Ford Falcon Farewell: The Cars We Should Have Bought

By: Dave Morley, Andy Enright, Guy Allen, Angelo Loupetis

Presented by

fpv bf mkII force 6 fpv bf mkII force 6

The Unique Cars team choose their favourite Ford Falcon models

 

DAVE MORLEY

XA GT

As much as I respect and admire the XR/XT/XW/XY GTs and, of course, the HO derivatives, it’s the next-model-along XA GT that really does it for me. Always has been. I’m not even sure why, but I reckon it has something to do with those disco-spec, keep-on-truckin’ tail-lights and all those curves up and down each side. Throw in the recessed driving lights and the bonnet vents, and you’re on a stylistic winner 1970s-style. I like the XB GT, too, and I’d be  lying if I said those painted bumpers might just be enough to drag me over the XB line if the right car came up. Meantime, it’s nothing more complicated than finances that have kept me out of an XA GT: As a kid when they were brand-new, I was out of the game, and for as long as I’ve had any purchasing power, it has never been enough to park an XA in my shed. I’ll take Lime Glaze with Saddle trim. This week.

XM COUPE

Everybody thinks Monaro when local two-doors come up in conversation. But Ford beat The General to the punch by a good four years with the XM Coupe of 1964. I know the XP is the superior car in engineering terms (although there’s probably less in it than you think as Ford was making changes on the run, not waiting for new models) but I just groove on the XM’s smoother snout. The XP always looks to me like it’s been horizontally filleted and put back together a few inches out of whack with that beak of a front end. I wouldn’t change anything under the bonnet of my XM Hardtop, either, the 170 cube engine will be fine although I might fit up a four-speed auto from something later. Beyond that we’re talking a set of deep-dish steelies for the NASCAR look, an inch out of the ride height and white paint with that louder-than-The-Who red interior. Cue angry letters from the wowsers.

Fpv -bf -mk II-force -6-side

FPV FORCE 6

I bought a BA XR6 Turbo Ute brand-new back in the day. It was my company car and I loved that thing with its Blood Orange paint and black leather. But even more than the colour scheme, it was that magnificent blown straight-six that floated my boat. These days, of course, I’m a grownup (albeit one who still runs a ute as a daily) so I’d go for a Force 6 in gunmetal metallic and that fabulous dark-red, Oxblood leather trim. I just prefer the low-key presentation of the Force 6 over something like its FPV stablemate the F6 Typhoon. The Force 6 is that little bit more stealth with its clean lines and that discreet little bootlid lip as a clue for those paying attention. And, if the 240kW under the hammer of my old ute got me grinning, the 270kW of the Force 6 should keep me amused for years. A keeper, for sure.

GLENN TORRENS

AUII FALCON XR8

Call Me a goose if you want, but I’d have an AUII Falcon XR8 tucked in the shed – no worries. I’d put the effort into tracking down one of the optioned-up 220kW versions, using the tricked and tweaked 5.0-litre Windsor V8 developed by Tickford for its premium-performance T-Series TS50.

I was lucky enough to sample these T-Series when they were new, driving them for WHEELS magazine against the then-new LS1-powered HSVs. For pure driver enjoyment, the Tickford cars were a class above the HSVs in everything except quarter-mile times. And quarter-mile times don’t count for much on a sinuous stretches of grippy bitumen on a sunny Sunday morning when you’re working the steering and throttle, carving corners.

It’s a crying shame – heartbreaking, really - that Ford/ Tickford couldn’t sell more of these Tickfords back in the early 2000s. It wasn’t for lack of trying. Sure, by the time the Sydney 2000 Olympics were being held, Ford’s all-iron Windsor V8 was a decades-old design, especially when viewed against its then-new all-alloy LS1 Holden/HSV opposition. The least expensive model, the TE50, had 200kW but the upper-spec TS50 220kW versions were rebuilt with ported heads and a lumpy cam on a special assembly line to create a truly gorgeous, rorty, tingling V8 with soul.

The chassis was a good thing, too: Under the controversial style, Ford’s suspension was a cut above the Commodore’s; what amounted to a double A-arm front and the clever modular cradle-mounted independent rear (also double A-arm) suspension, gave the car a level of handling and tactility that was akin to a Mazda MX-5. Yes, really. But with the poor sales of the Tickford T-Series (that’s a story for another day) those carefully crafted Synergy 220kW engines ended up being installed in XR8s… And I’d love one.

Ford -falcon -au II-xr8

SONY SCORCHER

This one’s a little outside the box. In the late 1990s, I conceived and project-managed a Street Machine project car. Beginning as a two-door VS Commodore sketched into a modern Monaro, the idea morphed into an EA Falcon two-door as a nod to Falcon’s 1970s two-door Hardtop heritage. The concept was for Street Machine magazine to build "the high performance Falcon that Ford should’ve built".

The car was professionally styled by Jeff Haggarty, who now helps style next-decade’s Holdens. For our project, a sponsor was found – Sony X-Plod car sound – and the Sony Scorcher project kicked-off with a red six-pot EA Falcon GL.

I disassembled the exterior at the shop of respected show-car builder Paul Bennett; he performed the two-door conversion. Paint legend Owen Webb sprayed it a fizzy PPG orange and an enormous stereo was integrated into the bespoke interior.

The Edelbrock alloy-headed COME Engines-built 5.0-V8 transplant produced 242kW on the dyno. I performed much of the assembly – everything from the radiator and crossmember to the tail-shaft and fuel pump had to be replaced for the V8/TKO five-speed transplant – fitted big brakes and K-Mac suspension and wired the management system. Whew!

The car did a low-15 through the quartermile; respectable for the time, especially carrying about 150kg of car stereo. Top speed? Beyond 220km/h at Ford’s You Yangs Proving Ground, where Ford graciously let us test-drive Scorcher. And it was a very tidy handler, too.

Although portrayed over 12 (or was it 13?) monthly build chapters in the magazine, the car soaked up closer to two years of my life. It was great fun – until I got to the end of the process and realised I’d worked something like 50 weekends and two Christmas Days in a row on it and my girl, Ange, had gone.

But jeez it was a good drive, if I say so myself. I really should have bought it when it was offered to me by one of its later owners…

Ford -falcon -gt -esp

1983 XE FAIRMONT GHIA ESP

Why this car didn’t wear a GT badge is, to many people, beyond comprehension. But being a car-nut 10-year-old when Ford stuck the ESP – European Sports Pack – badge on its new-for-the-1980s XD Falcon, I can tell you… the GT was old. It was a noisy, heavy, chromy, shitty relic from the 1960s.

The XD ESP was – like the also-European inspired Holden Commodore, although the Ford carried only the headlights from its Euro Granada cousin – the way of the future, not a dug-up dinosaur like just about anything from the 70s. Sure, attitudes toward our Aussie classic cars may be a little different now – oh yeah, and I'm a little.. um.. more mature - but that was then. And a GT badge was not cool.

To be honest, right now I can’t tell you if the ESP option was available only with a six or an eight or only as a Ghia or if any six-cylinder EFI ones were built. If I was in the market, I’d know. But I’ve got enough cars for now, so… yeah, nah.

But I would love to own a time-warp XE Fairmont Ghia ESP, with its new-for-‘82 coil-sprung rear end, those classic griddesign 15-inch alloys (thankfully Ford didn’t make the same mistake as it did with the similar-era LTD by fitting the Michelin TRX metric wheel system!) and those so sophisticated-looking extra inner driving lights between that wrap-over grille. Inside were the terrific Scheel seats covered in two-tone trim. Yes, the V8 had suffered with lack of development; the 5.8-litre Cleveland V8 was putting out a puny 160-ish kilowatts – but I’ll have one of those, thanks. Red over black – with that fine orange pinstripe - just like the one I missed at a Gosford, NSW car yard in the late 1990s for just $2490. Dammit.

ANDY ENRIGHT

My triumvirate of Falcons is decidedly shy of chrome on the bumpers, and all have the slight whiff of underdog about them.

EB S-XR8 – First up is the EB S-XR8, a car that almost seems to have been expunged from the record. Although it was no fireball, the return of the Falcon V8 was worth celebrating, as was a supple ride that worked well on scabby roads, sensible gearing and aggressive pricing. As time goes by, the understated cleanliness of the styling looks better and better too.

Ford -falcon -te 50

AU TE50 – Next up is the AU TE50, specifically with the Brembo brake package (a $5k option at the time) and a five-speed manual gearbox. The AU gets a bum rap much of the time, but the handassembled 5.6-litre added 30kW to the 220kW 5.0-litre’s output and although it’s not the smoothest engine in the world, it has character and character goes a long way.

FG-X XR6T SPRINT – Finally, we drop a couple of cylinders and plump for the FG-X XR6T Sprint, a car that showed what Ford’s engineers could do with a Barra that was finally taken off the leash. With less weight in the nose and a better torque-to-weight ratio than the bent-eight, it’s one heck of a send-off.

GUY ALLEN

The challenging part about this exercise is trying to narrow down the field – the array of machinery built under the Falcon name is simply staggering. Okay, here goes… XM OR XP COUPE – A no-brainer for me. The lines were clean in the day and still look good 50 years down the track. They’ve always had a bit of a following but the prices did drop like a stone at one point there and now I’m kicking myself for not taking advantage of it. A freshen-up of the six in the snout and maybe a set of discs in the front to give it a fighting chance in modern traffic – that would be perfect.

XA-XC WAGON – There’s something about the curvy seventies cars that gets your attention, and I particularly like the wagons. Big enough to live in, and with some tasty V8 options, they’re the perfect big get-away transport of delight. The sixes are actually quick enough, but the booming V8s just add that sense of being able to leap entire states in a single bound. Actually, looking on Trade Unique cars, the prices don’t seem too bad. Maybe it’s not too late.

Ford -falcon -xr 6-turbo

FG XR6 TURBO – Frankly, any XR6 Turbo would do it for me, but I like the idea of getting hold of the final generation with the six-speed manual. And yes, it would have to be a three-pedal car in one of the blues. The straight six in various forms was a Falcon signature for decades and the idea of hotting it up with a turbine has always had huge appeal. Plus they happen to be a good drive. Keeping one as a family pet has a ring to it.

ANGELO LOUPETIS

Surprisingly for someone who loves chrome bumper Ford's the local "old" Falcon lineup is not high on my ownership list. I must admit though I would not refuse a wild violet XA sedan!

XD ESP – We all witnessed the sucess of the XE ESP during the muscle car boom and XD ESP's always lagged behind in value. My parents owned an XD but the ESP was worlds above in appeal. Jump on one before they are unobtainable as they have popped up recently at a premium.

Fpv -bf -mk 2-gtp

FPV BA/BF GTP – The bonnet bulge, the stripes, the wing, they still look special today and in the right colour combo I would definately own one for the longterm.

FPV F6 TYPHOON – What's not to love? They really got the exterior cosmetics right on the F6 Typhoon and that large front-mount intercooler stirs some emotions with me. I'll have one in Bionic with the optional 19-inch Dark Argent spokes thank you!

 

Sign up to our free weekly newsletter for more unique car reviews and features plus see the latest unique and classic cars for sale.

Subscribe to Unique Cars magazine
- Print edition
- Digital edition