Story courtesy of Ford-Australia.com
The initial decision to launch an Australian-built Ford was made in 1955, when it was decided that Ford Australia would build the Zephyr locally from the ground up, rather than simply assemble kits that arrived by ship from Dagenham in the United Kingdom.
But in 1958, after a trip to the United States to view the Zephyr that was being redesigned for Australia, Ford Australia Managing Director Charles Smith, decided that the car was not right for the local market.
He was then shown a mock-up of the Falcon that was being designed for the Canadian and American markets and decided that it was the car for Australia.
The Falcon made its debut with the XK in September 1960. At the time it was described as a "compact", as it was smaller than the popular family cars of the period.
The car and its successor, the XL, were based on a Canadian design, with some minor modifications for Australian conditions.
With the launch of the XM in 1964, the Falcon had more serious claims to being a car designed and engineered by Australians for Australian conditions.
Changes were made to the front and rear suspension, the braking system, clutch, rear axle, engine mounts and exhaust - all as a result of extensive research on the open road, the track and the dirt.
Ford Australia management went one step further with the launch of the XP Falcon in 1965. In an attempt to convince local fleet buyers of the robustness and durability of the Falcon, Deputy Managing Director Bill Bourke conceived the XP Durability Run.
The bold scheme involved pushing five standard Falcons and a group of racing drivers to the limit around the demanding You Yangs Proving Ground. The goal was to clock 70,000 miles at an average speed per car of 70 miles per hour. Four of the five cars rolled, but after nine days driven at the limit, the five cars averaged a speed of 71.3 miles per hour.
That same year, the Falcon was named Wheels Car of the Year.
The following year, the bigger, more powerful XR Falcon was launched with an entirely new shape. The new model incorporated more Australian design input than previous models and featured a V8 engine for the first time. The XR Falcon also was the first model to carry the legendary GT badge.
The XT Falcon saw more powerful V8s, a synchromesh gearbox, dual circuit brakes and a choice of two automatic transmissions. It was followed by the XW and XY, remarkable for the eminently collectable GTHO Phase II and III.
In 1972, with the launch of the XA, the Falcon became a uniquely Australian car. There was no longer a US equivalent, the car was designed specifically for the local market.
Sometime early in 1968 the decision had been taken to discontinue product' of the US Falcon.* Thus it was that in May of that year, a team of Ford Australia executives flew to America to begin work on what was to become the 1972 XA Falcon.* There they would collaborate with senior Dearborn stylists because the Australian operation was at that time considered to be too small to have complete autonomy.
Ford Australia's Product Engineering centre had yet to make the big move north from Geelong to Campbelifield and the studios were fine for the development of a new grille or strip of chrome but quite inadequate for the conception of a whole new shape. *
Nobody at Geelong, Broadmeadows or Campbelifield felt slighted by the Americans' involvement.* Rather, this was seen as a great opportunity for Ford Australia to demonstrate its credentials to the parent company.
Very early on in the project the Americans suggested that an abbreviated version of the new Fairiane/Torino - a car of which they were proud - would do the job. By using the centre section of the car in conjunction with a shorter wheelbase and shorter front and rear overhangs, an attractive car of Falcon dimensions supposedly could be created.
But the Australian team had immediate doubts, believing that the effectiveness of the Fairiane/Torino styling was largely a consequence of those long, flowing overhangs and the long wheelbase.
A clay model was built and everyone agreed that the Australians' reservations had been right. * While the XA bears some resemblance to the Fairiane/Torino, it was in fact an all-new design.
In October 1968, work was cornpleted after three Australian designers had worked 90 hours on building the clay model.* Dearborn was so impressed with the work achieved by the Australian stylists that Ford Australia was told to build itself a design centre.
With the XB and XC came four-wheel disc brakes, four-barrel carburetors and an all-time classic Falcon, the Cobra. The XC also brought a famous 1-2 victory for Allan Moffat and Colin Bond at Bathurst in 1977.
The XD Falcon was the first to be designed in Australia from a clean piece of paper. Efficiency, interior space and weight reduction were the key elements of the new design. The car also featured a number of innovations, including a plastic fuel tank and plastic bumpers. Bucket seats were optional.
The following model, the XE, marked the introduction of electronic fuel injection and a Watts link coil-sprung rear-end. The car took Ford to number one in the market in 1982.
The V8 engines had been dropped in time for Easter 1983.* It was a time of rationalisation and the feeling among certain (though by no means all) key executives at Ford Australia was that resources should not be spent on developing special interest variants.* Significantly, Ford's research showed that some 58% of Falcons were equipped with towbars.* It was also clear that the car sold in greater numbers to the fleet market than to private buyers.
There was good news and bad with XF.* For those who wanted a better family sedan and wagon, the final edition of the XD-shaped Falcon filled the bill with its facelifted styling, - redesigned dashboard, new engine management system (EEC-IV), which managed the spark timing and air-fuel mix of the engine more efficiently.. But those who craved a V8 powered car or even a sixpack with the European Sports Pack missed out.
A new shape for Falcon came with the EA, which also boasted an all-new front suspension and geometry, similar to that used in the S-Class Mercedes. The new suspension was more durable than previous systems. Other advances included a four-speed automatic transmission, the high-security Tibbe locking system and a more fuel-efficient engine.
The EB and subsequent EB II offered handling improvements, the return of the V8 and ABS brakes for the first time on a mainstream Australian sedan. Security also was enhanced with the introduction of Smartlock.
The final facelift for the EA shape came with the ED, which offered more modern exterior colours, better side-impact crash protection and a host of under-the-bonnet changes to continue the refinement of the car's handling.
August 1994 saw a new shape and an Australian Design Award for the EF Falcon in recognition of several engineering advances. The modified engine was smoother running, with improved torque and power and a new EEC-V engine management system developed through Formula One racing. A standard airbag, better ride and handling and significant safety advances completed the upgrade. The car also featured the world's first airbag-compatible bull-bar.
The final facelift before the AU, the $40 million EL program, brought further ride and handling improvements, latest generation ABS and an improved steering feel.
The $700 million AU Falcon saw the introduction of Computer Aided Design and Engineering, allowing for significant advances in chassis stiffness, aerodynamics and directional stability.
The AU program also saw the debut of a sophisticated double wishbone independent rear suspension and variable cam timing on prestige models. The AU series was also the first car in its class to offer as standard a passenger airbag, automatic transmission, air-conditioning, CD player, 16-inch wheels and 'Scheduled Servicing' to 60,000km.
Ford’s $500 million Barra (BA) development program focused on bringing the Falcon back on top, with new engines and a highly sophisticated award winning independent rear suspension delivering an outstanding motoring experience. A luxurious interior boasting new levels of craftsmanship and ergonomics were developed, all ensuring that nothing could get in its way of claiming Wheels Car of The Year for 2002.
Ford Australia President Geoff Polites and Ford Performance Vehicles Managing Director, David Flint confirmed in late 2002 that the most eagerly awaited performance vehicle in Australian motoring history would return as a permanent fixture in the line-up – the GT.
will soon be home to a wealth of information about everything Ford in Australia. The site will be officially launched in the near future.