Ford Falcon XA-XC Series

By: Mark Higgins, Unique Cars magazine, Photography by: Mark Bean, Unique Cars Archives

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ford falcon xa ford falcon xa

Not only was the XA-XC series the first home-grown Falcon, it also revived the hardtop

As Australian as the Outback was one description of the XA Falcon when it rolled onto our roads in March 1972, a dozen years after the Falcon nameplate first appeared on an American-based sedan in Ford showrooms among the Customlines, Zephyrs and Anglias.

The third-generation Falcon was significant as it was successful.

Not only was the XA the first ‘home grown Falcon’ it also revived the hardtop, something that wasn’t planned when the project commenced in 1968.

| Watch next: Rothmans XA Falcon story - rarer than a Phase IV!

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XA front is more emotive

Sedans and wagons headlined the XA launch followed by the hardtop in August 1972 with the utes and vans following a couple of months later. Almost 130,000 XAs were built during its 18-month life and it cemented itself along with its XB and XC spin offs as the biggest selling Falcons up until that time.

Commonly referred to as the ‘coke-bottle’ design due to its rounded shape, models ranged from budget to ballistic with one to suit every Australian family.

Inside the dash was like nothing seen on an Aussie car, a wrap-around design with face level vents, a first for Falcon.

| Read next: Ford Falcon XA Phase IV GT-HO

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Unique Cars spoke with David Ford, who at the time, worked in the role of Product Planner (or project manager) on the XA coordinating the work between Ford’s Australian and American design studios as the project moved from concept to clay to car. David was also the man responsible for the Falcon hardtop.

| Read next: Ford Falcon XB GT review

Unique Cars (UC) "Was the XA Falcon the biggest undertaking by Ford Australia to that point?"

David Ford (DF) "Setting up the plants for manufacturing of the original Falcon was a huge exercise but in terms of model design and development the XA was really Fords biggest undertaking, as from 1960 we had been taking the American Falcon and modifying it for local conditions.

"When it came to the XA there is no longer an American-based Falcon as the US moved to the Torino, which didn’t lend itself to having a Falcon version."

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(UC) "Was the XA Falcon new from the ground up?"

(DF) "We retained a lot of the underbody area from the XY but modified it to increase the track by about two inches or more, but a lot of the front floorpan and body side structure of the central core of the vehicle remained from the previous model but the body and interior were new and I would say it was a 95 per cent new vehicle."

(UC) "When did the project start?"

(DF) "It was about mid-1968. I was working at Ford in the US at the time and transferred to Europe when the decision was made for Australia to develop its own car. Because I had already been working in the US and had my visas, I got a phone call while in Paris on holidays. Ford tracked me down and told me to get back to London immediately and go back to the USA."

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(UC) "Was the XA an Australian initiative because of our unique conditions of our roads or did Dearborn need a lot of convincing?

(DF) "We needed a Falcon and they could no longer provide us with the base, therefore we had to create one economically somehow and that’s why it carried over the floorpan and underbody as I mentioned, along with the six-cylinder and V8 engines, transmissions, rear axle layout and leaf spring rear suspension to simplify the program and reduce expenditure.

"We had to create a vehicle around the Falcon size requirements and those basic carryover constraints. We were just setting up the local design studio.So a group of Australian designers headed by Jack Telmack (XA chief designer) went to the US studios with all the facilities to design the XA, under Gene Borndinat, (Ford VP Design) so he could keep an eye on things, make suggestions and have input into the vehicle."

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Simpler lines for the XC

The code XA was used to signify the dawn of a new Falcon series and partly as it was the first true Australian Falcon and while there was never any discussion about changing the nameplate at the time, that topic did come up later.

"While other parts of Ford were constantly changing model names we stuck with Falcon because we felt it was right, said David. "When Holden went from Kingswood to Commodore there was a suggestion we should change the name, but I was very much opposed to doing that. Falcon was well recognised and everybody understood what it was."

It comes as no surprise the Ford Torino is nominated by David as the car that had an influence on the XA Falcon design, especially the hardtop, but the Torino was considered too bold and round.

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What may come as a surprise is the hardtop never figured in the original plan but was added in 1969 as a response to the Monaro.

According to Ford, had Holden not produced the Monaro, Ford wouldn’t have introduced the hardtop.

(UC) What made the Falcon XA unique?

(DF) "It was the first Falcon not derived from a US model and was uniquely Australian and the car that helped Ford Australia really go forward and stand on its own two feet in terms of its future design and engineering capability."

Motorsport was a major activity for Ford at the time and once it was decided to proceed with the Falcon hardtop the feeling was it should become the race car due to its sporty appearance that went hand-in-hand with racing, plus the fact the hardtop was to be the hero model of the XA range.

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On his return to Australia David put the business case together for the two door Falcon.

"Sales and marketing believed we needed one because Holden had one," said Ford. "Virtually none of the sales came from the Monaro, they came from the Falcon sedan. It was purely an image thing as you had to invest money creating a new body style but you weren’t selling any more vehicles. It was a very hard business proposition and numbers had to be massaged and sales and marketing had to sign up to all sorts of promised numbers in order to make the program supposedly profitable, to get approval from the USA.

"Because the hardtop was coming along after the sedan it was actually modified in the rear wheel arches at the design stage after a request from Competition Manager Al Turner, so it could be fitted with larger wheels and tyres for racing and remain legal on the bodywork, so the racing program did actually influence the two door design at the rear."

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(UC) Was the Phase IV going to be the hardtop rather than the sedan?

(DF) "Yes that was the plan, it would’ve been the hardtop. The initial cars were four doors but it would’ve eventually gone to the market as a hardtop as that was our focus on the racing side."

(UC) Was there ever a hardtop Phase IV built?

(DF) "Not that I recall."

While the Phase IV never saw the light of day as a hardtop, the two-door was nevertheless highly successful ,winning at Bathurst in 1973 with Allan Moffat and Ian Geoghegan in a factory XA, again in 1974 with John Goss and Kevin Bartlett at the wheel and the memorable one-two finish by Allan Moffat and Colin Bond in 1977.

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XB had a more segmented look

(UC) Aside from the major cosmetic changes, what else differed on the XB and when then the XC?

(DF) "The biggest change was to the XC Falcon powertrain when we introduced the crossflow cylinder head on the six cylinder engine to gain a big step up over Holden.

"With the XC we wanted to get away from the Coke bottle rear so we lowered the belt line on the rear door as a step towards a more European concept. Back then anything European was good and anything American was crappy old stuff and we were trying to shift Falcon’s image.

"We used the excuse of the emissions programs to allow us to re-do the engine properly rather than take a minimal approach. It was a huge success for us while Holden made the mistake of doing a minimal emission changes that actually depreciated the performance of their engines, while our emissions program improved the performance, and that was a major success factor of the XC."

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XC Falcon owner - Jim Kormas

JIM KORMAS is the second owner of this totally original 1978 August-build Ford Fairmont XC. When he bought it in December 1998 the odo was showing 111,000 kays, now 22 years on it shows 143,390.

At the time Kormas was working at McLeod Ford, sponsor of John Goss, in Sydney when he bought the car.

"We used to do on-site service the cop cars on the Sutherland shire and a couple of mechanics found the car at Maranda police station with a for sale sign on it.

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"The Sergeant there was selling it on behalf of his father-in-law’ because he was in his 80s and couldn’t drive anymore.

They told me about it and I went and had a look at it that afternoon and bought it there and then.

"I had to have it re-sprayed in 2000 after I it got caught in a big hailstorm in Sydney in 1999, I had it repaired and re-sprayed. Other than that it is absolutely original."

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In its snout is a 302 bolted to a T-bar auto making it the ideal long distance cruiser.

"It’s so smooth and so quiet everyone falls asleep in it," says Kormas, "It has power steering and air-conditioning and is just so comfortable. It doesn’t get up and go and it’s not very fast and is happiest on the open road.

"I drive it once or twice a year on club runs. I’ve driven it to Bathurst, Coffs Harbour and to Melbourne."

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1978 Ford XC Fairmont

Body 4-door coupe
Engine 4.9-litre V8
Power & torque 151W @ 4600rpm, 364Nm @ 3000rpm
Performance 0-100km/h 10.1 seconds
Top speed 200 km/h
Transmission three-speed, automatic
Suspension (f)independent coil springs, springs, telescopic shocks (r)live axle
Brakes disc front, drum rear power-assiste

 

From Unqiue Cars #450, March 2021 

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