GOOD THING GETS BETTER
GEOFF PARADISE, Herald Sun 10-08-2001
IT STANDS to reason, given the popularity of Ford's top-selling Falcon AU ute , that a cottage industry devoted to making a good thing even better would develop. The AU ute (and subsequent AU II) hasn't looked back since its debut two years ago, with total sales well over the 20,000 mark. It sold a record 1700 units for June.
From the utilitarian (pardon the pun) workhorse with a straight six and automatic transmission all the way up to a high-performance 200 kW XR8, there is a model in the AU ute lineup to appeal to most.
It was always just a matter of time before the specialist tuning companies would turn their attention to the "work and play" wonder truck.
When it comes to Ford perform ance, Mick Webb stands out.
The former chief mechanic for past touring car champion Alan Moffat and the creator of more than 600 performance EA-EB Falcons, Fairlanes and Capri sports cars long before the name Tickford was uttered here, Webb is synonymous with making Fords -- either road or track versions -- faster, better handling, more reliable and certainly more enjoyable.
His Ringwood company, Mick Webb's SVO, has turned its attention to the Falcon ute and, after nearly six months of development, the SVO Falcon ute package is ready.
Webb's ute, dubbed "SVO Lightning" by those close to him, may have started life as a stock XLS with a five-litre V8, five-speed transmission and limited- slip differential, but it has come a long way since it rolled out of the Broadmeadows factory.
Ford and performance partner Tickford will later this year release a 255kW engine to combat HSV Commodores, but Webb's SVO operation will this month release its own high-power 347 cubic inch (near to 5.6 litres) "Super Magnum" Windsor V8 for AU Falcons.
Webb says it will give Falcon (sedan, ute or station wagon) owners the opportunity of retro-fitting a true performance engine built with the benefit of his vast road and racing experience. He says his Super Magnum engine hasn't been developed to steal Ford's thunder.
"Anything that can kickstart the once great Ford performance image has to be done," he says.
"My SVO ute package and the availability of a very high performance, big- capacity engine for existing Falcon owners will only add to the image and work in Ford's favour. "
But engine performance is not Webb's only offering.
Given that most utes rarely carry their maximum payload -- that's usually left to those models fitted with an aluminium tray and a payload of a tonne or better -- he has focused on making the ute ride less like a workhorse and more like a sports coupe by fitting Eibach front coil springs, re-rated rear leaf springs, and Koni shock absorbers.
All three components are built to Webb's stringent specification.
With the brakes, he has opted for premium AP six-spot callipers and large 355mm drilled-and-slotted discs.