Ford Falcon (EL)

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For a complete overview of all Falcon models, see Ford Falcon (Australia).
Ford EL Falcon
1997 Ford EL Falcon GLi.jpg
Overview
Manufacturer Ford Motor Company of Australia
Also called Ford EL Fairmont
Production October 1996 - August 1998
Assembly Campbellfield, Victoria, Australia
Body and chassis
Class Full-size car
Body style 4-door sedan
5-door station wagon
Platform FR EA77
Related Ford DL LTD
Ford NL Fairlane
Powertrain
Engine 4.0 L I6
5.0 L Windsor V8
Transmission 5-speed manual
4-speed automatic
Dimensions
Wheelbase Sedan: 2,791 mm (109.9 in)
Wagon: 2,923 mm (115.1 in)
Length Sedan: 4,906 mm (193.1 in)
Wagon: 5,055 mm (199.0 in)
Width 1,861 mm (73.3 in)
Height 1,453 mm (57.2 in)
Curb weight Sedan: 1,536–1,704 kg (3,386–3,757 lb)
Wagon: 1,600 kg (3,500 lb)
Chronology
Predecessor Ford EF Falcon
Successor Ford AU Falcon

The Ford EL Falcon is a full-size car that was manufactured by the Ford Motor Company of Australia between 1996 and 1998. The EL Falcon served as the final chapter of the fifth generation "E-series" architecture, which began with the EA of 1988.[1] Ford discontinued the car in 1998, and replaced it with the AU.[2] In its lifetime, the EL was one of the most popular Falcons produced; Ford sold more ELs over two years, than it did AUs over four years.

Ford spent A$40 million for the development of the EL.[2] At launch, it was the only Australian-built car equipped with a driver's air bag standard across the board, with a passenger airbag available as an extra cost option.[3] Also like its predecessors, the EL Falcon was widely favoured by Australian police and taxi operators.[4]

Development[edit]

The EL served as a facelift of its predecessor, the EF Falcon, which began production in 1994. The "E-series" architecture can trace its roots back to 1988 with the EA.[1] Ford introduced a number of improvements aimed at extending the life of the "E-series" body while the AU Falcon was being developed, which resulted in the highest ever annual sales of a Falcon.[citation needed]

Facelift and upgrades[edit]

Compared to the EF, the most obvious visual change was the return of the front grille for GLi and Futura models. The grille itself was now elliptical in shape, a trait shared by other Ford models available at the time. The overall effect was to give the front of the car a rounded visual theme, continuing a shift away from the angular aero style of the early "E-series" models. From the rear, amber indicators were fitted on the base sedan models, with white lenses reserved for the luxury and station wagons. The performance models (XR6 and XR8) saw revised quad headlights.[5]

Buyers of the introductory GLi, Futura (pictured) and Fairmont had the option of both sedan and station wagon body styles. Compared to EB–EF station wagons, ELs are differentiated by white as opposed to amber rear turn signals.

Interior upgrades came in the form of reshaped seats and headrests, new colour schemes and switches. Third-row seating, a cargo barrier, and preinstalled wiring to accommodate mobile phone usage were made available as options for the station wagon variants. Additionally, all models were fitted with an advanced window film known as Smart Tint, which claimed to provide equivalent protection levels of SPF15 sunscreen.[5] For improved vehicle refinement, thicker glass was installed to lessen wind noise and a further insulation was added in the dashboard to produce a quieter ride.[6]

Engine[edit]

The EL introduced only minor running changes to the Falcon's base model straight-six engine, when compared to the radical overhaul presented by the EF. The coil-pack ignition system introduced in the EF was rolled back to the distributor-style ignition from the ED Falcon due to reliability problems. A divided air induction pipe which led to the throttle was replaced with a single, wider pipe.[7] Engine output remained unchanged at 157 kilowatts (211 hp) and 357 newton metres (263 ft·lbf). In October 1997, the V8 engine fitted to the XR8 sports model was upgraded from 170 kilowatts (228 hp) to 185 (248 hp). Torque figures were also upped from 398 newton metres (294 ft·lbf) to 402 (296 ft·lbf).[5][8]

Amber rear turn signals on GLi and Futura sedans (GLi pictured) replaced the white EF lenses. Contrarily, the EF wagon's amber signals switched over to white lenses on the EL.

Handling and braking[edit]

The EL brought with it improvements to braking and handling. Speed-sensitive power steering on the Fairmont Ghia made parking more straightforward, without compromising high-speed steering.[5] With the introduction of the new model, buyers could now purchase a Falcon with standard (optional on GLi) anti-lock brakes featuring the latest Bosch 5.3 module. Perhaps the biggest advancement with the EL was the improvements to the handling woes of the EF, with improvements established to the suspension and steering.[5] Engineers at Tickford had discovered that by lowering the pivot point of the Watt's linkages in the rear suspension by 20 millimetres (0.8 in), that the roll oversteer effect which plagued the EF could finally be eliminated. Previously on EF models, during hard cornering the rear end of the car often felt as if it could not keep up with the front, due to the difference in roll rate between the front and rear suspension. The result of this produced unpredictable car handling at times, where the delayed weight transfer at the rear would seek to damage the integrity of the outside rear tyre grip. This was exaggerated even further in wet weather or on vehicles fitted with poor tyres. Although this problem was addressed to a degree in the EFII update, it was the EL that became the first base level Falcon to feature a rear suspension setup that would complement the precision of rack and pinion steering introduced in the EA Falcon eight years earlier. The improved suspension geometry allowed Ford to soften the spring rates on both front and rear on the EL for a more compliant ride, as the driver no longer had roll oversteer to contain.[9]

Specification levels[edit]

A driver's airbag, a Compact Cassette player and power steering were standard fitment on the base model GLi (pictured).

Ten variants of the EL were produced, six-cylinder variants came standard with a five-speed manual, with the option of a four-speed automatic transmission. With the exception of the XR8, which could be purchased with the five-speed manual, all V8s were fitted with the four-speed automatic.[10]

Base models[edit]

The GLi was the most basic model Falcon, selling well with fleets.[11] Its features list was identical to that of the previous model, which included Ford's straight-six engine, with an option of upgrading to the Windsor V8.[12] The slightly more equipped Futura features ABS brakes, front power windows, cruise control and a number of luxury features, like back seat headrests and an enhanced sound system. To distinguish it from the GLi, body-coloured components replaced the black plastic type.[13] Regardless of the model chosen, an optional dual fuel tank could be fitted to run on both autogas and petrol, with the transmission limited to the four-speed automatic.[12]

Sapphire, Classic, and Falcon S[edit]

Over the EL's lifetime, Ford introduced a series of limited edition models. The Sapphire II (pictured) added 15 inches (380 mm) alloy wheels, metallic paint and air conditioning to the standard GLi at no extra cost.[5]

Ford introduced the Sapphire shortly after Holden debuted the VT Commodore in 1997, in a bid to make the EL more competitive. The name was reused from the Ford Sierra Sapphire sedan sold in Europe and New Zealand. It was a limited edition model and had two variants based on either the GLi or the Futura, fitted with additional features, however the list differed depending on the base model chosen. All Sapphires had 15-inch (380 mm) alloy wheels and metallic paint as standard.[14] Other responses to the VT Commodore were the Classic and Falcon S models. Similarly to the Sapphire, they too were limited edition variants based on either the GLi or Futura.[5] Standard for the Falcon S included a six-stack CD player, air conditioning, and alloy wheels which were identical to those fitted to the XR6 and XR8 models of the earlier ED Falcon range.[15] Later, in March 1998, just before the launch of the AU Falcon, a Sapphire II was introduced.[5]

Sports models[edit]

The V8-powered XR8 (pictured) shares its unique four headlamp fascia with the six-cylinder XR6.

The biggest difference between the so-called "XR series" performance versions were the engines; the XR6 and XR8 boasted a 164 kilowatt (220 hp) six-cylinder and a 170 kilowatt (228 hp) V8 respectively.[6] The V8 was later upgraded to output 185 kilowatts (248 hp) in October 1997.[16] The upgraded transmission and exhaust system were unique to the XR range, as was the exterior styling with an XR exclusive quad headlamp assembly giving the vehicle a higher degree of aggression when compared to the look possessed by the other variants. Both models came standard with limited slip differential and specially tuned suspension. Body kits were also installed to improve the aesthetics and the aerodynamics.[6] The GT had a Tickford Vehicle Engineering 5.0 litre V8, producing 200 kilowatts (268 hp) of power. Unlike what was first anticipated, the 30th anniversary EL Falcon GT was based loosely on the Fairmont Ghia rather than the XR models, with only 250 built.[17]

Chrome highlights, 15-inch alloy wheels, and velour upholstery individualise the luxury-oriented Fairmont (pictured) from the mainstream and sport models.

Luxury models[edit]

Along with the base and sports models, Ford also marketed two luxury-oriented variants. The first of the two, known as the Fairmont employed the same six-cylinder engine as the Futura and GLi. Building on the equipment level of the Futura, the Fairmont gained, automatic climate control air conditioning, trip computer, power rear windows, oil pressure and battery level gauges, front and rear illuminated footwells, electric aerial and full velour interior. Exterior wise, a more prominent chrome front grille, a larger bonnet bulge, and differently shaped headlamps distinguished the Fairmont from other EL models, as did 15-inch, 12-spoke alloy wheels. The Fairmont was also fitted with chrome insert side body mouldings and carried over the tail light lenses from the previous EF model.

The Fairmont Ghia offered a combination of luxury and performance, which was emphasised most effectively by making use of the six-cylinder engine fitted to the XR6, with the V8 remaining optional. Due to the implementation of a quieter exhaust, the Ghia suffered from a slight loss in output compared to the XR6. Limited slip differential provided better handling than the Fairmont, as did improved variable ratio power steering. Equipment wise, the Fairmont Ghia gained a more powerful, nine-speaker stereo system, a passenger airbag, thicker 5-millimetre (0 in) side glass for better sound absorption, wood-grain trim, chrome door handles and accents as well as a leather-wrapped steering wheel, handbrake handle and leather upholstery. Externally, to differentiate the Fairmont from the Fairmont Ghia, the centre bar of the chrome front grille was colour-coded to the exterior paint, and 15-inch eight-spoke alloy wheels were fitted.[18]

See Also[edit]

  • Ford Falcon (XH) - Utility pickup and panel van of the Falcon line running concurrently with the ED series of cars and wagons

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Ford EL Falcon Futura wagon (1996-1998)". GoAuto. John Mellor. Retrieved 2007-09-25. 
  2. ^ a b Smith, Graham (2002-08-09). "1996-98 Ford EL Falcon". Herald Sun. News Limited. Retrieved 2007-09-13. 
  3. ^ "EL Falcon: An Introduction". True Blue Ford. Retrieved 2007-09-13. 
  4. ^ "Second-hand Savers". The Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. 1999-02-25. Retrieved 2007-09-25. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h "EL Falcon (1996 - 1998)". Falcon Facts. Retrieved 2007-09-15. 
  6. ^ a b c "EL Falcon - XR6 & XR8 specs". True Blue Ford. Retrieved 2007-09-15. 
  7. ^ Knowling, Michael (2004-08-11). "Awakening the Aussie Ford Six - Part One". AutoSpeed. Web Publications. Retrieved 2007-09-16. 
  8. ^ "EF Falcon (1994 - 1996)". Falcon Facts. Retrieved 2007-09-15. 
  9. ^ Kenwright, Joe (2004-09-01). "Ford Falcon GLi EF-EL". CarPoint. ninemsn. Retrieved 2007-07-04. 
  10. ^ "Big bloke in a shiny suit". Drive. Fairfax Media. 2000-03-24. Retrieved 2007-09-25. 
  11. ^ "Car review - Ford Falcon GLi sedan". GoAuto. John Mellor. Retrieved 2007-10-17. 
  12. ^ a b "EL Falcon - GLi specs". True Blue Ford. Retrieved 2007-09-13. 
  13. ^ "EL Falcon - Futura specs". True Blue Ford. Retrieved 2007-09-15. 
  14. ^ "EL Falcon 'Sapphire' Specifications:". True Blue Ford. Retrieved 2007-09-18. 
  15. ^ "EL Falcon 'S'". True Blue Ford. Retrieved 2007-09-18. 
  16. ^ "The sounds of sibling rivalry". Drive. Fairfax Media. 1999-03-12. Retrieved 2007-09-25. 
  17. ^ Warner, Gary. "Falcon GT - style and substance (if you can find one)". FastLane. Retrieved 2007-09-18. 
  18. ^ "EL Falcon - Fairmont Ghia specs:". True Blue Ford. Retrieved 2007-09-24.