60 years of Ford Falcon XK

By: Un

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ford falcon xk ford falcon xk

Come September this year the first of seven generations of Ford Falcon, the XK, can chalk up 60 years having arrived here in the ninth month of 1960


Happy Anniversary Ford Falcon XK

Ford’s Australian outpost was established in Geelong in 1925 as a subsidiary of Ford Motor Company of Canada Limited, a separate entity to the USA. Henry Ford had granted manufacturing rights of Ford vehicles in the British (later Commonwealth) empire except the United Kingdom, to Canadian investors. 

In the late 1950s Ford purchased land at Campbellfield in Melbourne’s north and in July 1961 commissioned the newly built facility as its Australian headquarters.

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The first vehicle assembled here in the 1920s was the iconic Model T from Complete Knock-Down (CKD) kits exported by Ford of Canada and 35 years later the Falcon XK also arrived here in CKD form.

But things could have been very different as the first locally built (as opposed to assembled) Ford was slated as the Mk II Zephyr, but when Ford Australia boss Charlie Smith and his team were shown the XK in 1958 in the USA, he is said to have told Australia to cancel the Zephyr.

| 2019 Market Review: Ford Falcon XK-XP

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Project Thunderbird as it was known internally, the XK Falcon (1960-1962) introduced the nameplate to Australia in two trim levels with a wagon following in November. May 1961 saw the introduction 1961 a ute and Falcon Delivery sedan (panel van).

The XK was basically a USA model adapted to suit Australian road conditions and Ford marketed the XK as ‘A World of Difference’ with its sales brochure stating,  ‘The Falcon is without limitations and making a world of difference in Australian outdoor living and, it is ‘Australian with a world of difference’ as well as ‘An Australian car with a world standard in design.’

| Ford Falcon history XK-XP series 1960-1966

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As time would tell while this all-new car did provide a World of Difference, it wasn’t quite as well suited to the rigors of Australian road conditions as the brochure claimed. Within a year running changes included the fitment of compact Fairlane ball joints. Gearboxes were also a weak link. 

But the look and size of the XK were spot on and parked next to the FB Holden it looked light years ahead.

Also appealing to buyers were the XKs light steering and comfortable ride, at least on smooth roads. When the wagon arrived the rear was chopped due to concern the back end may scrape on rough roads and spoon drains.

| Buyer's Guide: Ford Falcon XK-XL 1960-1964 

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Another advantage the XK had over the competition was its greater performance with a choice of two inline sixes. A2.4lt 144ci with 67kW or a 2.8-lt 170ci producing 75kW. Transmissions were a three-speed manual or two-speed Ford-O-Matic auto and drive was to the rear wheels.

The illustrated XK sales brochure highlighted its performance advantage to customers like this. ‘Here’s all the car anyone could want. Particularly when you thrill to its 90-horsepower engine and the savings you make with up to 30 miles to every gallon of petrol.’

Back in 1960 automatic transmissions were still a rarity so Ford also made a big deal of their Ford-O-Matic in the sales brochure, especially as the FB Holden didn’t offer one at all. 

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‘There’s a world of difference in driving with the automatic ease of Falcon’s Ford-O-Matic drive. With no clutch pedal to push or gear lever to shift 92% of the effort is taken out of driving. It does away with 13 separate hand and foot operations required from an ordinary transmission to shift from first into second and into top. And your hands need never leave the steering wheel.’ 

Production of the XK ceased in august 1962 with 68,465 units sold. The XK Falcon was also exported in small numbers to Empire colonies and Commonwealth nations.

top XK was a styling revelation. left Straight six in two guises powered the XK.


From Unique Cars #439, Apr 2020

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