Ford Falcon (AU)
|Ford AU Falcon|
|Manufacturer||Ford Motor Company of Australia|
|Also called||Ford AU Fairmont
|Production||September 1998 – September 2002|
|Assembly||Campbellfield, Victoria, Australia|
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||2-door Coupé utility
5-door station wagon
|Related||Ford AU Fairlane
Ford AU LTD
|Engine||4.0 L Intech I6
4.0 L Intech Dedicated LPG I6
4.0 L Intech VCT I6
5.0 L Windsor V8
5.6 L Windsor V8
|Wheelbase||2,793 mm (110.0 in)–3,096 mm (121.9 in)|
|Length||4,907 mm (193.2 in)–5,077 mm (199.9 in)|
|Width||1,870 mm (74 in)–1,871 mm (73.7 in)|
|Height||1,870 mm (74 in)–1,871 mm (73.7 in)|
|Curb weight||1,437 kg (3,168 lb)–1,645 kg (3,627 lb)|
|Predecessor||Ford EL Falcon|
|Successor||Ford BA Falcon|
The Ford AU Falcon and Fairmont are the first of the sixth generation series of the Ford Falcon, a full-size car produced by Ford Australia in Victoria. Replacing the EL Falcon (the last of the fifth generation Falcons), the AU series launched in September 1998 and was replaced in September 2002 by the BA Falcon range.
The AU sported a new and radically different Ford design language that was being introduced worldwide and was dubbed "New Edge". It aimed to attract the younger generation with avant-garde looks, which nevertheless proved controversial compared to the more organic and well-accepted looks of its main rival, the Holden Commodore. Other changes from the fifth generation Falcon included a 35 kg (77 lb) reduction in weight for the base car, 17.5 per cent stiffer bodyshell, and an eight per cent improvement in fuel consumption.
History of development
The AU Falcon was developed after considering proposals to replace the Australian platform with one derived from overseas, such as that used for the American Ford Taurus, European Ford Scorpio or the Japanese Mazda 929 (then part of the Ford conglomerate). These options were eliminated in favour of a substantial redesign of the indigenous platform, due to concerns about the Australian market preference for high towing capacity, large interior size, and local employment. Design started in 1994 and the program cost A$700 million before product launch. The AU Falcon was launched under the slogan "You've come a long way baby". It featured the aforementioned New Edge design style and, for the first time in Falcon's history, optional Independent Rear Suspension (IRS). The IRS was a double wishbone design on an isolated subframe, standard fitment on the XR6 VCT, XR8 and Fairmont Ghia, and optional on most other sedan models (although not with limited slip differential - this combination was reserved for IRS XR models).
Sales of the AU did not match those of the previous model, the EL Falcon, partly due to a lack of enthusiasm by customers for the New Edge styling, alteration of fleet sale pricing, and the long term decline in the market for large cars.
Series II and III
Many of these issues were addressed with the AU Series II (April 2000) and Series III (November 2001) updates. They included:
- the "high series" raised bonnet from the Fairmont models
- a more conventional and common front grille for the volume Forté and Futura range
- increase depth and width for the rear bumper
- a laminated firewall, increased under-carpet asphalting and hydraulic engine mounts to reduce NVH
- upgraded braking system with 278 mm rotors at the front, new two-piston calipers and a greater capacity brake booster
- 16" wheels (in lieu of the previous 15 and due to the larger disc brakes)
- lowered ground clearance with new shock absorbers and low-friction ball-joints
- higher quality interior plastics, standard cloth (in lieu of vinyl finishes) and uprated sound systems
- upgraded SmartShield security system with a transponder located in the key (in lieu of the previous SmartLock that could not prevent thefts with copied keys)
- standard front airbags across the range.
Body strength increases, aimed at improving occupant safety and the Falcon's rating in the independent NCAP crash test program, were also achieved. Other safety improvements include the addition of a passenger airbag and seatbelt pretensioners on the front seats across the range.
Additional features included the introduction of a 100 watt stereo with single-slot CD player, variable intermittent wipers and door lock/unlock button on the instrument panel and the equipment upgrade (such as standard air conditioning, front power windows and automatic transmission) on the entry Forté model, to shrug off initial impressions the low budget perception associated with the first AU Series. Also across the range, Ford now offered 3-years or 60,000 km worth of scheduled servicing included in the purchase price.
The standard Series II range included:
- Falcon Forté, 4.0L, "Intech" 6-cyl, Sedan/Wagon, 157 kW, 357Nm - to rival the Holden Commodore Executive
- Falcon Forté, 5.0L, "Windsor" V8, Sedan, 175 kW, 395Nm - as above
- Falcon S, 4.0L, "Intech" 6-cyl, Sedan, 157 kW, 357Nm - to rival Holden Commodore S
- Falcon Futura, 4.0L, "Intech" 6-cyl, Sedan/Wagon, 157 kW, 357Nm - to rival the Holden Commodore Acclaim
- Fairmont, 4.0L, "Intech" 6-cyl, Sedan/Wagon, 157 kW, 357Nm - to rival the Holden Berlina
- Fairmont Ghia, 4.0L, "Intech" 6-cyl, Sedan, 168 kW, 370Nm - to rival the Holden Calais
- Fairmont Ghia, 5.0L, "Windsor" V8, Sedan, 175 kW, 395Nm - as above
- Falcon XR6, 4.0L, "Intech" 6-cyl, Sedan, 164 kW, 366Nm
- Falcon XR6 VCT, 4.0L, "Intech" 6-cyl, Sedan, 172 kW, 374Nm
- Falcon XR8, 5.0L, "Windsor" V8, Sedan, 200 kW, 420Nm (Till May 2001) - to rival the Holden Commodore SS
- Falcon XR8, 5.0L, "Windsor" V8, Sedan, 220 kW, 435Nm (From May 2001) - as above and similarly powered to the early FTE Falcon T-series.
The standard sedan-based limited editions included the: X-Pack (Forté upgrade with standard alloy wheels and rear spoiler), SR (another Forté upgrade), Futura Classic, Futura & Fairmont Ghia 75th Anniversary (to commemorate Ford Australia), XR6 & XR8 Rebel (featuring a limited edition bodykit). In line with the X-Pack, Stillwell Ford dealers in South Australia launched a Sportryder edition, which added an upgraded and lowered sport suspension using Pedders components for A$29,990.
The Falcon Utility Series II range included the XL, XLS, XR and XR8. Limited editions included the Tradesman (an XL upgrade), Sports Edition & Marlin (XLS upgrades) and the Pursuit (an XR upgrade).
The FTE Falcon Series II range comprised:
- TE50, 5.0L, "Windsor" V8, Sedan, 220 kW, 435Nm, manual or automatic, based on Fairmont Ghia
- TS50, 5.0L, "Windsor" V8, Sedan, 220 kW, 435Nm, automatic-only, based on Fairmont Ghia.
The Series III was as above, except for:
- the discontinuance of the Falcon S
- more powerful FTE Falcon models and introduction of a Falcon XR8 Pursuit 250 Utility to the following range:
- TE50, 5.6L, "Windsor" V8, Sedan, 250 kW, 500Nm, manual or automatic, based on Falcon
- TS50, 5.6L, "Windsor" V8, Sedan, 250 kW, 500Nm, manual or automatic, based on Fairmont Ghia.
Over the Series II and III period, the production of the "Windsor" was phased out with remaining units shipped to Australia for development and application by Tickford Engineering. These hand-built engine became the most powerful naturally-aspirated EFI "Windsor" in the world. The six cylinder "Intech" engine also did not escape refinements, with the Falcon XR6 receiving VCT. The latter engine, though detuned to 168 kW (225 hp) through the use of a quieter exhaust system, powered the Fairmont Ghia.
Total Falcon Series II and III production totaled 237,701.
The base model AU Falcon was called the Forté, which was the replacement of the old GLi and was marketed to fleets but also young drivers. When new, the car was priced at A$$30,690 with standard automatic transmission and air conditioning (at the time still an option on the other Australian-made rivals).
The more 'up-spec' model was called the Falcon Futura, which was marketed as a family-oriented safety package, in the same vogue as the rival Holden Commodore Acclaim. The Futura differed from the Forte in having a body coloured grille, ABS, cruise control, alloy wheels and a digital clock fitted in the centre console (Series I Only). The price of the car when new was $34,990.
A limited edition Falcon Classic model was released in June 1999. It was an independent model from the Forté and Futura which featured the AU Falcon Utility Vehicle's grille painted body colour, 'Classic' badging, alloy wheels, a low level spoiler, and a 'warm charcoal' interior. The price when new was $30,690.
The Ford Falcon S (for Sports) sedan was designed as an entry-level sports edition by adding features such as a painted grille, alloy wheels, S decals on the rear quarters and bootlid, and a high level spoiler. The colour choices were limited to Hot Chilli Red, Liquid Silver, Dynamic White, Galaxy (Metallic Blue) and Silhouette (Black).
The Fairmont was the entry level luxury model of the AU range to face-off its main rival, the Holden Berlina. It had all of the fittings of the Futura but included extras such as a honeycomb grille, an 80 second headlamp off delay, wood grain-look dash inserts, unique 15" wheels, dual horns, Fairmont badging on the boot lid and an analogue clock. The Fairmont was offered in sedan and station wagon bodystyles. Above the Fairmont was the Fairmont Ghia, which was the highest non-performance specification model in the range and sedan only. It had additional features that included unique wheels and more wood grain-look dash inserts. Fairmont & Fairmont Ghia models were not badged as Falcons.
The XR Series was the performance end of the range. It comprised the XR6, XR6 VCT, XR6 VCT Sprint and the XR8 with a unique quad-lamp front bumper bar and non-high end bonnet. All Series I XR's could have the option of a Tickford bodykit and bi-wing rear spoiler, while Series II and III models had a redesigned front bumper with an integrated bodykit. Series I XR8's had an output of 185 kW and 412 nm V8, while early Series II were fitted with hand-built V8 with an output of 200 kW and 420 nm. Late Series 2 and Series III again had hand-built 5-Litre V8, which however generated 220 kW of power and 435 nm of torque.
The AU Falcon utility vehicles range was launched in June 1999. It offered Falcon XL, XLS, XR6 and XR8 style side utility models, a cab-chassis model and a cab-chassis with factory fitted drop-side tray. The latter was the first tray utility vehicle that Ford Australia had produced for several years.
The body of the AU Falcon utility differed in design from the competing Holden Ute in that the cargo tray was separate from the cab, whereas the tray was an integral part of the body shell in the Holden. As a result, this allowed the rear to accept different after market body types, including tray decks, service bodies, and camper van shells. Unlike the sedan, the AU Falcon utility vehicles were very popular.
FTE T Series
Towards the top end of the market were the T-Series models, the Falcon XR8 based TE50, the Fairmont Ghia based TS50 and the Fairlane based TL50. These were marketed under the FTE name, FTE being an acronym for Ford Tickford Experience, a joint venture between Ford Australia and Tickford.
Due to inadequate sales of Ford performance sedans and Holdens success with its 5.7 litre GM produced V8, Ford were forced to up the ante with a run of higher performance sedans that could give buyers a comparable between the two brands and aid the sales largely the fault of the ailing XR series.
Tickford immediately began development of the 5 litre Windsor beginning with the addition of a longer-throw crankshaft stretching out the capacity to 5.6 litres (342ci). The power was upped from 220 kW(295 hp) to 250 kW(335 hp) and the torque upped from 430Nm(320 ft.lbs) to 500Nm(369 ft.lbs). This gave birth to the FTE TS50, TL50 and TE50.
Only Three T3 TL 50's were made and only one was built in 2002 the other two were made in 2001, making the TL50 one of the rarest Fords built in Australia
 The FTE T Series models, which were produced from 1999 to 2002, featured hand-built engines with an engraved plaque bearing the name of the engine builder.
Paul Radisich and Glenn Seton, each driving a racing-modified XR8, came 4th and 5th in the 2000 V8 Supercar Championship Series. The car was runner up in the 2000 FAI 1000. Marcos Ambrose finished 3rd in the 2002 V8 Supercar Championship Series.
Privateer racer Trevor Haines raced a TE50 to 13th place in the 2002 Australian GT Production Car Championship, and later the team finished 9th outright and a Class 5 win in the 2002 Bathurst 24 Hour.
- "AU Falcon - A Dedicated Australian". Web Publications Pty Limited. 1998-09-03. Retrieved 2007-07-09.
- Kenwright, Joe (2005-04-01). "Holden VT/VX Commodore (1997-2002) AND Ford Falcon AU (1998-2002)". CarPoint Australia. ninemsn. Retrieved 2008-06-24.
- Smith, Graham (2009-01-22). "Ford Falcon AU – 1998-2000: model watch". Herald Sun. The Herald and Weekly Times. Retrieved 2009-09-18.
- The new Falcon, Fairmont and XR (AU sales brochure FCL 7384), November 1998, pages 13-14
- Ford AU Falcon Futura Review
- Ford Classic Speculation Pages, True Blue Ford.com
- Ford AU Ute, New Car Buyer No 15, 2000, pages 30-33
- Ford Tickford Experience set for Launch in October Retrieved from www.autoweb.com.au on 29 November 2008
- FTE Questions & Answers Retrieved from www.internetarchive.com on 29 November 2008
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|Ford Motor Company of Australia automobile timeline, 1980s–present|
|Full-size||Falcon / Fairmont||Falcon / Fairmont||Falcon / Fairmont||Falcon / G Series|
|Fairlane / LTD||Fairlane / LTD||Fairlane / LTD|
|Falcon Ute||Falcon Ute||Falcon Ute|