Bold, sleek, low and beautiful...The XK Falcon
The All New Falcon
While the outgoing Zephyr Mark II may have "looked" a match for the Holden, the new Falcon was a watershed design. Bold, sleek, low and beautifully rounded, overnight it made the competition seem like yesterday's cars.
Finally Ford had the measure of the General, however Smith would not be heading Ford's Australian operation at the release of the Ford Falcon XK.
The last Zephyr rolled off the Geelong production line on the 23rd October, 1959, and Smith retired later that same year, no doubt confident in the knowledge that he had steered Ford into a competitive, if not winning position. And the telegram he sent to Dearborn simply had two words, "Cancel Zephyr".
The Challenge Begins, XK Falcon vs FB Holden
If you have taken a moment to watch the US 1960 Ford Model Release on the previous page, you will realise that the Falcon was the most conservative of the three new cars in the Ford line-up. Nevertheless it had been designed to appeal to US buyers, and as some would later find out, to cope with the far better North American roads. The heritage of the XK was without peer.
The original clay model, known as the 19XK Thunderbird, had been years in development, and the designers had gone to great lengths to ensure the new vehicle would be accepted - such as keeping the interior dimensions of the car as close as possible to that of the 1949 Ford, thereby making the car feel extremely roomy.
Keeping the new car light was another important factor, as in doing so it not only reduced manufacturing costs, but helped with fuel economy and, in general, would provide better handling characteristics.
At the time of launch, the XK Falcon was 90 kg's lighter than the FB Holden
, had a more modern and powerful engine and better interior accomodation. It could top 140 km/h, while the FB could only manage 130, and best of all you could option your Falcon with an Fordomatic transmission, the General's Hydra-Matic being another year away.
And Now For The Bad News
It should have been a lay-down Misere for Ford, it having the FB well and truly covered in all area's...except one. As mentioned earlier, the Falcon was designed in the US, for US conditions, and very little testing had been performed in Australia prior to the cars launch.
The decision not to proceed with the Zephyr had meant the Falcon needed to be fast-tracked, and inevitably some reliability issues were to surface.
Most noteable was the perceived weakness of the front suspension, many examples suffering a "sagging" effect at the front end, while others developed ball joint failure. Some Ford Australia engineers had forseen the problems, however their concerns were overrulled as being alarmist, given the car had reported no such problems in testing in the US.
With the Falcon quickly garnering a (not deserved) poor reputation, the Australian design team set about replacing the
ball joints and other front end components with those from a compact Fairlane. Sold as a "heavy duty suspension option", virtually every Falcon came fitted with the revision (as Ford dealerships went to some lengths to advise customers that the option was highly recommended).
With rumours abouding as to the durability of the Falcon, and many Australian's showing brand loyalty to Holden, the XK Falcon
lost the opening round