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Ford Falcon

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General description

The Ford Falcon is a car which has been manufactured by Ford since 1960. It was once manufactured in the USA, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, and Chile, and was also assembled in many other countries. The Falcon remains Ford's most popular model in Australia, which is also the only country in which new Falcons are now built. If sales figures from all countries are combined the Falcon is one of the biggest selling names in world automotive history.[1] (http://www.falconclub.com/story.html)

Falcons in North America

1963 Ford Falcon Futura Convertible
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1963 Ford Falcon Futura Convertible

Historically, the Big Three auto manufacturers, (GM, Ford and Chrysler), focused purely on the larger and more profitable vehicles in the US and Canadian markets. Towards the end of the 1950s, all three manufacturers realised that that former strategy would no longer work. Large automobiles were becoming increasingly expensive thanks to wage inflation, making smaller European cars such as Volvos and Volkswagens increasingly attractive. Furthermore, many American families were now in the market for a second car, and market research showed that women especially thought that the full-size car had grown too large and cumbersome. At the same time, that research showed that many buyers would prefer to buy US or Canadian if the domestic manufacturers offered a smaller, cheaper car. Thus, all three introduced compact cars: the Valiant from Chrysler (becoming the Plymouth Valiant in 1961), the rear-engined Chevrolet Corvair, and the Ford Falcon. Competition also came from smaller Studebaker, with the Lark, and AMC with its Rambler line.

By American standards of the 1960s, the Falcon was a small car, but elsewhere it was considered a medium-size car. It was powered by a smaller, lightweight 90 hp (67 kW), 144 cubic inch (2.4 L) straight-6 with a single-barrel carburetor. Construction was unibody, and suspension was fairly standard; coil springs in front, leaf springs in the rear. There was room for six passengers in reasonable comfort in the simple interior. Body styles available at launch were two and four-door sedans, two or four door station wagons, and the Ford Ranchero car-based pickup, transferred onto the Falcon platform for 1960.

Robert McNamara, a Ford executive who became Ford's president briefly before being offered the job of US Defence Secretary, is regarded by many as "the father of the Falcon". McNamara left Ford shortly after the Falcon's introduction, but his faith in the concept was vindicated with record sales; over half a million in the first year and hitting over a million sold by the end of the second year.

The 1961 model year introduced an optional 101 horsepower, 170 cubic inch (2.8 L) six, and two new models were introduced; a bucket-seat sedan model with a higher trim level called the Futura, and a sedan delivery. A Mercury derivative, the Mercury Comet, was launched.

1962 saw a Squire model of the station wagon, with fake wood trim on the sides. Also new that year, the "Futura" option was offered with in slightly upgraded interrior, different fender trim (spears), and a handful of different emblems. Halfway through the model year, they changed the roof line at the back window to more of a Thunderbird design.

1966 Falcon Sports Coupe
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1966 Falcon Sports Coupe

1963 had even more models available; there was now a 4-door Futura, there was a Deluxe wagon and Ranchero, convertibles were introduced, and the new "sprint" model was introduced. Halfway through the model year, a 260 cubic inch (4.3 L) V8 engine was offered for the first time. The Falcon was climbing in trim level from its budget beginnings as Ford attempted to wring more profit from the line.

A redesign changed the Falcon's looks for 1964. The new look was more squared-off, more modern, as Ford chased the youth market. Later in 1964, Ford's new offering for that market was launched: the Ford Mustang, based heavily on the Falcon but with no compromises about its youthful, fun intention. The Mustang dealt Falcon sales a blow from which they would never recover.

The Falcon continued to be sold, but at much lower levels, even after another redesign in 1966 that moved the Falcon into small mid-size territory. The Ranchero was moved to the Fairlane platform in 1967, and the convertible models were discontinued.

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1969 Falcon station wagon
1969 Falcon station wagon and 4-door sedan
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1969 Falcon station wagon and 4-door sedan

The final sales year for the compact Falcon in the United States was 1969, with this aborted 1970 model year replaced on January 1, 1970. These 1970½ Falcons were unique: they were a version of the larger Ford Fairlane, sold only for seven months before the introduction of the Ford Maverick in 1971. These Falcons could be ordered with all the Fairlane options, including the giant Ford 429 Cobra Jet engine (7.0 L).

Falcons in Argentina

In Argentina, Falcons closely resembling the 1960s North American Falcons were built until the early 1990s. Green Falcons became infamous due to their use by death squads during the military dictatorship of the 1970s and early 1980s.

The Falcon retained the same body style, with a more substantial facelift taking place in the 1980s, bringing it into line with other Fords. However, by then, it was apparent that it was a 1959 design wearing a 1980s grille.

The station wagon model was officially called the Falcon Rural.

Falcons in Australia

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1973 ("XB") Australian Ford Falcon GT 351

General description

Ford Australia claims that four million of its versions of the Falcon have been sold since 1960, and it has been the best selling car in Australia on many occasions. Throughout its history the Falcon has been available in sedan, station wagon, "ute" (short for "utility," the Australian name for pickup trucks), and panel van versions. Falcons dominate the ranks of taxis in Australia and New Zealand and are also widely used as police cars.

Other Falcon-based models continue to be made in Australia, including a luxury version called the Fairmont. The Fairlane and LTD limousine models use a longer version of the Falcon wheelbase. The Ford Futura carries a name which was originally used for a two-door coupe in the 1960s. The name was revived in Australia some years later for a mid-range model which carries neither Falcon nor Fairmont badges. Falcon and Fairmont station wagons, as well as the Fairlane and LTD limousines, have a longer wheelbase than the Falcon. For this reason they are sometimes rebuilt for uses such as stretch limousines and hearses.

History

In 1959, Ford built a factory at Broadmeadows in Victoria for the Falcon, which is still made there. Falcon components made at Broadmeadows and other places have, in the past, also been assembled at several other locations. Until the early 1990s one of these factories was Ford New Zealand's plant in Wiri, Auckland; since then all Falcons sold in that country have been fully imported from Australia.

The first Falcons sold in Australia, from September 1960, were a model designated the "XK", essentially a right hand drive version of the US model. Ford Australia needed a car that was larger than modified North American or British models, such as the Ford Zephyr, which were not always considered suitable for the Australian market. "XK" sales suffered from complaints about the durability of US-designed cars on rough outback roads. Ford Australia introduced some local design changes to the "XK" in early 1962, such as as a heavier suspension system. However, the Falcon was still widely perceived as unsuitable for local conditions and was not a success in the Australian market. Nevertheless, Ford stuck with the Falcon and sales increased over following years. The "XP", released in 1965, was the first Falcon with an Australian-designed body, although it differed little in appearance from US models. The Fairmont was introduced as an upmarket variant. The XP was Wheels magazine's Car of the Year for 1965, while the XR won the award in 1966.

The Australian affection for the ute also allowed the Falcon to serve as the base model for their line of utes and panelvans, starting in the late 1950s and gaining rapid recognition by (usually younger) enthusiasts by the mid-1960s. As the base sedan and station wagon models of the Falcon further evolved, so too did the ute and panelvan models, although usually up to a year or so after initial release into the market.

Falcons have been raced in Australia's premier touring car racing categories for many years. From the late 1960s, when the Bathurst Enduro was raced in production cars, a series of high-performance Falcon variants were built. With the "XW" in 1969, Australian Falcons gained a GT model with a bigger V8, the 351 cubic inch (5.8 L) Canadian-made "Windsor" engine, producing 291 hp (217kW). The GTs remain valuable collectors' cars and this is especially true of the "XY" GT, released in 1970, in which the Windsor was replaced by a "Cleveland" 351, producing 300hp (224kW). An upgraded Cleveland, in the 1971 "XY" GTHO Phase III, produced 385 hp (287 kW). The Phase III was acclaimed by some admirers as "the fastest four-door sedan in the world". (Only a handful of the semi-legendary "Phase IV" were built, and these were never officially sold by Ford.)

The end of production in the US paved the way for much greater Australian input in the design of Australian-made Falcons, from 1971 onwards, although for several years there was still a distinct resemblance to US-made Mustang. This was particularly noticeable in the "XA" Falcon, introduced in 1972 and the similar "XB" and "XC" models.

The 1973 GT "XB" was the car used to create the black 'Pursuit Special' in the film Mad Max, while the 1974 "XB" Sedan was the basis for the blue and yellow Police Interceptors that also made an appearance.

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1979 "XD" Falcon sedan

The Falcon, while popular, was outsold in Australia by GM Holden's Kingswood until 1978, when Holden decided to replace the Kingswood with a smaller model called the Commodore, based on the European Opel models. Ford's next model Falcon, the "XD", introduced in 1979, bore some styling resemblances to the European Ford Granada, but was somewhat larger, and outsold the Commodore.

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1979 "XD" Falcon sedan

Government pressure and the fuel crisis began to curtail the development of high performance cars. Despite some opposition, the traditional V8 models were deleted in the 1980s, in favour of fuel-injected six-cylinder models which, in fact, produced more power. The eights remained absent till after the "EA" was introduced.

With hindsight, the deletion of the bent-eights was the lesser of two evils presented at the time. Ford had considered replacing the Falcon with a model from "Project Capricorn", which would have seen a front-wheel-drive car based on a stretched Mazda 626 fill the market segment.

There was a third alternative: developing a four-door version of the European Ford Scorpio, which at the time had only been designed as a five-door hatchback. Work on this did progress to clay models.

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1990 "XF" MkII Falcon panelvan

Ford persisted with developing an all-Australian car under the codename EA26 (E for the large size, A for Australia, 26 for the global project number, usually in sequence at Ford). EA26 would retain the traditional Falcon hallmarks of width and rear-wheel-drive. This proved to be the correct move as sales of the Falcon began to climb after the fuel crisis aftermath, while those of the rival Holden Commodore slipped. It became clear that Australian buying patterns had not truly changed and what the public wanted was a full-size family car.

In addition, Ford's dominance of the taxi market in Australia meant that a car that could comfortably seat three along the back seat—and even the front, with a bench seat installed—was necessary. It also ensured that Ford could retain, at least until Holden released the new Statesman in the late 1980s, the market for official cars for governmental use.

1988 "EA" Falcon sedan
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1988 "EA" Falcon sedan
1988 "EA" Falcon wagon
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1988 "EA" Falcon wagon

The "EA" model Falcon introduced in 1988 bore a passing resemblance to the European Ford Scorpio, but under the skin, remained entirely Australian. This was only produced as a sedan and wagon, with the old model ute continuing in production. Between 1989 and 1992, a version of the Falcon ute was badged as a Nissan under an unsuccessful government-backed model-sharing scheme called the Button Plan (which also saw the Nissan Pintara badged as the Ford Corsair).

The Tickford Fords of the 1990s represented the reintroduction of high performance models. These included the XR8, engineered by the British company Tickford, which does work for Aston Martin, now also owned by Ford.

While their ute models still proved very popular, the popularity of the panelvan at this stage had faded somewhat of late, and Ford released their last and apparently final model of the panelvan in 1997 with their XH model (based off the EF model of the previous year). Falcon-based utes continued evolving along the lines of the sedan however: the next model (AU) offered the first tray-model ute in many years.

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1999 "AU" Falcon XR8 sedan
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1999 "AU" Falcon XR8 sedan

The "AU" model Falcon was released in 1998, but was panned by the motoring press, and faced an uphill battle against the new "VT" model Holden Commodore. The "AU"—actually developed under the code name "EA169"—had Ford's "New Edge" design style, which was meant to differentiate it from the Audi-esque styling prevalent in the 1990s. The gamble, which worked with the Ford Focus, did not endear the "AU" Falcon to its buyers.

However, Ford Australia has fought back with the "BA" model Falcon, which yet another unique design, showing that the "AU"'s failure was due to the proportions and lines of the car. The "BA" retains the same doors, but otherwise appears as a very thorough redesign. Engineering-wise, substantial improvements were made to allow the "BA"—still officially part of the "EA169" platform—to compete well against the Commodore.

It is interesting to note that Ford Australia continues to faces the same problems that led to the Falcon being introduced in the 1960s: the resistance of Ford buyers to "smaller" models. Attempts to sell the US Ford Taurus in Australia and New Zealand as a possible future replacement for the Falcon proved unsuccessful. Since the dropping of the Scorpio, the largest model available from Ford in Europe is now the Mondeo, which proved unpopular in Australia, even competing in the same medium-sized segment of the market as it does in Europe.

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2004 "BA" Falcon XR8 Sedan
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2004 "BA MkII" Falcon XR8 Sedan. Pic:Vic Radacic

Australian Falcon exports have traditionally been confined to countries in the Asia-Pacific region, such as New Zealand, and Pacific Island nations like Papua New Guinea and Fiji. The only significant export market for the Falcon outside the region has been South Africa, where it was released in 1996, after an absence of nearly 20 years, but was dropped in 2003. Some limousines and hearses are exported to the UK by Coleman Milne, which used to convert European-made Granadas and Scorpios for the same purposes. Hong Kong also imported a small batch of Falcons for trial as taxis, but they have not seen success there either. The Falcon was Wheels magazine's Car of the Year again for 2002.

A Falcon-based all wheel drive off-road model, the Ford Territory, was released in 2004.

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