to this day.
Further weight was cut from the XE body behind the rear axle, but its coil springs tend to sag with weight and age, like the Commodore. For heavy towing , all Falcon sedans from the XE need reinforcement back to the rear axle and upgraded coil springs and shock absorbers.
Don't dismiss the smaller 3.3 six, which matched the previous XC 4.1. For the XE, the 3.3 gained a further boost in economy and refinement from its Weber carburettor. The XE 4.1 got an overdue power increase, and for the XF got even more, including a new fuel-injection option.
An XE/XF 3.3 manual sedan is a good balance of power and economy. Its 90kW compares favourably with a 3.3 Commodore's 80kW. The extra torque of the XD's thirsty 4.1 with 93kW, however, was needed for an auto and a heavy load.
Early Falcon V8 models are another story.
Local XD styling had a similar feel to the European Ford Granada, the Commodore's European rival. Ford Australia imported one of the first Rover SD1s, which showed in the XE's similar front styling and Watts-linkage rear axle and the XE Fairmont Ghia's wider headlights.
The XE did not inherit the Rover's quality problems but reliability dived with the XF. Cost-cutting took its toll -- under-bonnet plastic connectors tended to snap and nasty electrical gremlins were traced to battery cables too light for the job.
In 1986, the XF switched to unleaded engines with a slight loss of power. A second unleaded facelift in October 1986 introduced a 4.1 five-speed manual. Body-colour bumpers, all-wheel disc brakes and power steering had become standard.
ENGINE: rattling valve gear and internal engine knocks, sludge build-up inside the rocker cover, oil leaks around rocker cover, rear main, bashed sump, leaking radiator, heater core and welch plugs, broken or plugged pollution- hose fittings, valve-seat recession, low compression on LPG cars.
Check for a blown head gasket on neglected alloy-head models. A good engine bay should have fresh plug leads and heavy-duty battery cables, hoses and belts, and clean coolant and pollution-hose fittings.
TRANSMISSIONS: the basic three-speed manual chews through clutches and column linkages can be worn. Listen for excessive bearing noise, especially in reverse.
The four-speed manual can have tired synchros and sloppy linkages. The rare XE 3.3 five-speed manual had a local four-cylinder gearbox unsuitable for hard work.
The later XF 4.1, with a five-speed Borg Warner T50D, was the pick of six- cylinder manuals.
Clutch linkages break with age and wear. The basic Borg Warner 35 auto is cheap to fix, but is a lazy old transmission that needs regular checks. Look out for flared or delayed then sudden gear changes or refusal to move off when cold. SUSPENSION, BRAKES: the front end was sensitive to build variations. Check tracking and vibration at all speeds. Bashed front cross-members destroy alignment. Ball joints and shock absorbers need regular replacement, though the upper ball joint is always a little loose. Power-steering pump can be noisy. Watch for a leaking, worn steering box.
Hard-working rear suspension will settle and may need new springs. Check for undersized brake rotors and leaking hydraulics.
BODY: The XD-XF once topped the stolen-car list. Check history and ID plates and make sure they tally. You also need to develop your own unique anti-theft measures.
Check for broken seat frames, door handles and worn steering columns. The later XF dash and switch gear does not last as well. Poor imitation exterior lights, especially headlights, can be a safety hazard.
New HSLA steel introduced from the XD can deteriorate badly under certain environmental conditions.
Body codes: XD GL: 18933, XE GL: 18233, XF GL: 18433
Prices: anything more than $2000 needs to be exceptional, with full history.