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Motoring: Ford Falcon XK - 1960

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.

The initial decision to launch an Australian-built Ford was made in 1955, when it was decided that Ford Australia would build the Zephyr locally from the ground up, rather than simply assemble kits that arrived by ship from Dagenham in the United Kingdom. But in 1958, after a trip to the USA to view the Zephyr that was being redesigned for Australia, Ford Australia managing director Charles Smith decided that the car was not right for the local market. He was then shown a mock-up of MacNamara's Falcon that was being designed for the Canadian and American markets and decided that it was the car for Australia.

The Falcon made its debut with the XK in September 1960. At the time it was described as a "compact", as it was smaller than the popular family cars of the period. The car was really only a right-hand-drive clone of its American cousins, with some minor modifications for Australian conditions. Ford's publicity department were aware that much of Holden's popularity was derived from it having been marketed as "Australia's Own Car" and worked overtime prior to the arrival of the all new model in Australia, claiming it to be "Australian - but with a world of difference".

The similarities were all too obvious, but, as Ford Australia managing director Charles Smith had predicted some years ealier, the sleek American lines of the Falcon were just what the Australian public wanted. They made its main competitor, the FB Holden, look downright archaic. 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. The XK Station Wagon was also introduced in 1961.

The XL Falcon, introduced in 1962, may have been a minor facelift, but it represented much more to Ford Australia than simply the "Thunderbird Inspired Roofline". With all the teething issues well and truly sorted, the new model needed to win back the confidence of the Australian motoring public. The XL range also saw the introduction of a deluxe version of the Falcon, the Futura, that expanded upon the theme that had been set by the Falcon Deluxe and gave the upmarket version its own identity in the Falcon range.

With the launch of the XM - a re-working of the XK - in 1964, the Falcon had more serious claims to being a car designed and engineered by Australians for Australian conditions. Changes were made to the front and rear suspension, the braking system, clutch, rear axle, engine mounts and exhaust - all as a result of extensive research on the open road, the track and the dirt. The first Falcon coupe (right) was launched in 1964 as part of the XM model range and was produced for only 2 years, being carried over into the XP series. The coupe was not seen again until the launch of the XA Falcon Hardtop in 1972. With the XP series in 1965, Ford Australia management made more refinements the previous model rather coming up with a whole new design.

In an attempt to convince local fleet buyers of the robustness and durability of the Falcon, deputy managing director Bill Bourke conceived the XP Durability Run. The bold scheme involved pushing five standard Falcons and a group of racing drivers to the limit around the demanding You Yangs Proving Ground. The goal was to clock 70,000 miles at an average speed per car of 70 miles per hour. Four of the five cars rolled, but after nine days driven at the limit, the five cars averaged a speed of 71.3 miles per hour. In that same year, the Falcon was named Wheels Car of the Year.

Upon its launch, there were two engine and three transmissions to choose from for XK Falcon buyers. The standard was the 144ci which produced 90bhp (67kW) at 4200rpm, while the 170 six produced a more healthy 101bhp (75kW) at 4400rpm.

XK Falcon

Years of Manufacture: 1960 - 1962
Number Built: 68,413
Price at Introduction:

Manual sedan: $2,274
Fordomatic sedan: $2,512
Manual DeLuxe: $2,398

Fordomatic DeLuxe: $2,636

DeLuxe Sedan
Station Wagon
DeLuxe Station Wagon
Date of Introduction: 11th September, 1960

Below: Ford Falcon XM Hardtop

Ford Falcon XM

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