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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