Australian Performance: Ford Falcon

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While it was killed off in America long ago, Australia still treasures the Falcon to this day.

Australia is home to a number of cars which share names with American cars, but have no relation to them. This is very nearly true of the Falcon, which started out being mostly the same as the American car, but which evolved apart and eventually would survive while the American car would be retired. What is most important, for the purposes of this series, is that Ford Australia's performance division has built a hot version of the Falcon, known as the FPV GT.

This car is unlike anything we have in America, but it does have a certain amount in common with the Mustang, and is the bitter rival of the HSV Commodore vehicles. The Australian Falcon has been in production since 1960, and was originally simply a locally-produced version of the American car. The Melbourne factory was even designed in Canada, and as a consequence had a roof designed with heavy snow in mind, even though snow is not something they typically have to worry about in Melbourne. 1961 saw the introduction of the Falcon ute, then essentially the same as the Ford Ranchero.

But the Australian version continued to evolve, and is still in production, while the Ranchero died off way back in 1979. The Falcon sold well in Australia, and in 1967, Ford Australia designed their own version for the second generation of the car. This was bigger than the American car, and it was this version which was given the Ford Performance Vehicles (FPV) treatment. This was achieved by putting the 289 V8 from the Mustang under the Falcon's hood, thus making one of the most enduring classics ever produced in Australia. The 289 was replaced by the 302 in 1968, and this would be replaced by the 351 Cleveland in 1969.

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In this same year, the GT model was joined in the lineup by the GTHO, a version of the GT with a higher state of tune. The GTHO Phase III was unveiled in 1971, and with its 390 horsepower would be the most powerful Falcon built all the way up until 2003. These Falcons can be identified by their shaker hoods, and one of them holds the record for the most expensive Australian vehicle ever sold at auction, $A750,000 back in 2007. The 351-equipped GTs would stay in production until 1976, by which point the muscle car era had already been over in America for a couple of years.

The regular Falcon would stay in production and continue to evolve, but the GT would remain dormant for several decades. Although there were a couple of exceptions to this. In 1992 and 1997, in commemoration of the 25th and 30th anniversary of the GT, the engineering and coach building firm Tickford would make their own versions of the GT with help from Ford. Between 250 and 300 of each of these exist, and both use the Ford 302 Windsor engine. The GT was reintroduced in 2003, based on the sixth generation of the Falcon. This used a 5.4-liter V8 and produced 390 horsepower, the same as the old GTHO Phase III.

The engine displaced 330 cubic inches, but was badged "Boss 290" until 2008 when it was renamed "Boss 315", still displacing 330cu-in. 2007 was the last year of this generation, and a special edition GT Cobra was made for this year only, complete with a retuned 405-horsepower version of the engine. The Falcon entered its sixth generation in 2008, and a new GT came along with it. The engine would not produce 422 horsepower, and a supercharged version of Ford's 5.0 V8 is available, producing 449 horsepower. It is nearly impossible to overstate how seriously some Australians take the Ford Falcon.

The rivalry between Ford and GM fans still exists for many people here in the US, but it is nothing like it used to be, or continues to be for Australians. Families will identify themselves as either Ford or Holden families, and buying a car from a different company than the rest of your family owns can create serious domestic problems for some of the more hardcore fans. It is similar to the attitude that UK soccer fans have for their teams, and it can at times even get as violent. Fights break out between fans of the two different brands frequently at the annual Bathurst 1000 (formerly 500), while the cars themselves duke it out on the track.

The Falcon is the car for the Ford fans, and GT is the ultimate Falcon. The car no longer has much in common with any American models, with the exception of Mustang parts in the GT, but Americans will still know the car from the appearance of the Pursuit Special/Interceptor version of the Falcon in the first two "Mad Max" movies. It's interesting to think what could have been made of the Falcon if it had stayed in production here in the US, but it's reasonable to think that it would probably be a lot like this.

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