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June 28th, 2000

A brief history of the Falcon's 40 years

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.

Falcon - XK - sketch.jpg (22249 bytes)But in 1958, after a trip to the USA 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.


Falcon - XM.jpg (13879 bytes)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.

Click to see full-sizeThe 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 first Falcon GT arrives
Falcon - XR GT.jpg (8368 bytes)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 1971, 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.

Three years earlier, local Ford designers traveled to the US and spent most of the summer of 1968 working on the Falcon clay model. The design impressed

Detroit, which soon after gave the go-ahead for a design centre at Broadmeadows, Victoria.

Falcon - XC - Cobra.jpg (18989 bytes)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 XF was notable for the introduction of Ford’s engine management system, EEC-IV, which managed the spark timing and air-fuel mix of the engine more efficiently.

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.

AU-II XR8.jpg (22869 bytes)The AU program also saw the debut of a sophisticated double wishbone independent rear suspension and variable cam timing on prestige models. The AU was also the first car in its class to offer air-conditioning and automatic transmission as standard features.

The AUII continued the Falcon tradition of innovation and value for money. When launched, it was the only car in its class to feature a standard passenger airbag, standard CD player, standard 16-inch wheels and ‘Scheduled Servicing’ to 60,000km included in the cost of the car.

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