1960-1966 Ford Falcon


The first iteration of the Aussie Falcon, the XK generation, looked quite a bit like its American cousin. See more classic car pictures.

Ford's straightforward compact was an instant hit when it debuted in the United States, but would the Ford Falcon fly in Australia? In this article, you will learn how the Ford Falcon faired overseas.

September 14, 1960, is an important date in the annals of the Ford Motor Company of Australia. It was on that day that Ford once and for all laid down the gauntlet to archrival General Motors-Holden's; it was on that day that the completely new Ford Falcon sedan was released to the motoring public of Australia.

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The Falcon represented the first head-to-head challenge to Holden's since the GM subsidiary began dominating the market with its range of medium-sized six-cylinder sedans starting in 1948. Its release was the culmination of years of in-house negotiations that had seen Ford lose the initiative in Australia to GM in 1945 and forced it to play catch-up for the next four decades.

Immediately prior to World War II, Australian car companies primarily were import arms and local assembly operations for overseas firms doing business "Down Under." There was no manufacturing. Later, when the tide of war turned toward the Allies, some thought began to be devoted to the industries that would replace armaments when peace returned.

One of the ideas that appealed to the Australian government was the establishment of a domestic motor industry, so much so that the government let it be known it would form a corporation to build a homegrown car if the firms already doing business in Australia weren't interested in doing so themselves.

Lawrence Hartnett, managing director at GM-H, quickly submitted a proposal for an Australian car, then set about trying to convince his superiors in the United States that they should support it. However, Ford Australia -- under the leadership of H. C. French -- badly bungled its proposal for Australian manufacture when the federal government requested submissions from the industry.

French left for discussions with his masters in Canada on October 7, 1944, following receipt of the government's proposal. While GM-H's submission was for a compact six-cylinder family sedan, the Ford concept was far broader: It suggested a range comprising a sedan, station wagon, utility, and light trucks, but was based on a 1942 Mercury V-8 design that was unacceptable to the government.

Apart from proposing a larger, more expensive, and less fuel-efficient range of cars based on old technology the fatal flaw in French's proposal was to ask the government up front for £850,000 (approximately $1.7 million) to offset the massive capital costs for the project and for the government to raise import duties on imported chassis and components.

Competition grew to bring a new automobile to Australia and Ford was right in the thick of it. Read about the road Ford went down that eventually brought them to the Falcon on the next page.

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The Ford Falcon in Australia

The first Australian-built Falcon six-cylinder engine came off the line in April 1960.
The first Australian-built Falcon six-cylinder engine came off the line in April 1960.

Ford Australia chief H. C. French and then-new Prime Minister Ben Chifley continued to debate over the future of the Ford Falcon. The dreadful irony of all the complex maneuvering was that Lawrence Hartnett was not able to extract the financial commitment he needed from his superiors in New York, who insisted that the money be raised locally. Chifley used his influence to arrange a $2.5 million loan from the Commonwealth Bank to GM-H even though French had been refused government assistance on the very same issue.

Faced with its most serious competitor gaining the upper hand to manufacture in the burgeoning Australian market, Ford was forced to cast around for cars to sell. From England came the small two-door Anglia and four-door Prefect sedans, and the sidevalve V-8 Pilot that was just a tad larger than the Holden. From Ford of Canada came the hunch-backed North American V-8 sedans, followed in 1949 by the more modern spinner-nose Custom sedans that were the first Fords to have a coil-and-wishbone front suspension, but retained the "flathead" V-8 engine.

In June 1950, French retired and was replaced by Charles Smith, an Englishman who had spent much of his working life in Canada and who was posted to Australia from Ford in South Africa. He was a no-nonsense, straight-from-the-shoulder kind of guy quick to assess a need and go at it with all guns blazing. His bosses in Windsor were soon to feel the full brunt of his attack.

Ford Australia was in desperate need of revitalizing, and Smith was determined to challenge GM-Holden's for market supremacy. The Ford plant at Geelong was modernized to assemble the V-8 engine, and in 1952 Smith introduced the most modern postwar Fords yet: the 1.5-liter four-cylinder Consul and the related 2.3-liter six-cylinder Zephyr, both sourced from the UK. The Zephyr was a belated -- and more expensive -- challenger to the Holden, but was moderately successful nonetheless.

Still, Smith kept the pressure on for an "all-Australian" Ford challenger. Eventually, in 1955, the decision was taken to build the Zephyr as a direct challenger to the Holden. Smith negotiated £18.5 million ($37 million) for investments in new assembly and engine manufacturing facilities.

As stylists worked on the Zephyr for Ford, Smith had other plans. Learn how Smith altered the development of the Ford Falcon on the next page.

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The Development of the Ford Falcon

Engineers at Ford Australia's Geelong plant iron out details of the Falcon.
Engineers at Ford Australia's Geelong plant iron out details of the Falcon.

Rather than expand the existing Geelong plant to work on the Ford Falcon, Charles Smith chose to look for land closer to Melbourne because of its large labor pool and proximity to vital component suppliers. In 1956, Henry Bolte, then premier of Victoria state, offered Ford a 400-acre parcel of land at Broadmeadows, about 15 miles north of Melbourne, at $500 an acre.

The attraction for Ford was derived from the announcement by the government that a massive residential development was planned for the area and that labor would therefore be easy to recruit. The site was purchased in April 1957, and construction began in February 1958.

Meanwhile, back in the United States, a group of stylists in Ford's Dearborn studios was working on a restyled Zephyr, known internally as the Mark IIA, as Ford's competitor to the Holden. On July 31, 1958, Smith received a cable from Theodore Emmett, executive vice president of Ford of Canada, asking him to come to the U.S. to view progress on the Mark IIA.

When Smith saw the mock-up, he was extremely disappointed and categorically rejected it, much to the surprise of the attending U.S. executives. To him, the Mark IIA was a poor rehash of an already old design. "I need a product to match the times, a car that projects a new image of Ford," he said.

Smith's reaction was not appreciated by his colleagues. After all, he had been granted millions to manufacture the Zephyr as an Australian car, and now he was refusing to accept the product. Emmett sensed the delicacy of the situation and quietly asked Smith if he would like to view the mock-up of the new compact Ford was developing to tackle the all-conquering Volkswagen Beetle. From the moment he set eyes on the full-scale study Smith knew it was what he had in mind.

"That's the car I wanted for Australia," Smith said. "It was a new car. It had the advantage of Detroit engineering and design, and I suspected that Ford UK already had plans to discontinue the Zephyr range." (This last conclusion would prove incorrect, as it turned out.)

He immediately cabled Geelong with a simple statement: "Cancel Zephyr." The decision cost the company $137,000 to cancel already-ordered Zephyr tooling.

Learn about how Smith convinced colleagues to switch to the Ford Falcon on the next page.

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The 1960 Ford Falcon

The starting point for the 1960 XK Falcon was the standard sedan with a 144-cid six and three-speed transmission.
The starting point for the 1960 XK Falcon was the standard sedan with a 144-cid six and three-speed transmission.

Among the executives in Charles Smith's party when he settled on the Ford Falcon was manufacturing engineer Brian Inglis, later to be knighted for his work in the automotive industry and the first Australian-born managing director of Ford Australia.

Years later, he commented on the decision: "There was no doubt which was the better looking car. But the Falcon was not as robust as our restyled Zephyr and we had certain misgivings...Among the things that I believe influenced Mr. Smith deciding on the Falcon was the fact that it was lighter and easier to build, it would cost less than the Zephyr to manufacture, and therefore be more competitive with the Holden, and also that Ford Australia had far more experience in building American cars than British."

Broadmeadows was completed in August 1959, a year before the Falcon, known internally as the XK, was to appear in Australian showrooms. The first car off the new assembly line, ironically, was a Zephyr. Charles Smith retired at the end of 1959, succeeded by 38-year-old John Mclntyre recruited from Canada, where he had been assistant general manager for manufacturing. It was Mclntyre who would have the responsibility of introducing the Falcon to Australia.

The Falcon was launched to the media at a gala function in the Bamboo Room of the fashionable Chevron Hotel in Melbourne. Ford invited 37 journalists from around Australia for the event. As the Falcon song was being sung, the curtains were slowly lifted to reveal the new car amid loud cheers from the newsmen. What they saw, and what car buyers got, was an exact copy of the hugely successful U.S. Falcon compact introduced in the fall of 1959 -- it was a direct transplant, warts and all as it later transpired.

Ford Chairman Henry Ford II had this to say at the car's introduction: "I doubt there's been a new car more talked about, rumored about, and guessed about than the new Ford Falcon...the new-sized Ford. In describing the Falcon to you, it is perhaps easier to begin with what it is not.

"It is not just a small car. It is not just a smaller Ford. It is not just an economy car. It is not the kind of car that's dangerous to take out on a great modern highway in the midst of heavy truck-and-trailer traffic.

"It is a beautifully sophisticated new kind of Ford that combines low cost and great economy with beautiful styling, superb comfort, and complete resources of power and safety.

"In the Falcon we have summed up all this experience in producing an Australian-built economy car, specifically designed for Australian driving conditions."

Learn how the Ford Falcon matched up with the FB Holden on the next page.

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The Ford Falcon and the FB Holden

A 170-cid engine became available for the Ford Falcon in 1962.
A 170-cid engine became available for the Ford Falcon in 1962.

Built using a monocoque steel body shell, the Ford Falcon came down under having survived more than 3 million miles of testing in the United States in three years. Its wheelbase was 109.5 inches, compared to 107 for the Zephyr and 105 for the FB Holden. At 181.2 inches, total length was slightly behind the Holden, but the Falcon was notably lower and wider than either of the other two cars. It was marginally the lightest, too, at 2,463 pounds.

Furthermore, styling was years ahead of the FB Holden, which, although new for 1960, was stuck with cliched mid-Fifties U.S. cues like the wraparound front windscreen with its kneecap-crunching dogleg, "clap-hands" vacuum operated wipers, headlights mounted high in the leading edge of the fenders above the grille, and rear tailfins.

Holden was locked into this body style for the next three years, during which time not only was the fresh-faced Falcon introduced as competition but also the daringly different and vastly more powerful Valiant from Chrysler. (Even the Mark II Zephyr, introduced in 1956, was considered to be more modern in appearance than the Holden.)

Falcon entered the fray with a svelte, eye-catching style that created the illusion that it was longer than it actually was, with panoramic front and rear windscreens, sculpted side panels, minimalist bumpers, and a concave grille flanked on either side by single headlights.

Engineeringwise, Falcon was way ahead of Holden. Its lighter unitary body construction conferred many cost benefits by way of better fuel economy; its ball-joint front suspension delivered a far smoother ride with excellent handling (according to Ford); and its oversquare 144-cid six-cylinder engine (with a rating of 90 bhp at 4,200 rpm) was then state of the art for a mass-produced engine. The 138-cid Holden engine was, in reality, a prewar design that had been continually updated by GM's Australian engineers.

Despite these apparent handicaps, the FB Holden sold at the rate of 140,000 units per year and held an initially unchallenged 51 percent of the Australian new-car market. Ford was facing a stiff challenge.

The Ford Falcon did not come without its set of problems. Read about some of the struggles the car had on the next page.

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Problems With The Ford Falcon

The XL generation Ford Falcon arrived in 1962.
The XL generation Ford Falcon arrived in 1962.

With its warm reception in the press, plus all the pre-release hype, huge interest was generated in the Ford Falcon. Ford dealers were swamped with eager lookers and buyers. The marketing people had forecast selling 30,000 units in the first year and, if early signs were accurate, that would not be enough. Launched to the accompaniment of an expensive advertising campaign that stressed the car was "Australian -- With a World of Difference."

Ford Australia execs and the dealer body were full of confidence in their new baby especially since they had been able to price it at just £30 ($67) more than Holden and it boasted more than 90 percent local content. As was customary at the time, the Falcon was available in standard and Deluxe trims, the major differences amounting to little more than chrome trim.

And then the wheels fell off, literally. Front suspension ball joints were prone to collapsing, and gearboxes and clutches were proving incapable of withstanding the demands of Australian motorists and conditions. Hundreds of cars had to have these components replaced, some under warranty, some not. Dust sealing was also a worry, and it was not too many winters before it became obvious that Ford's body rust protection processes were sadly ineffective, too. Tales of unreliability began to circulate through the motor industry and were quickly seized upon by the media.

Calls to Dearborn were met with astonishment. Nothing like what was being described had occurred during prototype development. Part of the problem was the speed with which the Falcon had been developed after the sudden shift away from the Zephyr; no time was spent testing the car under local conditions. Unfortunately Ford Australia executives had relied upon the U.S. prototype program being sufficiently demanding to have uncovered any major design weaknesses in the Falcon.

"Falcon reliability was a serious problem," said Max Gransden, who was regional sales manager for New South Wales when the car came out. "We experienced front suspension and clutch problems from day one. The XK sedan was introduced with boulevard ride and [six-inch-wide] tires as standard equipment. The combination was totally unsuitable for Australian conditions.

"While the 144-cid engine was a reliable unit, it lacked performance, which caused considerable customer complaints."

The well-publicized reliability problems affected sales of the Ford Falcon. Read about how these problems hurt the bottom line at Ford on the next page.

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Sales for the Ford Falcon

The XL generation of Ford Falcons included the debut of a Squire station wagon with pseudo-wood trim.
The XL generation of Ford Falcons included the debut of a Squire station wagon with pseudo-wood trim.

The numerous problems with the Ford Falcon eventually took their toll on the cars sales.  Though, last minutes attempts were made to mitigate these issues, it was too little too late. 

Heavier and far more robust Fairlane suspension components were substituted and the gearbox was strengthened on the Flacon, but too much time had passed, which took the gloss off the marketing campaign and created buyer suspicion that was to remain with the Ford Falcon for many years. Sales fell as a result of the well-publicized reliability problems.

To compound Ford's woes, the national government delivered its coup de grace in the form of a credit squeeze by raising the sales tax from 30 percent to 40 percent. In 1961, industry sales plummeted by more than 40 percent from 1960 levels. (The devastation in the marketplace induced the government to reduce its tax grab to 22.5 percent in 1962.)

The Falcon pushed Ford's share of the Australian new-car market from 10 percent to 19.4 percent -- before the car's failures and the sales tax hike hit. (With Ford nudging a 20-percent share, Holden had lost six percent, but still owned more than 40 percent of the market.) Still, in the first two years, approximately 54,000 units were sold, way below Ford's prediction of 70,000.

Australia, like America in the Sixties, was a big market for station wagons. Several U.S. Falcon wagons were brought to Australia late in the program for testing. To provide more luggage space, the U.S. designers lengthened the wagon version by nearly eight inches over the sedan, all of the extra length being aft of the rear wheels.

In Australia, though, the extra overhang caused the back to scrape on the ground when traversing gutters and driveways. So the Australian Falcon station wagon was made the same length as the sedan, the local engineers reasoning correctly that the small sacrifice in luggage room far outweighed any potential criticism for "dragging its bum," as Aussie motorists would say.

The station wagon was in Ford showrooms in November 1960, just two months after the sedan, and was immediately successful. In May 1961, Ford released the Falcon panel van and utility both mechanically identical to their sedan and wagon siblings with the exception of larger-section 6.70x13 tires instead of the narrower 6.00 X 13s.

Read about the face-lift Ford gave to the Falcon in 1962 on the next page.

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The 1962 Ford Falcon

One of the key factors in Ford's ability to produce cars in Australia was its establishment of a modern assembly plant.
One of the key factors in Ford's ability to produce cars in Australia was its establishment of a modern assembly plant.

Before the Ford Falcon's quality gremlins made themselves known, there were remarkably few gripes from motor critics. They disliked the ultra-light, twirly steering with its five turns lock-to-lock, the brakes had only marginal capabilities, handling was average at best, and the spare wheel sited on the trunk floor robbed the already shallow compartment of valuable space.

Some assembly glitches were noted, but they were not considered detrimental, an attitude fairly typical of the "forgiveness" practiced by the media in those days. "The Falcon is fundamentally a sound, beautiful-looking car, priced right for the big section of our market," Bryan Hanrahan wrote in the November 1960 issue of Modern Motor after testing a Deluxe sedan fitted with the two-speed automatic transmission.

Hanrahan managed to coax the car up to 90.2 mph and took 12 seconds for the 0-to-50-mph sprint. By comparison, the FB Holden Special sedan the magazine tested earlier the same year achieved a top speed of 82.3 mph and needed 13 seconds for the O-to-50 run.

In August 1962, Ford released an upgraded XL series under the marketing banner "The New Falcons: Trim, Taut, Terrific!" Coming barely one month after the release of the EJ Holden range, the Falcon face-lift was a minor makeover with a new convex grille, new taillights (they were still round, just sharper looking), and the much-lauded Thunderbird roofline. Roof pressing apart, all exterior panels were carryovers from the XK.

Under the skin, some strengthening had taken place as a result of local endurance testing, though. On the options list was a larger capacity 170-cid Pursuit engine with 101 bhp at 4400 rpm. The 3.5-inch bore remained the same as in the 144-cube engine, but the stroke was lengthened by .44 of an inch to 2.94. (In a four-way test of automatic transmission-equipped cars published in its November 1963 issue, Wheels was able to hit 50 mph with the enlarged Falcon engine in just 10.4 seconds.)

To broaden the range, increase its appeal, and compete with Holden's luxury Premier, Ford introduced "the bustling new Futura," a "limited edition...designed to bring you a whole new world of luxury, sizzle and fun -- and to set your pulses pounding." The Futura was easily distinguished from its siblings by the deluxe chromed full wheel trims, chromed edge top the fake hood air scoop, fender-top ornaments, a bold chromed side spear, Futura emblems on the C-pillars, and Futura spelled out in block letters across the rear.

Inside, there were individual front seats -- not quite bucket seats as we expect them today -- separated by a raised console with a brightly chromed lid, full carpeting, and a padded top for the dashboard. The interior was done in garish red.

Sales of the Ford Falcon pushed the company to the limit. Read about how the success of the 1962 Ford Falcon affected the future of the company on the next page.

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The 1962 Ford Falcon Makes a Comeback

Before Ford Australia had its own private test circuit, the trials necessary to adapt the Falcon to local conditions had to be carried out on public roads.
Before Ford Australia had its own private test circuit, the trials necessary to adapt the Falcon to local conditions had to be carried out on public roads.

The 1962 Ford Falcon continued to face an uphill climb. Even with the 170 Pursuit engine and Fordomatic gearbox, the Futura was cheaper than the Holden Premier and the Ford Falcon. However, reading the fine print in the brochure made you aware that it lacked several equipment items by comparison, such as a heater, windshield washers, backup lights, two-speed electric wipers, anti-glare mirror, and metallic paint.

For station wagon lovers, Ford introduced the Squire, a wagon equivalent of the Futura. Like its American relative, it was distinguished by fiberglass side cladding that was fashioned to look like wood, an attempt to revive memories of wagons' "woody" past.

To further promote the Falcon, Ford entered two in the 1962 Armstrong 500 run at Philip Island, the forerunner of today's Bathurst 1000. The factory cars finished first and second in Class B, with two privately entered Falcons finishing third and fourth. Outright placings had the Falcons at 1-3-4-5 after an epic race-long battle with a far more powerful and faster Studebaker Lark.

Meanwhile Ford quietly developed a successful export business with the Falcon. It opened markets in 16 countries, including New Zealand, Malaya, Hong Kong, New Guinea, Fiji, and Japan, all right-hand-drive markets.

With the burgeoning sales of the Falcon and British-designed four-cylinder Cortina, which was introduced to Australia in 1962, the company was stretched to the limit. Mclntyre announced a multi-million pound expansion program that would allow Ford to push more product into the market and react faster to buyer demands.

Geelong, where engines, gearboxes, and panels were manufactured, and the comparatively new Broadmeadows and smaller Brisbane assembly facilities had new production equipment and lines installed that allowed the daily rate to be increased from 300 units to 500.

Of that number, 440 were to be Falcons and Cortinas, the rest being Fairlanes, Anglias, and Zephyrs. The last two, sourced from the UK, were quietly phased out in 1964 and a locally-designed and built Fairlane later replaced the Canadian-sourced model that also debuted in 1962.

There were no major new model activities during 1963 and, despite a recovering market. Ford's share dipped to 16.9 percent, a drop of more than two points. This decrease coincided with the release of Holden's all-time best-seller, the EH series, with its completely new and vastly more powerful "Red" engines in 149-and 179-cid versions and more modern styling that featured the ubiquitous "Thunderbird" roofline that would also be adopted by Chrysler for the Valiant.

In mid-1963 a new management team was put in place to help correct the problems Ford was facing. Read about how they developed an updated version of the Falcon on the next page.

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The 1964 Ford Falcon

The U.S. Falcon was totally rebodied for 1964 but the XM Falcon released "Down Under" that year wore a heavy facelift of the XL body.
The U.S. Falcon was totally rebodied for 1964 but the XM Falcon released "Down Under" that year wore a heavy facelift of the XL body.

Ford managment brought in some new blood in an effort to get the Ford Falcon back on track. For starters, Wallace Booth replaced John Mclntyre as managing director in mid-1963. A finance man, Booth was reportedly sent to Australia to "straighten things out," the chiefs in Dearborn clearly not happy with the profit performance of their Australian subsidiary. Along with Booth came a new marketing director, Bill Bourke. Between them they established a new era for openness with the media and created some marketing ideas and promotions that were considered radical at the time.

Soon to follow was a new Falcon, the XM, released in February 1964. Its marketing slogan, "With Certified Gold Quality," suggested Ford was still sensitive about the car's reputation. The XM showed the first fruits of the efforts by Ford Australia engineers to build a car capable of conquering the harsh local conditions.

It also had more local styling input because the 1964 Australian Falcon did not follow the look of the restyled 1964 U.S. Falcon. The Australian variant retained most of the existing outer skin panels of the 1960-1963 American version. The most obvious styling change from the XL was at the rear where the taillights were increased in diameter and mounted higher. This necessitated a new concave rear panel and new rear quarter panels.

There was a bold new grille with a broad chromed surround, deeper bumpers front and rear, and a repositioned body-side spear. Inside, the instrument binnacle was restyled and there was a new range of upholstery trims and colors.

Mechanically the big news was the availability of a 200-cid "Super Pursuit" six-cylinder engine that produced 121 bhp at 4,400 rpm and was able to push the Falcon to just over 90 mph. Now with three engines on offer, Ford used colors to outwardly identify each: 144-cube engines had their rocker cover and air cleaner painted light green, 170 Pursuit engines were painted red, and 200 Super Pursuits were yellow.

Both the 170's and 200's air cleaners also wore identifying decals. Exterior badges -- a stylized falcon in flight with checkered flags for wings -- showed the engine capacity on a blue background for the Pursuit 170 engine and a red background for automobiles equipped with the Super Pursuit 200 engine.

Read about how the additions to the 1964 Ford Falcon gave the car some much-needed new flavor on the next page.

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Development of the 1964 Ford Falcon

The Ford Squire put in its last appearance as an XM in 1964.
The Ford Squire put in its last appearance as an XM in 1964.

Noticeable changes were wrought on the suspension system of the 1964 Ford Falcon. Rear spring hangers were strengthened and repositioned; the front upper wishbones, which supported the recalibrated coil spring and damper units, were strengthened, as were their mounting points; and wider 4.5x13 rims were fitted with 6.50x13 four-ply tires. Another much-needed change was the switch from the dreadful vacuum wipers that stopped when you accelerated (exactly when you needed them most) to the vastly superior two-speed electric type.

The really big Falcon news for 1964, however, was the release of a two-door hardtop coupe. Similar to the style released during the 1963 model year on the U.S. Falcon Futura and Sprint, it featured a very low roofline with a markedly raked rear window and huge doors. The roof pressing was imported from Canada, while the unique doors, extended quarter panels, and inner reinforcements (to compensate for the loss of the B-pillar) were stamped in Geelong.

The hardtop was a first for an Australian manufacturer and demonstrated Ford's desire to offer buyers the widest range of model options. Sales of the hardtop, available in Deluxe and Futura trims, were initially brisk due to its stylishness and it soon had a 10-percent share of total Falcon sales. Prices ran from £1,237 (about $2,750) for a Deluxe with a 170-cid engine and three-speed column-shift manual to £1,477 ($3,300) for a Futura with a Super Pursuit engine, Fordomatic gearbox, and radio.

Nonetheless, Ford's market share continued to decline. At the end of 1964, it was down to 15 percent despite having better cars and more options. Australian buyers, it seemed, had long memories. If it was any consolation, Holden's share dropped by three percent as both companies felt the effects of two newcomers. Chrysler's Valiant, powered by the big 225-cid "Slant Six" that effectively ignited a power war between the three manufacturers, accounted for four percent of the market by 1964, up from just one percent in 1961.

And the Asian giant, Toyota, had begun to make its presence felt in 1963 and 1964 as its inexorable climb up the ladder began. It was not yet a direct competitor with either Holden or Ford, its main product line then being the ugly and gutless Tiara sedan that was followed by the shovel-nosed Corona.

Learn about the last -- and best -- entry in the Ford Falcon series on the next page.

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The 1965 Ford Falcon XP

The 1965 Ford Falcon XP was the last and best of the orginal Falcons
The 1965 Ford Falcon XP was the last and best of the orginal Falcons

The best Falcon to date and the last of this series, the XP, appeared in Australian Ford showrooms in March 1965. XP prototypes logged more than 473,900 miles of test and development work, the most concentrated program by any Ford Australia product to that time.

The suspension, which had been dramatically improved for the XM, was further enhanced on the XP by a new method of construction for the unitary body that incorporated "torque boxes." These were pressed steel box sections welded into the underbody that ran the full length under the passenger compartment, considerably increasing the strength of the whole structure.

In styling the XP, designers adopted the hood from the U.S. 1962-1963 Mercury Comet, which necessitated a new horizontal grille with bold chromed headlight surrounds and a straight-through bumper with the indicator lights on the corners at each end. The Ford name was spelled out across the leading edge of the hood in individual letters. Rear styling was carried over from the XM.

Three gearboxes were available on XP Falcons: the three-speed manual for the 144- and 170-cid engines; two-speed Fordomatic for the 170- and 200-cid engines; and the Fordomatic 3S that was phased in to replace the old two-speed imported unit. The 35 was manufactured by Borg-Warner and known in the industry as the Type 35. Ford adopted it as part of its local content plans. Being slightly wider, it required a modified floor plan pressing. Cars with automatic transmissions were identified by a small badge under the right rear light.

Equipment and trim levels remained much the same as before, beginning with the Standard and Deluxe. At first, the top-line models were badged as Futuras, but three months into production, the name was changed to Fairmont, a name that research showed had greater appeal to luxury car buyers. (Why the change of name took place after production began has never been answered.) Its introduction coincided with Ford's realigning of Falcon equipment to better match its two rivals, the Holden Premier and Chrysler Valiant Regal.

Also, the Squire wagon and its fake wood sides were consigned to history. Although it might have looked good on the showroom floor, the fiberglass cladding quickly deteriorated in the scorching Australia summer sun. Apart from chromed side sills and wheel arches, the Fairmont wagon's sides were unadorned.

Standard features on all Fairmonts included a 200-cid Super Pursuit engine matched to the Fordomatic 3S gearbox, power-assisted front disc brakes, and 6.45X14 tires on safety rims. Standard and Deluxe Falcon sedans and wagons retained their all-drum brakes and 6.50X13 tires. In response to customer and media criticism, the XP's spare wheel was relocated from its space-wasting position on the trunk floor to the left rear corner, where it lay at 45 degrees, thereby creating a much more usable luggage area.

In an effort to counter the Falcon's perceived lack of reliability and ruggedness, Bourke concocted what became know as the 70,000-Mile Durability Run held at the company's new proving ground.

"In retrospect, the Durability Run was a crazy gamble that paid off," said Max Gransden. "It was a bold attempt to establish the reliability of the XP Falcon and proved to be a great morale booster both within the company and the dealer body."

The Durability Run was a turning point for Ford and the Falcon series. On the next and final page read about how the event affected sales of the car.

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The Success of the Ford Falcon XP

There is little doubt that the highly publicized nine-day torture test in April and May 1965 was the turning point in the Ford Falcon's history in Australia. From a low of 47,039 sales for the 1964 XM and a loss of £4.89 million ($10.9 million) that year, sales rebounded to almost 71,000 and the company was back in profit. For the first time in several years, all-important corporate and government fleet sales began to move again. This sales success also reflected efforts by Bourke to restructure the marketing department within Ford and to rebuild the dealer network. It didn't hurt, either, that Holden's bulky looking new HD range was experiencing a lack of acceptance by buyers who ventured into Ford showrooms instead.

Two engineers in particular were paramount in the success of the XP. The first was Al Sundberg, who arrived in Australia in 1962 from Dearborn having been involved on the U.S. Falcon project since its inception. The second key member of the XP team was Jim Martin, chief of product engineering, a man regarded by many of his colleagues as a workaholic. As an example of his dedication to improving the Falcon, Martin drove an XP prototype around Australia in 10 days, wrote his report, then set off again.

In January 1966, Wheels awarded its annual "Car of the Year" award to the XP Falcon. Editor Bill Tuckey wrote, "The Falcon certainly has its share of Detroit in its makeup, as the outline is still closely related to the original and fondly disremembered XK series of 1960, but so much Australian work and know-how has been packed into it to make it competitive that it is now only distantly related to its American cousin."

Said Sundberg at the time of the award, "The XP existed in principle in 1959 when we realized that the Falcon would have to be revised for Australian conditions."

While it is true that the Falcon was the first all-new Australian car since the 48/215 Holden in 1948, it can also be said that the XP was the first real Australian Falcon. Today it is truly Australian, the only car designed, engineered, and manufactured on the continent. But in the dark days of 1960, only the brave would have predicted the eventual success of the Falcon, a car that achieved Charles Smith's aim of challenging and defeating Holden for market leadership.

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