Ford Falcon (AU)

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For a complete overview of all Falcon models, see Ford Falcon (Australia).
Ford AU Falcon
2000 Ford AU II Falcon Futura 75th Anniversary sedan 01.jpg
Ford AUII Falcon Futura 75th Anniversary (2000)
Manufacturer Ford Motor Company of Australia
Also called Ford AU Fairmont
Production September 1998 – September 2002
Assembly Campbellfield, Victoria, Australia
Body and chassis
Class Full-size car
Body style 2-door Coupé utility
4-door sedan
5-door station wagon
Layout FR layout
Platform EA169
Related Ford AU Fairlane
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
Transmission 4-speed automatic
5-speed manual
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 is a full-size car produced by Ford Australia between September 1998 and September 2002. Its range, comprising the Fairmont, was the first of the sixth generation Ford Falcon.

It sported Ford's new and radically different design language, labelled "New Edge", which was being introduced worldwide. The aim of this design was to attract a younger generation of buyers with avant-garde looks,[1] however, in Australia it polarized public opinion to the benefit of the more organically designed rival, the 1997 Holden Commodore (VT-series).

For the first time in Falcon's history, Independent Rear Suspension (IRS) became available as standard on some models and optional on others and, as an Australian production first, some of its 6-cylinder engines also featured Variable Cam Timing (VCT).

Development and design[edit]

Ford AU Forté - front (1998-2000)
Ford AU Forté - rear (1998-2000)

The AU series was conceived under "Project Eagle" that begun in February 1993, and gained the official codename "EA169" in October 1994.[2] It was developed and brought to market in September 1998 only after Ford Australia had given consideration to a revamped 5th generation Falcon and a fully imported replacement such as the American front-wheel drive Ford Taurus or rear-wheel drive Ford Crown Victoria, the European rear wheel-drive Scorpio[3] and, reportedly, even the Japanese rear-wheel drive Mazda 929[4] (then part of the Ford conglomerate).

The above alternatives 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. Specific factors included, for example: research at the time indicated that 69% of Falcons were fitted with towbars and the perception that rear-wheel drive cars were better at towing better; the fact that the import models had limited body style options (sedan only or sedan and wagon) and no capability to use a V8 engine.[5]

Key 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.[6] Peculiarly, Ford Australia decided to use the original 1950's font for the new "Falcon" and "Futura" badges.

As stated previously, the AU was the first Falcon to offer IRS (a double wishbone design on an isolated subframe) and its 6-cylinder engines in particular, incorporated advanced features such as VCT on some models and a temperature sensor in the cylinder head, which detected coolant loss and allowed the car to “limp home” safely by cutting cylinders. Transmissions were improved for better shift feel and the auto was recalibrated to better suit the upgraded engines.

The program cost A$700 million before product launch[7] and key staff included chief designer, Steve Park, and Marcus Hotblack, Manager of Interior Design.

Series I[edit]

The first series of the AU Falcon was launched under the marketing slogan "You've come a long way baby".[8]

The standard AU (Series I) 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 VCT" 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 VCT" 6-cyl, Sedan, 172 kW, 374Nm
  • Falcon XR8, 5.0L, "Windsor" V8, Sedan, 185 kW, 412Nm - to rival the Holden Commodore SS.

The new Forté model was the replacement of the old GLi designation. It was designed and marketed to attract to fleet buyers as well as young drivers. When new, the car was competitively priced at A$30,690 with automatic transmission and air conditioning (at the time an option on the other Australian-made rivals) fitted as standard.

Ford AU Falcon Futura (1998-2000)

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 Forté in having a body coloured grille, standard ABS, cruise control, alloy wheels and a digital clock fitted in the centre console (Series I Only).[9] The price of the car when new was A$34,990.[10]

The Falcon Classic was a limited edition sedan based on the above models, which was released in June 1999 to boost sales. It inherited an egg-crate grille from the non-XR Utility range, dual airbags, ABS brakes, cruise control, upgraded sound system, a "warm charcoal" interior, power aerial, special trim, 15 inch alloys, low profile rear spoiler, bumper inserts and prestige paint. Its recommended retail price was A$30,690.[11]

The Ford Falcon S (for Sports) sedan was also based on the Forté but designed as an entry-level sports edition. It achieved this through additional features such as body-coloured grille, alloy wheels, S decals on the rear quarters and bootlid, non-IRS sports suspension 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.

Ford AU Falcon XR6 (1998-2000)
Ford AU Falcon XR8 - with optional bi-wing (1998-2000)

The XR Series was the high performance end of the range. It comprised the XR6 (essentially a Ford Falcon S with XR fittings), XR6 VCT, XR6 VCT Sprint (with bodykit) 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 full Tickford bodykit and unique bi-wing rear spoiler.

External model differentiation was achieved via the use of different grilles and bonnets (low bonnet and vertical "waterfall" grille on Forté, horizontal single bar on Futura, integrated quad-lamp bumper bar and grille on the XR sports range; high bonnet and large grille on Fairmont range) and more basic fittings such as different alloy wheel design, rear light clusters (clear turn signals on Fairmont), body colour-coordination and chrome fittings. The wagons featured a new rear-end relative to the previous generation Falcons. Inside, the Fairmont and XR model featured full instrumentation (oil and battery meters) and the Fairmont twins also adopted a different dashboard. As opposed to the standard Falcon featuring a large oval pod incorporating air conditioning and stereo, the luxury twin featured a 2-level shared with the long-wheelbase AU Fairlane/LTD, with a separate upper level featuring a woodgrain-like trim across to the passenger side that incorporated an analogue clock, trip computer and climate control.

Only the Fairmont Ghia and Falcon XR6 VCT featured "Intech" engines produced by Tickford Vehicle Engineering with variable valve timing. IRS was fitted as standard on the Falcon XR6 VCT, XR8 and Fairmont Ghia, and optional on most other sedan models; the XR models being the only ones that could also be fitted with a limited slip differential.

Despite competitive pricing and high standard equipment relative to its rivals, especially for the new entry Forté, sales of the AU did not match those of the previous model, the EL Falcon. This was partly due to a lack of enthusiasm by customers for the "New Edge" styling, alteration of fleet sale pricing as well as the long-term decline in the market for large cars.

Ford AU Falcon XL Supercab Utility (1999–2000)
Ford AUII Falcon XR8 Utility (2000-2001)

The range of AU Falcon Utility vehicles 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.[12] 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.

Series II and III[edit]

Ford AUII Falcon Forté (2000-2001)
Ford AUII Falcon Futura wagon (2000-2001)

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 (e.g. less oval central dashboard pod with silver highlights)
  • standard cloth (in lieu of vinyl finishes) and darker "warm charcoal" interiors
  • 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
  • Falcon Forté, 5.0L, "Windsor" V8, Sedan, 175 kW, 395Nm
  • Falcon S, 4.0L, "Intech" 6-cyl, Sedan, 157 kW, 357Nm
  • Falcon Futura, 4.0L, "Intech" 6-cyl, Sedan/Wagon, 157 kW, 357Nm
  • Fairmont, 4.0L, "Intech" 6-cyl, Sedan/Wagon, 157 kW, 357Nm
  • Fairmont Ghia, 4.0L, "Intech VCT" 6-cyl, Sedan, 168 kW, 370Nm
  • Fairmont Ghia, 5.0L, "Windsor" V8, Sedan, 175 kW, 395Nm
  • Falcon XR6, 4.0L, "Intech" 6-cyl, Sedan, 164 kW, 366Nm
  • Falcon XR6 VCT, 4.0L, "Intech VCT" 6-cyl, Sedan, 172 kW, 374Nm
  • Falcon XR8, 5.0L, "Windsor" V8, Sedan, 200 kW, 420Nm (to April 2001)
  • Falcon XR8, 5.0L, "Windsor" V8, Sedan, 220 kW, 435Nm (from May 2001) - same power as early FTE Falcon T-series.

Sedan-based limited editions included the: X-Pack (a Forté upgrade with standard alloy wheels and original XR rear wing), SR (Forté-based S successor), Futura Classic, Futura & Fairmont Ghia 75th Anniversary (to commemorate Ford Australia's birth in 1925), XR6 & XR8 Rebel (featuring a limited edition bodykit).

Augmenting the X-Pack, in late 2000 Stillwell Ford dealers in South Australia launched a Sportryder variant, 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 range 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.
Ford AU Series III Falcon SR sedan

Externally, the Series III, which was presented at the Sydney Motorshow in November 2001 by surprise,[13] featured body-coloured mirrors and side strips plus standard side skirts and different wheels on some models. Headlights became a shade darker, side indicators clear and a dot matrix windscreen was added to reduce sun glare. In terms of interiors, additional features were added as standard: Futura - rear power windows and velour trim; Fairmont - 6-way power-adjustable driver's seat; Fairmont Ghia - 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat and leather trim. Though ABS became standard across the range, the XR models lost equipment: XR6 - limited-slip differential (LSD) now optional; all XR's - stereo downgrade to a 4-speaker single-CD unit. A bodykit marketed as "Havoc" (with new front and rear bumpers featuring stainless mesh inserts; fog lights; side skirts and an optional rear spoiler) became optional on all Falcons with XR8 buyers also having the choice of a Tickford bodykit or the Ford Racing body kit (originally featured on the AUII Falcon XR8 Rebel). Fairmont and XR could also potioned with the "REX" (Rear Entertainment XTreme) package, allowing rear passenger to play DVD movies or connect game consoles.

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. These hand-built engines 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.

The combined production of Falcon Series II and III totaled 237,701 units.

FTE T Series[edit]

FTE T3 TE50 (2001-2002)

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,[14] 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

[15] 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.


Ford AU Falcon XR8 by Gibson Motorsport (2001)

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.


  1. ^ "AU Falcon - A Dedicated Australian". Web Publications Pty Limited. 1998-09-03. Retrieved 2007-07-09. 
  2. ^ "The Falcon Story". Wheels (Sydney): 44. October 1998. 
  3. ^ "The Falcon Story". Wheels (Sydney): 45. October 1998. 
  4. ^ "AU Falcon (1998-2000)". Falcon Facts. 2009-01-22. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  5. ^ "AU Falcon (1998-2000)". Falcon Facts. 2009-01-22. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  6. ^ Kenwright, Joe (2005-04-01). "Holden VT/VX Commodore (1997-2002) AND Ford Falcon AU (1998-2002)". CarPoint Australia. ninemsn. Retrieved 2008-06-24. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Smith, Graham (2009-01-22). "Ford Falcon AU – 1998-2000: model watch". Herald Sun. The Herald and Weekly Times. Retrieved 2009-09-18. 
  9. ^ The new Falcon, Fairmont and XR (AU sales brochure FCL 7384), November 1998, pages 13-14
  10. ^ Ford AU Falcon Futura Review
  11. ^ Ford Classic Speculation Pages, True Blue
  12. ^ Ford AU Ute, New Car Buyer No 15, 2000, pages 30-33
  13. ^ "AUIII Falcon (2002-2003)". Falcon Facts. Retrieved 2015-02-18. 
  14. ^ Ford Tickford Experience set for Launch in October Retrieved from on 29 November 2008
  15. ^ FTE Questions & Answers Retrieved from on 29 November 2008

External links[edit]