The Falcon is a full-size car that has enjoyed a 50-year reign as one of the market’s favourite family vehicles. Its popularity has waned somewhat in recent years, but nonetheless, it remains one of the most solid and reliable cars around, selling over 3 million units worldwide.
The Falcon is built here by Ford Australia. Models currently on the new-car market include the sedan and 4x4, while the large, solid base of the Falcon made it a past favourite for panel vans, estates, and coupes.
The Falcon is one of the most common vehicles to be found on the taxi ranks and is a popular corporate fleet car thanks to its clean styling, solid road handling, and relatively economic fuel consumption. Original models dating back to the 1960s can still be found in various states of care and repair, alongside a further six generations sporting a variety of styles. Some would say that the Falcon’s styling has lost its spark somewhat in recent years, lacking the freshness and bold lines of its earlier 20th-century counterpart, and certainly sales of new models have waned, but this is more likely due to a preference for smaller cars in the face of the rising costs of fuel than because of the Falcon’s specific inability to please.
The 1960 Ford Falcon came to market with a 90bhp, 6-cylinder engine with 3-speed manual or 2-speed automatic gearbox. The early models were based on the American design, being replaced from 1972 onwards with models that were fully designed, developed, and built in Australia. Various generations followed, perhaps most notably in 2002, when the all-new BA II Falcon won the Wheels Car of the Year award, thanks to its revamped suspension, developments to its 6-cylinder engine alongside two new V8 engine options and new transmission options. The 4-litre DOHC VCT engine was introduced at this time and has remained a favourite for used Falcon buyers for its ability to produce up to 199 kW and 402Nm of torque when running on high-octane fuels. Note these figures are widely publicised but not officially endorsed by Ford Australia. Mark II update models from 2004 onwards feature 6-speed manual transmission and revised wheel trims.
The popular FG Falcon models date from 2008, marking the seventh generation of this enduring brand. They feature a more powerful 6-cylinder engine, delivering up to 208kW and 420Nm of torque. The XR6 Turbo and G6E Turbo models fare even better, at 270 kW and 533Nm of torque, and the XR6 Turbo was MOTOR magazine’s Bang for Your Buck award winner of the same year. XT, G6, and G6E models also come with an LPG option. The 2008 XR8 features a 5.4-litre V8 engine, producing 290kW and 520Nm of torque, though this was phased out again in 2010 due to changing emissions rules, replaced by the American-sourced 5.0-litre Coyote V8, as used in the Mustang and adapted for the Australian market.
The year 2010 saw a further range of developments and upgrades, as did the 2012 models. The 2010 FG Falcon was the first Australian manufactured car to gain a five-star ANCAP crash safety rating, scoring an impressive 34.6 out of a maximum total of 37.
With 50 years of history behind it, it is unsurprising that the Ford Falcon comes in many shapes, sizes, and, of course, specifications. Base-range Falcons, especially the older models, are notable for their lack of creature comforts. This is typical of the fleet car market of the time, with a focus on reliability and solid performance rather than extras. That said, there is a plethora of all-singing, all-dancing models to be had, ranging in age from five months to five decades.
The turn-of-the-century models, from 1999 onwards, marked a dip in the popularity of the Falcon’s looks with the adoption of the “new edge” styling, which was intended to differentiate itself from the rather uniform look and feel which was so popular amongst competitor cars of the time. This was tweaked for the 2000 model and again for 2001, with the removal of the “waterfall” grill on the base model (the Forte) and the inclusion of a SmartLock anti-theft system. The extras increased more or less incrementally with the years, and, of course, with the model and trim selected. By 2010, interior technology such as iPod integration and Bluetooth were standard across the range while some safety items, such as curtain airbags, remained an optional extra.
A number of Falcon-based models compete with the Ford Falcon itself. The Future, Fairmont, Landau, Fairlane, and LTD are all developed from the base-model Falcon. The Falcon’s real rival, however, remains the Holden Commodore. Between these two cars alone, General Motors and Ford have made over 6 million sales worldwide over the course of the past five decades.