The Falcon XP silenced the critics...
The XP Durability Run
Ford were confident their changes ushered in on the XM, which
included modified front and rear suspension
layouts and improvements to the braking system,
clutch, rear axle, engine mounts and exhaust, were enough to make the car every bit, if not more durable, than any other car on the market in Australia.
But knowing something, and being able to prove it, were two entirely different things.
What Ford needed was a publicity campaign, something to win back the confidence of the Australian buyer. To prove just how thorough the design team
had been, Ford management (under the leadership
of Deputy Managing Director Bill Bourke) devised
a very clever marketing initiative, the Falcon
XP “Durability Run”.
Falcon’s were pushed to the limit around
Victoria’s You Yang’s proving facility,
the goal was to rack up an incredible 70,000
miles at an average speed of 70 miles per hour!
Despite the audacity of the undertaking, and
the fact that some of the cars rolled, after
8½ days all five would finish, with
an average speed a little over 71 mph. Little
wonder the XP would take out that years “Wheels
Car of the Year” award.
A Falcon By Any Other Name
Looking back on the undertaking now, one realises the enormity of what was at stake. There had been rumblings from within Ford that the name "Falcon" needed to be dropped altogther with the release of the new model, they obviously hoping that by doing so, the bad press from the reliability issues of the XK/XL would once and for all be put to rest.
We doubt any such name change would have amounted to much, and Bourke's "roll of the dice" was a much better solution, provided it worked. The future of the Falcon depended on the success of not only the cars themselves, but in the publicity generated from the event. Bourke chose 5 standard Falcon's (of various models), handed the keys to some race drivers (Harry Firth
amoung them), and gave them the brief to pound the cars flat-out around Ford's new You Yangs Proving Ground until each had travelled 70,000 miles, while maintaining a 70mph average speed.
Showing complete confidence in the car meant that the media had to be in on the event from the outset, and you can well imagine the ensuing frenzy as the drivers set out to complete a task never heard of before, never rehearsed, and which many believed could never be done.
The whole event even caught the imagination of Ford HQ, they understanding how important the launch of the XP was to their Australian operation. Henry Ford II even attended the event briefly, he being flown in and out of the You Yangs facility via helicopter.
Four Cars Rolled, Was This Disaster?
The lads from Homicide and their XP Falcon...
Indeed 4 cars did roll over during the arduous event, but each was righted and continued without problem. Each of the five cars completed the event in the anticipated 9 days, and each above the required 70mph average.
In fact, the average was a stunning 71.3 mph, and the best of the five was a 170 manual that bettered 73 mph! Finally the ghosts of the past were buried, for the Falcon's had
proved themselves beyond question to be reliable, tough and durable.
Still the fleet buyers needed to be convinced, and so Ford gave them an XP on trial for a complimentary 6 month period, after which if they liked the car, they could buy it. Bourke would have already known the answer to that question.
Raising The Profile
It was probably no coincidence that the lads from Homicide
used an XP as their motor, they obviously being confident in the cars durability. And further enhancing the status of the Falcon was the release of the Fairmont (six months after the initial launch of the XP).
Dumped were the Futura and Squire models, however the new Fairmont was a step above anyway, it featuring reclining bucket seats and the Super Pursuit engine as standard.
For the first time on an Australian car, the XP Fairmont featured front disc brakes as standard kit, and to facilitate the fitment of the 10.75 inch girling discs, Ford Australia's engineers opted for 14 inch wheels and low profile tires. A complete run-down on the Ford Falcon XP Technical Specifications
is available on this web site. It should be noted that the Holden's disc brakes were smaller than those fitted to the Ford, and were optional (not standard) on their HD Holden Premier
and HR Holden Premier
Today the XP Falcon Hardtop is considered one of the most collectable of all the early Ford models. They were bold, beautiful and classy, and remain a sound investment for the astute collector.