Ford - Falcon XK to XY
The Ford Falcon is a full-size car which has been manufactured by Ford Australia since 1960.  Each model from the XA series of 1972 onward has been designed, developed and built in Australia, following the phasing out of the American Falcon of 1960-71 which had been re-engineered locally for the harsher Australian conditions. As a result of the longevity of its Australian production, the Falcon is one of the biggest selling names in world automotive history, selling over 3,000,000 in six generations to 2003, almost exclusively in Australia and New Zealand.
New Zealand
New Zealand
Ford Falcon-click for a larger picture
Ford Falcon 1968
Ford Falcon XT
Otago, South Island
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First generation (1960–1966)


During the 1950s, Ford's Australian sales were faltering due to the popularity of the Holden, and the lack of an effective competitor.  Ford assembled the Zephyr and its Consul and Zodiac derivatives.  However, while these cars were moderately successful and had a good reputation, Ford could not match Holden's price, and so sales suffered. One of the reasons for the price difference was the higher cost of imported parts, which were subject to an import tariff.  Ford also assembled Canadian-sourced Ford V8 models, but these cars were in a higher price category, putting them out of reach of the average buyer. Hence, Ford decided to commence local production of a Holden challenger.  Initially they intended to produce the Zephyr, using expensive dies they would need to purchase from Ford England. However, during a visit to Ford headquarters in Detroit in 1958, they were shown the new Falcon, which was being prepared for its US launch.  Immediately, the executives were attracted to the new car- it was about the same size as Holden, but it was low, long, wide and modern.  The width allowed it to accommodate 6 people, and a 2-speed automatic transmission was available.  Besides all this, Ford Australia felt they had more experience building North American cars.  Hence they decided to make Falcon their new Australian car.  In 1959, Ford built a factory at Broadmeadows, a suburb of Melbourne, for local production of the North American Ford Falcon.  The factory was designed in Canada, and had a roof which would facilitate dispersal of snow - notwithstanding the fact that snow does not usually fall in Melbourne.




The first Falcon sold in Australia was the XK series, introduced in September 1960.  It was initially offered only as a four door sedan, in both Falcon and Falcon Deluxe trim levels.  The XK was essentially a right hand drive version of the North American model, although local country dealers often included modifications such as heavy duty rear suspension (5 leaves) and larger 6.50 x 13 tyres. 


The steering was light and the ride surprisingly good, on well-paved roads.  The Falcon's 'king-size' drum brakes actually had less lining area than the Zephyr's, but they were stopping a car that was over 100 kg lighter, so were adequate.  Whereas the North American model used an 'economy' 3.10 to 1 rear axle ratio, the Australian Falcon was built with a 3.56 to 1 ratio which better complemented the torque characteristics of the engine, and yet still allowed a reduction in cruising rpm when compared with the Zephyr.  The station wagon, added to the range in November 1960, was shortened at the rear due to concern that the back of the car might scrape on rough roads and spoon drains.


Billed as being "Australian-with a world of difference", Falcon offered the first serious alternative to Holden, and became an instant success.  Sales were aided by the contemporary FB series Holden being perceived as lacklustre and dated by comparison.  A 170 cu in engine was introduced late in the model's life.  However, before long, XK sales suffered from complaints about the durability on rough outback roads (due chiefly to collapsing front ball joints, and adjusting shims dropping out of the front suspension, both problems inducing some rather severe front camber); the car earned the unflattering nickname "Foul Can" during this time.  The XK range was expanded in May 1961 with the addition of utility and panel van body styles, officially designated as Falcon Utility and Falcon Sedan Delivery respectively. 




Ford Australia introduced some local design changes to the XL in early 1962, such as a heavier suspension system with components from the Fairlane.  Also, the appearance was changed with a new Thunderbird roofline.  The slogan was 'Trim, Taut, Terrific'.  Nevertheless, the Falcon was still widely perceived as unsuitable for local conditions and sales stagnated.  Ford stuck with the Falcon and sales gradually increased over the following years as improvements to durability and reliability were applied. New for the XL series were the top of the range Falcon Futura Sedan and the Falcon Squire Station Wagon, the latter featuring simulated woodgrain body inserts on the sides and on the tailgate.




The XM, released in 1964, was the first Falcon with an Australian -designed body; the rear taillights were raised for Australian conditions and the front end received a full-wrap chrome grill and surrounds.  The steering linkage was upgraded with 9/16-inch tie rods instead of the 1/2-inch tie rods found in the US models.  The suspension was also improved with the upper control arms lowered to reduce the notorious bump steer found in the US model and early Mustangs, that were based on this model.  A new two-door hardtop body style was offered for the first time, in both Falcon Deluxe and Falcon Futura trim levels.




The following model, the XP, saw the Fairmont introduced as an upmarket variant. The XP was the "make or break" Falcon: Ford's future in Australia depended on this car succeeding.  Ford's Deputy Managing Director Bill Bourke conceived a promotion for the new model which was a major gamble: demonstrate the XPs strength by mercilessly driving a fleet of XP Falcons around its You-Yangs testing grounds for 70,000 miles (110,000 km) at over 70 mph (110 km/h).  The gamble paid off with the Falcon winning the prestigious Wheels Car of the Year award.  A 3-speed automatic progressively replaced the 2-speed and front disc brakes were introduced as an option (standard on Fairmont and Hardtop models).  This model was also the last to see the Squire range of Ford Falcons which featured wood panels on the side of the wagons, similar to the USA based station wagons.  The Fairmont made its debut, mid-way through the model run, as the flagship of the XP Falcon range.  It was offered in both sedan and station wagon body styles, replacing the Futura sedan and Squire wagon.  Unlike later examples, the XP Fairmonts carried both Falcon & Fairmont badgework.


Additionally in the XP range several cars were modified by Bill Warner to install a 260ci/289ci V8 and a three speed automatic or four speed manuals.  These cars are discussed as a precursor to the GT Falcon which debuted in the next model or as XP Falcon Sprint's.


Second generation (1966–1972)  


Again, Holden played into Ford's hands: they released the unpopular HD in 1965, which helped stimulate interest in the new Falcon.  




The next new model Falcon, the XR series, was introduced in September 1966.  Styling was based on the 1966 US Ford Falcon and it was promoted as the "Mustang bred Falcon".  It was the first Australian Falcon to be offered with a V8 engine, the 200 bhp (150 kW), 289 cubic inch (4.7 litres) Windsor unit.  The XR marked the first time a V8 engine could be optioned in all trim levels of an Australian car, V8s having previously been reserved for the more up-market variants.  The 144 cubic inch (2.4 litre) six cylinder engine was deleted for the XR series leaving the 170 cubic inch (2.8 litre) six as the base Falcon engine.  A 200 cubic inch (3.3 litre) six was also available.  


The XR series was initially offered in nine different models: Falcon, Falcon 500 and Fairmont Sedans, Falcon, Falcon 500 and Fairmont Wagons, Falcon and Falcon 500 Utilities and the Falcon Van.  The new wagons shared the 111-inch (2,800 mm) wheelbase with the XR sedans, unlike the 1966 US Falcon wagons which featured a 115-inch (2,900 mm) wheelbase.  The Falcon 500 replaced the Falcon Deluxe of the XP series and the two door hardtop body style available in the XP series was not offered in the XR range.  The Falcon XR won the Wheels Car of the Year award in 1966, giving Ford Falcon two straight wins.


The marketing focus on the Falcon's relationship with the Mustang's sporty appeal led to Ford introducing a Falcon GT variant of the XR in 1967, featuring a 225 bhp (168 kW) version of the 289 cubic inch (4.7 litre) Windsor V8 engine, sourced from the Ford Mustang.  The GT heralded the dawn of the Aussie muscle car.  All of the original XR GTs were painted in the colour 'GT Gold', except for eight that were "Gallaher Silver" and another five that were "Russet Bronze, Sultan Maroon, Polar White, Avis White and Ivy Green".  The non-gold GTs, while having the same specifications, are the rarest of the early Australian muscle cars.  Also specified on the first GT Falcon was a Hurst shifter for the 4speed gearbox, deep dish sports steering wheel, sports instrumentation, chrome full-cover wheel trims, and thick 'GT stripes' along the lower panels between front and rear wheels.




The 1968 XT model featured a mild facelift, with a divided grille, and inset driving lights for the GT.  The GT also replaced the thick lower body stripes of the XR with narrow stripes along the waistline from grille to tail light.  The tail lights were still round but instead of the small round indicator of the XR, the XT model had a long indicator across the light.  Otherwise all external bodypanels and bumpers were the same as the XR.  Inside, the XT gained a 'strip' speedometer in place of the round gauges of the XR.  The XT also had a choice of two larger 6 cylinder engines: the 188 cubic inch (3.1 L) and 221 cubic inch (3.6 L), respectively.  The 289 cubic inch V8 engine was replaced by a new 302 cubic inch V8.  




The 1969 XW Falcon introduced bolder styling which featured raised ridges down each front guard and a 'buttressed' c-pillar (although the rear windscreen was not relocated), which made the cars appear larger than the XR/XT models.  A new dashboard and trim variations also appeared.  The GT variant gained a bigger V8, the 351 cubic inches (5.75 L) Canadian-made Windsor engine, producing 291 horsepower (217 kW).  The styling of the GT went wilder with the addition of an offset racing-style bonnet scoop, bonnet locks and blackouts, as well as 'Super Roo' stripes along the full length of the car (these and the bonnet blackouts were a 'delete option').  GT wheels were now 5-slot steel with flat centrecaps over the lug nuts and stainless steel dress rims.  The twin 'driving lights' introduced on the XT GT were carried over to the XW GT. 


If that was not enough indication of Ford's 'Win on Sunday, sell on Monday' racing ambitions, the XW also saw the introduction, in August 1969, of the legendary GTHO specification.  The GTHO was a homologation special built for racing.  Externally it was almost indistinguishable from a standard GT, but offered a higher performance engine and improved suspension — although the 'HO' stood for 'Handling Option' the cars also gained larger Holley carburettors and other performance additions.  The Phase I or 'Windsor HO' was fitted with the 351ci Windsor V8 but was replaced a year later with the 351 Cleveland, producing 300 horsepower (220 kW) in the Phase II GTHO.  The XW also gained a GS ('Grand Sport') option, which could be optioned with the 188 cubic inches (3.08 L) and 221 cubic inches (3.62 L) six cylinder, 302 cubic inches (4.95 L) Windsor V8 but not the 351 cubic inches (5.75 L) Windsor V8 on Falcon 500, Futura and Fairmont.  It offered the same dash as the GT with sports instruments, sport wheel trims and stripes.  The GS lasted until the 1978 XC series I model longer than the GT, which finished with the XB.




The venerated XY was released in October 1970, with variations to grille and tail lights but otherwise unchanged bodywork from the XW. The six cylinder motors were bigger — 200 cubic inches (3.3 L) and 250 cubic inches (4.1 L).  A 2V (twin venturi) version of the 351 Cleveland V8 an option on all sedans.  All GT models remain valuable collectors' cars and this is especially true of the XY GT and XY GTHO Phase III, released in 1970.


The upgraded Cleveland V8 in the 1971 XY GTHO Phase III produced an estimated 385 brake horsepower (287 kW), although Fords official figures for this motor were much lower.  The 750cfm Holley carburettor of the XW GTHO Phase II was replaced by a 780cfm Holley, along with numerous other performance modifications.  The Phase III was Australia's fastest four-door production car and possibly the fastest four-door sedan in the world at the time, with a top speed of 141.5 mph (227.7 km/h).  Power figures are still debated today as Ford still claimed 300 hp (220 kW) as the standard 351 Cleveland V8 in the GT though the GTHO Phase III received many modifications to increase its reliability and race performance.


The GTs styling went wilder again with a 'Shaker' cold-air induction scoop protruding from a hole in the bonnet, which now sported twin wide GT stripes from grille to windscreen, rather than the bonnet blackouts of the XW.  The thick side stripes remained, although altered slightly, as did the twin driving lights and blacked out panel between the tail lights.  Wheels were either 5-slot steel or 5-spoke alloy Globe 'Bathurst's.  The GTHO also sported a plastic front spoiler and a wild bootlid spoiler styled after those fitted to the Mach series Mustangs.


During the life of the XY model, the uniquely Australian uprated 200, 250 1V and 250 2V variants of the seven-main-bearing 6 cyl were introduced.  Cleveland V8s were imported initially, until the Geelong Foundry began to produce these motors for automatic Falcons in mid 1972.  The transmissions included both Ford & Borg-Warner, as did rear axles. 


The XY is now widely regarded as the best Falcon made in Australia, not just with its Bathurst dominance but also in its performance, build quality and refinement, which was superior to competitors at the time. Current values for XYs compared to other Aussie Falcons, and their competitors, attest to this.  Australia's first production 4-wheel drive car based vehicle - a utility - was introduced by Ford as an XY model in 1972.  All were fitted with the 250 cubic inch 6 that was mounted on a 30 degree slant to provide front axle suspension clearance between the front diff and the sump.


Source: Wikipedia Ford Falcon Article.
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