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What the Australian Fords mean to us

Graham Smith living the Falcon dream behind the wheel of is XW GTHO.

October 7, 2016 marks the end of Australian-designed and built Fords for good.

After 91 years and more than six million vehicles produced, there would be few of us that haven’t been touched by the Aussie Fords. Here is a taste of the impact they’ve left on the CarsGuide.com.au team.

Malcolm Flynn

My parents bought our first Falcon second-hand in the beginning of 1992. After three years in the US with the palatial comfort of a 1981 Chevrolet Caprice Classic wagon, our 1986 XF S-Pack wagon was a clear step down. Nine-year old Mal just couldn’t wrap his head around the supposedly sporty S-Pack trim combined with the longer wagon body and leaf-sprung rear end.

  • Malcolm Flynn's 1986 XF Ford Falcon S-Pack wagon. Malcolm Flynn's 1986 XF Ford Falcon S-Pack wagon.
  • Malcolm Flynn's 1997 EL Ford Falcon GLi Classic sedan. Malcolm Flynn's 1997 EL Ford Falcon GLi Classic sedan.
  • Malcolm Flynn's 1991 NC Ford Fairlane Ghia V8. Malcolm Flynn's 1991 NC Ford Fairlane Ghia V8.

Nonetheless, it provided solid service for five and a half years – despite needing an engine recondition at about 200,000km - often with three kids across the back seat and the cargo area chockers with luggage for five.

Its most interesting feature was the horn button located at the end of the indicator stalk.

We replaced the XF with a brand-new EL GLi Classic limited-edition sedan in 1997, which turned out to be a rarity with its unpainted grille bar and side strips, unlike the Futura version that also scored front electric windows. This was a hard-won purchase decision after 14-year old Mal highlighted its superiority by almost every measure over the equivalent VS Commodore Esteem of the time.

The EL survived more than 270,000km of Flynn family use before replacement ball joints and a leaking head gasket (its first by some miracle) rendered it a financial write-off in 2015.

Its most interesting detail would be the plastic dust covers fitted to the inside of the Classic’s 15-inch alloys, that didn’t prevent dust and hindered heat dispersion from the barely passable standard brakes.

The only local Ford I’ve personally owned to date was an NC Fairlane Ghia V8, bought specifically to exploit the unrestricted speeds of the Stuart Highway in the Northern Territory. Being an August 1991 build, it was one of the very first fitted with the 165kW/388Nm fuel-injected Mustang 5.0-litre V8 engine after the seven-year V8 absence from local passenger models (the locally-converted Bronco 4x4s had V8s until 1987).

The internet was still relatively fresh in 2005, which led me to believe that the V8 didn’t have the 180km/h speed limiter of the six-cylinder models. This turned out to be a furphy as my 200km/h dreams were shattered as the limiter kicked in at an indicated 196km/h. Looking back, this was indeed a blessing as the Fairlane’s huge single-piece driveshaft was certainly thrumming as I approached the double ton.

Top speed aside, it was the perfect car for the 6000km-plus round trip from the ACT. It had enough ground clearance and ruggedness for unsealed roads, excellent comfort and overtaking grunt with a fuel consumption personal best of about 8.5L/100km at a steady 110km/h.

Most valuable lesson learned: It’s mighty hard to find a replacement V8 starter motor at the Uluru resort on a Sunday.

What local Ford would I like to own right now?

The FG X XR6 Sprint is arguably the pinnacle of local Ford engineering, but the smart money right now is surely an ex-NSW Highway Patrol XR6 Turbo with factory Brembos bought at auction for about 1/3 the Sprint’s new price. Yep, they’re autos, but I’d probably tire from replacing clutches trying to harness 533Nm with a manual.

Richard Berry

There is no other Australian car past or present tougher or meaner than the Ford GT-HO Falcons from the late 1960s and early 1970s.

I’d drooled over these Bathurst heroes since I was seven and it wasn’t until I was almost 30 that I landed one. Well it wasn’t a real one, but it was the next best thing. See the real GT-HOs were selling for squillions, but the upside to this was that even regular Falcons from the same era were being hotted up to be like them.

  • Richard Berry's 1970 XW Ford Falcon 500. Richard Berry's 1970 XW Ford Falcon 500.
  • Richard Berry's 1970 XW Ford Falcon 500. Richard Berry's 1970 XW Ford Falcon 500.

At the time I didn’t have a job or any savings, but I’d just written a book (Dear John, if you’re interested) and so spent the entire advance from the publisher on the Falcon - a 1970 XW Falcon 500, with a 302 V8, a four-speed Top Loader manual gearbox, twin 2.5-inch exhaust, lowered and on 12-slot mags.

When my girlfriend and I broke up, it was just myself, the Falcon and my cat, Peter Phelps. It was all I needed. I lived for cruising in third gear on summer nights, the burble of the V8 hanging in the warm air around me.

It was at a Christmas party in 2006 and there was this drop-dead gorgeous woman with neon red hair called Amanda, we were outside and she pointed to my car out the front and said: “Nice Falcon.”

I told her it was mine. She told me her first car was an XM Falcon.

We’ve been together and married ever since.

We sold Wendy a few years later. 

What local Ford would I like to own right now?

Would I get another XW Falcon? Maybe not, life’s too short to have the same car twice. But a hardtop 1965 XP Falcon would do nicely next.

Tim Robson

The Falcon isn’t the only car that’s rolling out of our lives on Friday 7 October. Loved in some quarter and loathed in others, some have branded the Territory as the biggest folly Ford Australia ever undertook – but I think differently.

Tim Robson's 2004 Ford Territory TS. Tim Robson's 2004 Ford Territory TS.

Our 2004 base model TS has been in the family for five years now, and in that time it’s proven time and again that its design – especially its interior, done by a gent called Marcus Hotblack – was astonishingly ahead of the curve.

Flexible-band bottle holders. A handbag holder. Drawers under the seat. Fold-flat rear seats with a small flap to cover the resultant gap. A wet compartment under the boot floor.

Various SUVs over the years have featured real-world niceties like these – but not one has had them all in the one package.

Despite its $500 million budget, the Territory’s Falcon underpinnings led to some compromises with suspension parts that took years to chase out, and we’ve spent a bit of money over the years rectifying silly failures. The ignition barrel, for example, was never designed to carry the weight of several keys, and costs a motza to fix.

But Terry, as our car is known has become part of our family. The interior trim looks a bit tatty, thanks to any number of bikes and car bits thrown in and out, and as a part fails, we scavenge from wrecker’s yards to keep it ticking.

The Territory has never left us stranded, though, it’s so amazingly comfortable and predictable to drive (if ridiculously thirsty – why Ford left the diesel so late, I’ll never know) and so practical day to day, it’ll be a bit sad to see Terry go – as it will be with the current Territory, which remains essentially unchanged 12 years on.

What local Ford would I like to own right now?

As a young motoring hack, I was routinely thrown to the keys to a 2002 Tickford TE50 that resided at our mag office – mainly because the ed was too busy lusting after Mercs and BMWs.

His loss – the Falcon-based TE50 sported a hand-built Windsor V8 stroked to 5.6 litres, and made 250kW and 500Nm – though it felt like a LOT more.

With a five-speed manual gearbox and massive Brembo stoppers under huge OZ-esque rims, the TE50 was an uncouth bugger with the heart of a lion and the soul of an absolute barking lunatic.

It remains to this day, after 16 years of car testing, the only car I’ve called my bank manager about buying…

Peter Anderson

The big red XB Falcon 500 wagon my mother's father owned was a huge part of my childhood. My grandfather was my favourite person in my youth - a fun, garrulous character and the car itself seemed to reflect that. It was fun and in that red paint, impossible to ignore.

  • Peter Anderson's grandfather's Ford Falcon 500 wagon. Peter Anderson's grandfather's Ford Falcon 500 wagon.
  • Peter Anderson's grandfather's Ford Falcon 500 wagon. Peter Anderson's grandfather's Ford Falcon 500 wagon.

The Falcon 500 took us to the Royal Easter Show, to the burger shop when we stayed over and to the off-grid property at Nerriga. All the while it squeaked and wheezed like his other old car, the Vanguard. The Falcon would only have been a few years old when he had it, but aged rapidly - cars were tools in that Peakhurst driveway, nothing more. He'd had it from my first memory of him until about 1985, when it was replaced with a VH Commodore wagon.

I remember the winding window in the flop-down tailgate, the two-spoke steering wheel and the push-button AM radio. This car could do anything and my grandfather made it do everything - he built a hut and then a longhouse out at Nerriga (illegally, obviously) and it was the red Falcon that did the heavy lifting down that rocky goat track.

What local Ford would I like to own right now?

If I could have any Falcon, it would be that one - I still miss the old bugger and would give anything to hear the squeaks, rattles and those immortal words, "Buttons down and belt up."

Tom White

I’m proud to own a 2009 Ford Falcon FG right now, in base XT trim. The Falcon’s extinction is a roaring shame. I love this car. It might look a little dorky, but I’ve taken it everywhere and it’s never let me down once. Thanks to the Falcon’s tried and tested design that’s remained relatively unchanged for decades, it’s hard to fault and cheap to service. I’ve seen AU Falcons with 700k + on the clock that still go.

  • Tom White's 2009 FG Ford Falcon XT. Tom White's 2009 FG Ford Falcon XT.
  • Tom White's 2009 FG Ford Falcon XT. Tom White's 2009 FG Ford Falcon XT.
  • Tom White's 2009 FG Ford Falcon XT. Tom White's 2009 FG Ford Falcon XT.

The relatively old-fashioned inline six and rear-drive layout is far removed from the little four cylinder turbo hatchbacks most of my friends own, but it gives it a wonderful driving dynamic. The amount of feedback the car gives you around corners makes for an involved drive, something that’s often lost in today’s world of front-drivers.

I’m not going to pretend it’s perfect. The suspension is too soft at the front so it scrapes on everything, the five-speed auto is garbage and Ford’s design for the dash controls is all over the place.

Why did I buy it? I bought it on the cheap ex-lease and despite almost 150,000kms on the clock it felt like new.

What local Ford would I like to own right now?

Would I buy another? Definitely. This car has been a pleasure to own. An FG-X would be nice, in XR6 trim so it doesn’t look so ordinary. Why wouldn’t I want a turbo? For me this is a pragmatist’s car, loads of room and ultra-dependable, and I just don’t need the extra power.

Mark Oastler

As a kid I was always mad about John Goss’s XA GT Hardtop race car in its bright yellow ‘Shell’ colour scheme, so obviously I jumped at the below XA Falcon 351 Hardtop in 1984. I wanted to compete in club motor sport events and didn’t fancy the prospect of fencing a genuine GT, so it made sense to opt for this nice replica with the 5.8 litre 351 Cleveland V8 and all the good gear. I won my class in a lap dash at Oran Park and felt like I’d just won Bathurst! I had to sell it at the end of the year to move to the UK for work, but I still have fond memories of that great muscle car.

  • Mark Oastler's XA Ford Falcon GT Hardtop. Mark Oastler's XA Ford Falcon GT Hardtop.
  • Mark Oastler's XB Ford Falcon ute. Mark Oastler's XB Ford Falcon ute.

I owned the above XB Falcon 500 ute for a couple of years in the early 1980s when I was doing my apprenticeship in the building industry (note teenage boofhead bricklayer). It was a Falcon 500 with the 250cid/4.1 litre inline six and column shift auto. The previous owner had dressed it up with a GT bonnet, Aunger ‘Hotwire’ mag wheels, chrome tie rails and a huge air-con unit that could turn the cabin into a freezer in seconds. It lugged everything from building supplies to camping gear to motocross bikes. It was such a tough, practical and reliable worker with good looks to match.

What local Ford would I like to own right now?

XP Futura two-door Hardtop with 200 Super Pursuit engine. The XP is the most significant local Falcon in my book because it literally saved Ford Australia with its success in the audacious 70,000-mile Durability Run in 1965. The XP Hardtop is a stunner and immortal proof of how Aussie Ford engineers quickly learned how to make an American car tough enough for Australia.

  • Three of our experts pick the 1965 XP Ford Falcon Hardtop as their dream Australian Ford. Three of our experts pick the 1965 XP Ford Falcon Hardtop as their dream Australian Ford.
  • Three of our experts pick the 1965 XP Ford Falcon Hardtop as their dream Australian Ford. Three of our experts pick the 1965 XP Ford Falcon Hardtop as their dream Australian Ford.

Graham Smith

As a young engineer working in Holden’s Product Engineering department when Peter Brock and Allan Moffat were battling for supremacy on our race tracks in the 1970s it wasn’t a good look to own up to being a Ford fan.

They were exciting times and like most people at Holden I was a fan of Brock and the Holden Dealer Time, they were racing the cars we were working on 9 to 5, and we celebrated their wins hard and tried to work out what we could do to make the Monaros and Toranas faster when they didn’t win.

But I’d grown up a Ford fan and couldn’t help but admire Moffat and the big Falcons he raced.

It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that I had the chance to own a Falcon like those Moffat raced.

  • Graham Smith's 1970 XW Ford Falcon GTHO. Graham Smith's 1970 XW Ford Falcon GTHO.
  • Graham Smith's 1970 XW Ford Falcon GTHO. Graham Smith's 1970 XW Ford Falcon GTHO.

It was a 1970 XW GTHO. It had a legendary 351 cubic inch Cleveland V8, Toploader four-speed gearbox, tough nine-inch rear-end, and all the special modifications that went into a GT Falcon to make it an HO. Best of all it was painted Brambles Red like the factory racers.

Although it was a genuine musclecar the GTHO was a real pussycat. It would happily roll along at town speed, the worst thing about driving it in town was that it was heavy to steer.

But out on the highway it came into its own when you could build up a little speed. It was meant to go fast, the faster it went the better it became.

It was even better on the racetrack. I didn’t have the skill and daring to cut it with the real heroes of the racetrack, but I did compete in a number of ‘fun’ events when I could push the car to my limits.

It wasn’t at home on gymkhana events where it’s bulk worked against it, but it was in its element on the high-speed banked track at Ford’s Geelong Proving Grounds where it ran 136 mph on the flying 1/8th-mile event on the 2000 Dutton Grand Prix Rally.

There was also the fun of climbing the Collingrove Hillclimb in South Australia as part of Dick Johnson’s Ford team battling the Holden team led by Peter Brock during the 2004 Holden-Ford V8 Challenge.

But the best fun of all was opening the taps on Conrod Straight at Bathurst during the Falcon GT Nationals in 2003.

Bathurst is the HO’s home and Conrod is its natural hunting ground.

The sprint event run during the Nationals gave GT and HO owners the chance to experience the thrill of thundering flat-out down Conrod, through the Caltex Chase and Hell Corner to the finish on Pit Straight.

It’s hard to imagine a more exciting thing to do in a car, particularly a Falcon GTHO.

For me motoring has never been the same since.

I sadly said goodbye the HO when prices reached a level I couldn’t ignore

What local Ford would I like to own right now?

I had the chance to buy an XY GT a few years ago and didn’t. It was a rare Surfer Orange car. I’d like to have the chance to buy that one again. For me the XY GT is the stand-out with its shaker hood scoop and rear spoiler. It looks good, sounds good, and goes hard.

I also like the XP hardtop,that was Australia’s Mustang and looked great and still does.

I also like the Customline with the OHV V8. They were as good as it got in the 1950s, and the V8 burble is one you never forget.

My favourite Ford of all though is the ’32. Ford only made 2189 ’32s in Australia, they’re as rare as, they have that iconic grille, and the flathead rumble.

Have any Aussie made Fords had an impact on you? Share your story in the comments below.