When Robert MacNamara became President of Ford in 1960,
he immediately set the Company on the course of producing
a new mass market family car (MacNamara went on to
become Secretary of Defence under President Kennedy and,
then, head of the World Bank).
MacNamara's crowning achievement during his tenure at
Ford was unquestionably the Ford Falcon. Ford's publicity
department worked overtime prior to the arrival of the
all new model in Australia, claiming it to be "Australian -
but with a world of difference".
But the truth was not quite so jingoistic, as the first
Falcon's were really only a right-hand-drive clone of
their American cousins. The similarities were all too obvious,
but the sleek American lines of the Falcon were actually very
much what the Australian public wanted.
Chic, suave and cool, the Falcon quickly became a sales
success, making the competition (namely the FB Holden
look like a relic from 10 years past. Comparing the
XK Falcon to the FB Holden today and you could be forgiven
for thinking each was from a different era.
There were two engine and three transmissions on offer.
The standard was the 144ci which produced 90bhp (67kW)
at 4200rpm, while the 170 six produced a more healthy 101bhp (75kW) at 4400rpm.
Both came standard with a 3 speed manual transmission,
however if you optioned for the "Fordomatic" automatic,
the 140 would be fitted with an air-cooled unit, while the 170
was fitted with a water-cooled unit.
Having developed the world's first utility (in Australia) in
1933, the Ford publicists were again able to put an "Aussie Flavoured"
spin with the release of the XK utility in 1961
Featuring the same basic look as the sedan, the rear
section of the roofline was replaced by a shortened broad
pillar, affording a sleek and muscular appearance. And like
the sedan, the ute would become an overnight success, with
both tradespeople and those on the land.
Also for 1961 came the introduction of the XK Station Wagon,
affording a sizeable load space of 77 inches (1956mm) long by
53.5 inches (1359mm) wide, when the rear seats were folded
down. And like the utiity, the wagon also appeared "purpose built".
Compared to the FB Holden Station Sedan, that looked a lot
like a utility with a canopy affixed, the Falcon wagon was
a revelation and deservedly stole a huge market share from the General.
After market accessory manufacturers could see the
value in creating bright chrome additions for the car,
particularly given the long flowing lines and low waist
line. The most popular "additions" included rear
wheel spats, sun visors, chrome wheel trims, weather shields,
rear venetians and a chrome hood garnish.
While the Falcon was fitted with robust mechanicals - a 144ci
(2.4 liter) six cylinder engine and choice of three speed
manual or two speed automatic, the harsh Aussie conditions
(read poorly maintained roads) would soon take their toll
on the newcomer, and some would question the cars durability.
The US designed suspension, especially at the front,
was found to be fragile,
and warranty claims were so costly for Ford that there
were rumors that production would be discontinued. But
with the support of the US parent company, thankfully the Falcon
would survive, not only as a competitor, but as a true alternative.