The Mustang Inspired Falcon XR...
The All New XR Falcon, Now With A V8 Option
All new, Mustang bred. So beautiful was the new XR that it seemed destined to achieve great things. The marketing campaign emphasised the links with the more upmarket Mustang, but in any case many knew the Mustang was in fact derived from the Falcon in the first place.
Apart from the bold new styling, mechanical changes would see the introduction of a V8 - something Holden buyers would have to wait anotehr 18 months for, the Chrysler Valiant AP6
being the only other Australian built car to offer a bent 8 as an option.
Importantly for Falcon buyers, the 289 V8 option was available across the entire range. It incorporated more Australian design than any previous Falcon, the Ford Australia exec's making sure this time that the car was right for Aussie conditions.
Longer, Wider, Sleeker
The design of the XR was wonderfully succinct, its proportions seeming to afford perfect harmony with panels blending into each other creating the impression of a sculpture. There was a longer wheelbase, wider track and more interior space. Importantly for the Ford vs Holden rivalry, the XR Falcon
was larger than the HR Holden
, making it better suited to commercial applications, such as Taxi or fleet operators.
Better still, despite the increase in size, the Ford engineers had managed to reduce the cars turning circle by a massive 18 inches. Impressive though it was, it did little however to counter the complaints about the cars recirculating ball steering system, it still requiring 5.5 turns to go from lock to lock (see the XR Falcon Technical Specifications
for more information).
Again Ford personalised their car, claiming the "Falcon is designed to be designed by you". To achieve this, the options list was fairly extensive, it including such things as air-conditioning, whitewall tires, vinyl roof and pushbutton radio.
A Step Forward In Safety
The Ford engineers also incorporated many safety features into the new model.
Despite the marketing team knowing that "safety doesn't sell", Ford went to considerable effort to ensure the XR was a safe car. Mandatory on all optioned with a V8 was the fitment of disc brakes, while lap-sash seat belts and radial tires were also available as options.
Ford also dropped the 144ci engine, the Pursuit 170 becoming the standard "base" motor
for all except the Fairmont. The 2 speed Ford-O-Matic was also replaced, this time by a three speed Borg-Warner unit that had been an option available on the XP's.
The Need For Speed
Of course any discussion of the XR Falcon
needs to include a discussion on the Victorian Police's request for a pursuit vehicle.
Purpose built and of course fitted with the wonderful 289ci V8, it served as the precursor to the now legendary XR Falcon GT
with the Victoria Police Force, the path to the Ford
Falcon GT was set. The police requirements were that
the car be able to outrun the top speed of an average
sedan (that being around 90mph), while having four doors.
Bill Bourke’s answer was to equip the XR with the Mustang
V8, have it mated to a four speed manual gear box, improve
the suspension and throw in a handful of other refinements,
thus begat the car that would quickly garner legend status.
Don Dunoon was responsible for much of the engineering
work, and while we have not been able to question any
officers of the day that had the pleasure of driving
these first iterations, we are pretty sure they found
the new car a vast improvement to the six cylinder “three
on the tree” versions they had been used to.
XR VicPol pursuit special was obviously too good to be
kept away from an eager public, and Bill Bourke ensured
it would find its way to Ford showrooms. Sticking to
the traditions of the Model T, the first Falcon GT could
be ordered in any color you wished, as long as it was
bronze. The decision on color was brilliant, it remaining
timeless and now coming to immortalize the emergence
of Aussie performance cars.