With Holden struggling, Ford had years to design its EA Falcon, but when it hit the tarmac it bombed FORD enjoyed a dream four-year run from the ageing XF Falcon against the struggling Commodore, which lasted almost half the nine- year life of its XD body shell.
The new EA Falcon that arrived in March 1988 should have been special with such a long lead time, but was flawed and under-developed and took several significant facelifts to correct.
Early models should be sorted by now for a bargain buy from as little as $ 3000.
Model history March 1988:
THE EA offered new overhead cam 3.2 and 3.9 sixes with basic single point/ throttle body fuel injection and a top level 3.9 multi-point/port fuel injection option as Ford expected a 3.0 litre Nissan powered VN Commodore, but Holden fitted the 3.8 multi-point Buick V6 to all models at the last minute.
The irrelevant base 3.2 was dropped by the end of 1988.
On LPG, the different fuel injection systems make little difference, but on unleaded petrol the multi-point 3.9 offers significant fuel economy and performance advantages and is worth the extra money.
Many buyers mistakenly believe a multi-point's extra injectors generate extra fuel consumption.
The amount of fuel delivered by a multi-point's injectors mounted in the inlet port of each cylinder can be controlled with far greater precision than a single injector trying to feed all cylinders down a carburettor-style inlet manifold.
The sturdy Borg-Warner T5 five-speed manual continued from the XF, but became the base transmission.
The EA was the last with the old Borg Warner Type 35 three-speed auto, which had arrived in the 1965 XP Falcon.
This delivered the same around-town fuel economy as the later four-speed but used more fuel on the open road.
This auto is up to three times cheaper than later four-speed autos to repair , which covers a lot of fuel, and is why it replaced later autos in so many taxis.
The EA's new overhead-cam engines, heavily revised front suspension, rack-and -pinion steering and Watts link rear suspension should have given it an edge over the Commodore.
In hindsight, the EA introduced too many new changes at once and their combined problems impacted more heavily on owners than the VN Commodore.
FLOATY handling, unwanted variations in ride height and sagging suspension were partly rectified by firmer springs and other detail running changes.
Poor panel fit, especially in the doors around the roof area, were showing some improvement but the overall feeling of looseness remained.
THE EAII's new Borg Warner 85LE four-speed auto brought horror breakdowns involving the electronics, and hub failure.
Ford and BTR acted quickly and most should now have upgraded parts.
Drivetrain harshness was reduced by joining the engine/transmission as a stiffer unit. Body colour door frames replaced black EAs.
THE 30th Anniversary upgrade added extra security with Tibbe locks and tougher steering column.
Gas dampers, negative camber and increased castor for front end, stiffer coils front and rear, shortened bump stops for extra travel and stiffer rear trailing arm bushes improved overall feel.
Apart from minor grille changes and shinier bootlid garnish with separate reversing lights, it looked the same.
EBII facelift was effectively a new model with its re-engineered multi-point 4. 0 litre standard on all models, hence the new GLi base model.
Sinificant structural improvements included a scuttle brace.
ABS was optional and a four-pinion diff with lower ratio improved strength and acceleration.
Pick an EBII by its different scuttle panel, wiper location and windscreen pillar treatment.
FINAL ED upgrade of the EA covered for delayed new EF series. A small oval grille, extra side impact safety, CFC-free aircon and taller final drive for better economy were the main changes.
Finally sorted, the ED was what the EA should have been, but now it faced Holden's formidable VR Acclaim.
DRIVETRAIN: Common front cylinder-head oil leaks from 100,000km require expensive head-off repairs with latest gasket materials. Rear main seal also leaks and can be expensive. Blown head gasket and rear cylinder loss of compression.
LEAKY rocker cover gaskets often lead to overtightened and cracked alloy rocker covers.
RADIATOR hoses, drive belts, radiators, heater cores and coolant work hard in hot engine bay so all need to be in good shape.
DUCTED battery cooler essential for long battery life but often missing to fit
SKIPPED oil changes will sludge up engine and cause serious conrod damage through oil starvation.
NOISY or tappety engines and rattly timing chains are trouble but some piston slap at idle was there from new.
EARLY single-point electronics fail. Plug leads often cross-fire for engine miss.
A FAILED computer chip can cause the auto to skip the first three gears and a faulty valve body can thump it into gear.
THESE are simple $500 repairs when fixed immediately, otherwise can quickly turn into a $2500 transmission overhaul.
IGNORED auto maintenance and filter cleaning intervals shorten transmission life drastically.
SUSPENSION/BRAKES: New rear springs and the latest gas shocks will transform tired examples. Look for undersized brake rotors.
REPLACING early 14-inch wheels with later 15-inch wheels will improve tyre choice, grip and safety but may affect speedo reading.
NON-ADJUSTABLE front end may need an adjustment kit if it pulls to one side or tyres scrub.
ALL bushes and ball joints need careful checking.
BODY: Rebirthed stolen cars are a big worry. EA-ED security offers little theft protection and must be upgraded.
APPALLING non-genuine panels, lights and lethal backyard repairs are common.
LOOK for sagging driver's door and seat on worn-out examples.
FAILED stop lights can be a fiddly wiring or switch problem.
FAILED boot strut mounts often tear the rear seat-belt webbing, so check carefully.
EARLY aircon may need significant attention.
THE windscreen is a critical part of the body's rollover and crash safety so it must be the correct thickness and bonded with the correct sealant.
HEAVY-duty towing without underbody strengthening can buckle the complete body section behind the rear window.
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.
quote from x series article: The later XF 4.1, with a five-speed Borg Warner T50D, was the pick of six- cylinder manuals.
I'd have to agree with that XF 5 speeds are still a top car. Wouldn't mind one for a daily driver.
Another quote"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."
Couldn't agree more, i noticed this driving my mates XF. You know where the ass end is exactly unlike the AU's.
Motor May 2001 Quote: "Believe it or not, there are actually a bunch of weirdos out there who reckon a six cylinder is the dux gutz. Bugger it: I'm one of them" :s5
AUII Late Ed XR6 HP T5 Venom- Full Tickford Body Kit, 17in Wheels, Herrod Bi-plane Spoiler, Momo Steer/Gear, T-Series Interior Options, Premium Stereo and a very light-tuned 4.0L I6
(FPV-Tickford Club of NSW Member and Co-Founding Member of 3FB Inc, Ford Forums Food Bandits)
Falcon G.T. Club of Geelong Inc.
Deakin University Formula SAE Car PHANTOM ENGINEERING
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Marcos Ambrose & SBR, 2003 & 2004 V8SUPERCAR Champions
I noticed a couple of replies speculating how good
an xf 4.1 5-speed would be - well they're not!
After owning a spate of XA-XC Fords, I thought I'd
update to something a little more "modern", and found a local XF GL 4.1 carb 5-speed sedan with
air/steer/discs/etc - sold by the local dealer, extensive service records, two local owners, excellent cosmetics. Sounds like a good car right?
You'd be wrong....
It was nothing but trouble from day one, and the bottom line was that it was built very cheaply and had very poor build quality. It was obvious Ford was cutting corners and saving money wherever they could. Simple things that you'd never even be aware of on a 30 year old XA would snap off in your hands on the XF, intermittent electical faults, loose interior trim, poor idling no matter
how much tuning was done. Basically I had my head under the bonnet of the thing every day - which is not what you want from a daily driver. Now I'm back in my 25 year old, 250,000km XC every day, and it never gives a hiccup.
FWIW: the 4.1 5-speed might sound like a good package, but it's really quite dreadful. The 5-speed's shifter is extremely vaugue, and very slow to shift. The cheap crappy cable clutch Ford used is far too light and has no feel. And the old pushrod 4.1 certainly doesn't like to be revved out through the gears. The combination of the sluggish engine and the slow shifting box makes for a *very* slow car that is less than inspirational to drive. Unless you absolutely wring it's neck and crash the gearbox through gears, you get dragged off by every Excel around.
By contrast, the 4.1 auto XF my father once had was much quicker around town - you just floor it
in "D", and let the auto make the most of the 4.1s
low down torque.
I just sold my 88 model XF ute, it was a 5 speed when i first purchased it but the box felt pretty harsh when shifting, i added a toyota supercharger and before i new it the clutch was buggered, couldnt find a 5 speed going cheep enough but came across a 4 speed with brand new clutch, new cable and even had a sparco knob for $300 once that went in the car just sang!, i much prefered the quick and direct shifting of the 4 speed and the better gearing it had too.
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