Ford XD-XE ESP: Australia's Greatest Muscle Cars Series #10

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Ford Falcon ESP Ford Falcon ESP Ford Falcon ESP
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Ford Falcon ESP Ford Falcon ESP Ford Falcon ESP
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It's as eighties as synth pop and power dressing but the time looks ripe for a revival in the ESP Falcon's popularity

 

Ford ESP Falcon

Five years after deciding that Australia’s love affair with the performance V8 was over and ditching its GT Falcon, Ford was having second thoughts.

Far from flopping in the wake of Holden’s more compact and economical Commodore, the XD range was selling more than 5000 units a month and about 20 percent of those had V8 engines.

The first ESP (European Sports Pack) Falcon was based on the basic XD GL model and early examples came with 5.8 litres of Melbourne-made V8 or the iron-head 4.1-litre six-cylinder. Automatic transmission was mandatory in the 4.1-litre cars, but the 5.8 could be specified with a four-speed manual and most came in this form.

The XE ESP range was introduced in March 1982, incorporating a significantly improved Watts linkage rear axle design.

Adding to Ford’s growing enthusiasm for the ESP, the upgrade included a 28-spline limited-slip rear end and four-wheel disc brakes as standard equipment.

Big changes inside began with a shift to full Fairmont Ghia specification: power windows, central locking, premium sound and plush carpeting almost everywhere. The seats still came from Scheel.

Most distinctive of all the XE ESP features were its wheels. In place of the XD’s Globes were 15 x 7-inch cross-spoked alloys that were immediately nicknamed ‘snowflakes’.

XE ESPs fitted with the 5.8-litre engine were only officially offered with the four-speed manual gearbox, but at least one auto is believed to have been built. The most common engine/tranny combination was a 4.9-litre V8 with three-speed auto (260 built) against 100 manuals. About 200 of the 4.1-litre cars are believed to have been made, leaving a confirmed 178 four-speed 5.8-litre units to complete a production total of about 740.

Genuine cars are hard to find, in part because they weren’t valued as highly as they should have been by many owners. A good one makes a very handy modern day cruiser – quiet and capable. Though bury the right foot and you’ll soon find they can stretch the abilities of the chassis.

Here’s what Wheels mag had to say in a 1982 road test, by Bob Murray: "Pushed very hard, the handling is almost graceful, Jaguar-style. Understeer and oversteer are slow-motion actions which, even when deliberately provoked, require minimal correction. For all its weight and bulk power, this Falcon feels tame."

Cliff Chambers value guide: Value increases have remained below expectation appreciation barely covering rego and insurance costs. $18,000-40,000


SPECIFICATIONS

Ford XD-XE ESP

Number built 1980-84 XE 740 (approx)
Body All-steel, integrated body/
chassis9cc or 5750cc cast-iron V8, OHV, 8v, single downdraft carburettor
Engine 4949cxc or 5750cc cast-iron V8, OHV, 16-V, single downdraft carburettor
Power & torque 149kW/415Nm @ 3000rpm (5.8-litre)
0-100km 8.8sec, 0-400m 16.1sec (XE 5.8 manual)
Transmission 4-speed manual or 3-speed auto
Brakes Discs (f/r), power assisted
Tyres ER60H15 radial
Value range $18,000-40,000

 

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