1973-1976 Ford Falcon XB Utility - Buyer's Guide

By: Cliff Chambers, Guy Allen, Photography by: Shaun Tanner, Guy Allen

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There’s something very special about the profile of this generation Ford ute when you see one roll up

 

1975 Ford Falcon XB GS

At first it’s difficult to put your finger on what it is about this ute, but it seems to have a long swooping flow to its lines that you don’t see anywhere else. Sure the nose cone changed across XA-XB-XC, but the profile remains much the same.

What is it? Take a closer look. It is in fact a true coupe utility, literally using the longer doors from the XA-on coupe. Our own Dr John Wright, car historian extraordinaire, describes the significance of this series: "After the US Chevrolet El Caminos and Ford Rancheros kept the Aussie coupe ute idea alive at a time when it was dead in Australia, it took Ford until 1972 to revive it locally.

ford-falcon-5.jpgThe coupe ute styling is obvious from this angle

"Even if the XA ute’s load bed was related to the wagon, it had genuine coupe doors and a rakish two door coupe roofline. Its wheelbase was extended to the full 116 inches (2946mm) of the Fairlane leaving stretching room inside the cabin without the huge rear overhangs of US designs to maintain load length. The long wheelbase also allowed 55 per cent of the beefy 750kg load capacity to be positioned ahead of the rear axle.

| Read next: 1970 Ford Falcon XY ute Reader Resto

"It closely resembled the latest Ford Rancheros based on the second generation Torino as they were basically the same size but with extra clearance and shorter overhangs. The XA Falcon ute was even re-badged as the Ranchero to replace the US models on the South African market where it was hugely successful. It now supports a cult industry ready to build a V8 version of your dreams. Because it so successfully combined US Ranchero-style with the Aussie work ethic and bush clearances, it won several South African awards at the time including Best Tow Vehicle."

ford-falcon-14.jpgTwelve slotters, four-light grille and bonnet scoops give this ute real street presence

The XB series gained a number of minor updates, including cosmetics and the adoption of front disc brakes across all models, plus intertia-reel seatbelts. This example has the 302ci V8 and three-speed auto it started life with, albeit running gas for the time being. In stock form it claimed a fairly meaty 240 horses. You could opt up to the mighty 351 powerplant, which promised 260.

Owner Barry McGee agrees they’re a rare sight on the road these days, as most of this era ute got worked to death. This car has an easier life these days, though it did time as a daily driver. Fortunately it’s lived in garages for most of its life.

"I’ve had it for about 25 years. I bought it off a guy who was a computer operator, who was moving to Switzerland. We negotiated and he wasn’t happy. He was leaving on the Monday, so I said ‘ring me Sunday’. I made him a ridiculous offer and he accepted.

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"I put 12-slotters on it. It’s pretty well original. It’s a typical Ford – bloody rust bucket." Then he relents and agrees pretty much any car from that era suffered the same issues. "The rust has taken 50 years to get out," he concedes, "and it’s lived most of its life in a garage. I need to do a bit of work on it, with a couple of oil leaks. But it is the 50-year-old motor."

Despite all its age-related woes, it still drives okay. With power steering on board, it’s still a fairly effortless cruiser.

"I could sell it every day if I wanted to. If you do find them, they need lots of work. I know of one lying in a paddock and the guy won’t sell it. It will just end up as scrap. He’s one of those people who reckons he’s going to build a shed, but it never happens.

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Why did he choose an XB? "I had an XA GT four-door and was very happy with that. I always fancied Fords and I thought these utes were ahead of their time."

MARKET REVIEW - FORD FALCON XB GS UTE

V8 Falcon utes were popular when new and remained relatively plentiful for decades. In fact, their strong numbers moving into the 21st Century were a surprise considering that so many were forced from new to work for a living without any special care.

Recently those plentiful supplies of good V8 utes have evaporated. If you do find a really good GS manual V8 the cost could reach $50,000. Most in the market however are sub-standard vehicles – some didn’t even start life with V8 engines – and priced so high that restoring one to any level of decency is uneconomic.

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Colour, options and accessories can make a difference too. Factory air-conditioning would have been a very rare option and, especially if it is still working, will add to value. Not many Falcon utes of this era came with the fibreglass canopies which were a popular addition for Holden owners. Finding one of these can be a bonus too.

Authenticity if relying on build plates alone is difficult to prove but any XB with an engine that doesn’t match the plate-work should be viewed with suspicion, Even if the vehicle is a genuine V8, it won’t be worth the same money as one with matching numbers and factory documentation.

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VALUE RANGE - Ford Falcon V8 utility

Fair: $12,000
Good: $30,000
Excellent: $48,000

(Note: concours cars will demand more)

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BUYER'S CHECKLIST

Body & chassis

Rust saw lots of 1970s Falcons that today would survive sent to the crusher in significant numbers. With plenty of parts being re-made and values far higher than they were even five years ago, cars with quite significant damage can now be saved. Avoiding the cost of restoration is best of course, so check sills, wheel-arches, the area between the doors and rear quarters, window surrounds and the spare-wheel carrier.  Major damage to the firewall or inner sills is still a very expensive repair. Look for cracks around the suspension mounting points and kinks behind the rear window as well. Spray sealer in the tray can conceal a range of defects, so have this checked from below before buying.

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Engine & transmission

1970s Falcon V8s when maintained properly, will last and cause minimal problems. As engine internals age the valve gear will start to rattle, worn guides and rings will create exhaust smoke. If persistent rather than just at start-up a rebuild isn’t imminent but when that time comes everything needed is available and not costly. Cylinder head and timing cover oil leaks are common and can usually also wait until a rebuild. Other areas to check include weakened or broken engine mounts, exhaust cracks and leaking welch plugs. The most desirable transmission is the Borg-Warner’s single-rail four-speed. They suffer selector problems, synchro failure and bearing noise. The three-speed autos are very durable but if they do slip or shudder reconditioned units cost under $1500.

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Suspension & brakes

Falcons are notorious for consuming ball joints so if turning the wheel at slow speeds produces a chorus of cracks and crunching sounds from the front end, some suspension work is overdue. This will likely involve $500 for some new ball-joints and perhaps $1000 for a power-steering rebuild. Check the rear springs for cracks to the leaves or movement in the mounts and the differential for oil leaks. If the tyres are fouling the wheel-arches when the wheels are turned  the car has either been inexpertly lowered or its springs need replacement. Check the handbrake holds the car on an incline and releases without needing brute force.

ford-falcon-interior.jpgAside from the wooden tiller its pretty original

Interior & electrics

The seats in 1970s Fords suffer significantly with age and use. The frames can crack and need welding or be twisted by heavy occupants. Runners fill with dirt and jam and adjusters break so make sure both seats in any ute you’re considering will move easily and lock in position. Kits of vinyl seat trim can be found for around $1000, with new door cards including armrests adding a further $700 to the bill. New console lids are listed at $200 with complete consoles over $500. The complex dash is also prone to cracking and a reconditioned dash-top can be more than $600. Check that the carpets aren’t damp due to water entering through the plenum panel below the windscreen.

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1973-1976 Ford Falcon XB ute specs

NUMBER BUILT: 220,765 (all XB)
BODY: integrated body/chassis two-door utility
ENGINE: 4942cc or 5750cc V8 with overhead valves and single downdraft carburettor
POWER & TORQUE: 179kW @ 5000rpm, 414Nm @ 2600rpm (4.9 V8)
PERFORMANCE: 0-100km/h:
8.7 seconds, 0-400 metres
16.6 seconds (4.9 manual)
TRANSMISSION: 4-speed manual, 3-speed automatic
SUSPENSION: Independent with coil springs, control arms, telescopic shock absorbers and anti-roll bar  (f) live axle with semi-elliptic springs and telescopic shock absorbers (r)
BRAKES: disc (f) drum (r) with power assistance
TYRES:  ER70H14 radial

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