Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
Ford Falcon
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Ford Falcon

Table of contents
1 General description
2 Falcons in North America
3 Falcons in Argentina
4 Falcons in Australia

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, Brazil 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]

Falcons in North America

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.

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 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, and halfway through the model year the Sport Futura with a revised, more coupe-like rear roofline.

1963 had even more models available; there was now a 4-door Futura, there was a Deluxe wagon and Ranchero, and convertibles were 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 was discontinued.

The final sales year for the Falcon in the United States was 1970, and these Falcons were unique; a version of the larger Ford Fairlane was sold as the 1970½ Falcon for one year only before the introduction of the new Ford Maverick in 1971. These Falcons could be ordered with all the Fairlane options, including the giant Ford 429 Cobra Jet engine (7.0 litres). The Falcon tooling was shipped to Australia.

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.

Falcons in Australia

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 and "ute" (short for "utility," the Australian name for pickup trucks) versions. Falcons dominate the ranks of taxis in Australia and New Zealand and are also widely used as police cars.

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.

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 217kW. The "XY", released in 1970, replaced the Windsor with the "Cleveland" 351, which produced 300 hp (224 kW). The "XY" Falcon GTHO Phase III, released in 1971, was said at the time to be the fastest four-door sedan in the world, producing 385 hp (287 kW). The GTs, particularly the 1971 Phase III, are valuable collectors' cars.

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 these was still a distinct resemblance to US-made Mustang. This was particlarly noticeable in the "XA" Falcon, introduced in 1972 and the similar "XB" (1973) and "XC" (1976) models.

The 1973 GT "XB" was the car used to create the black 'Interceptor' 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.

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. Government pressure and the fuel crisis began to curtail the development of high performance cars.

The "EA" model Falcon, introduced in 1988, similarly 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 saw the reintroduction of high performance models. These included the XR8, engineered by the British company Tickford, which also does work for Aston Martin, now also owned by Ford.

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. However, Ford Australia has fought back with the "BA" model Falcon, which is a unique design. 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.

Other Falcon-based models continue to be made in Australia, including the Fairmont and Futura (not to be confused with the US-made Futura, scheduled to be sold from 2006). The Fairlane and LTD limousine models, which are popular as government cars throughout Australasia, use a longer wheelbase that the Falcon. These are also converted for use at funerals, as hearses. A Falcon-based off-road model, called the Territory, is due for release in 2004.

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 Granadass and Scorpioss for the same purposes.