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End of a Era: The Australian Falcon

By Jarah Weinreich

The National Automobile Museum of Tasmania's new themed display is a tribute to the homegrown Fords that became icons of the race circuit as well as staples of suburbia.

End of an Era: The Australian Falcon features some of the most significant and beloved variants of the model.

Australia's own Ford Falcon was born of a familiar desire - to challenge Holden in the growing domestic market. By the late 1950s General Motors Holden had gained dominance and was growing in popularity. Whilst the locally assembled Zodiac, Consul and Zephyr models remained reasonably successful, they were based on ageing British technology, and the potential was seen for a local model more suited to Australian conditions. The first Australian Falcon, the XK, was unveiled on the 11th of September 1960. Based on a North American concept, production took place at a purpose-built plant at Campbellfield in Melbourne. Cleanly styled and modern, the XK heralded a new era for Ford Australia. The display features a wonderfully original XK.

The XL replaced the XK in 1962. In addition to various mechanical improvements, the XL was discreetly restyled in a fashion that aped the contemporary Thunderbird. The car on display is an immaculate 1963 Futura.

The XP's launch was dominated by an ambitious publicity stunt; in an effort to prove the new car's reliability, five Falcons lapped the You Yang Proving Ground continuously for nine days and 70,000 miles averaging 70mph. The stunt worked, boosting sales and winning Ford the coveted Wheels 'Car of the Year' award. A beautifully restored 1966 Futura is featured in the display.

Riding on a wave of success, and now established as part of the street furniture across the nation, the XR was introduced as a 'Mustang-bred Falcon' and started the muscle car war in Australia. Two XR GTs are featured in the display; one of the eight silver Gallaher cars used to promote the 1967 Bathurst 500 and a recently completed fully restored example.

As a fitting end to the GT dynasty, Ford introduced the GT-F in 2014 as the final model with a limited production run of 500. One of these very significant cars, finished in black and gold, is featured.

The stunning Yellow Ochre XY GS Fairmont on display was delivered new in Tasmania, and represents the final and most developed member of the XR - XY family.

The undisputed king of Australian muscle cars, an iconic 1971 XY GT HO is presented in Monza Green, and shows 36000 original miles (58000 kms).

The striking Cobra was a limited edition car produced for 1978 to clear the last of the hardtop body shells. The car on display was used in the group C memorial lap at Bathurst in 2005 replicating the livery used in 1978.

A raft of cars came and went as the range developed itself into the new milennium, but behind the scenes trouble was brewing. For many years various economists had predicted the downfall of the large, rear wheel drive Australian sedan, and in 2013 the predictions became reality when Ford Australia announced the imminent cancellation of local production. The Geelong plant closed in September 2016, with production ceasing at Broadmeadows on the 7th of October.

The 2016 FGX Sprint FR6 Turbo aptly represents the final chapter in the Falcon story. This is the most powerful six-cylinder car ever produced in Australia, and is one of just five hundred made.

Ford enthusiasts will delight in this unique array, yet this tribute represents more than that. It is a celebration of the cars that influenced a generation, and fifty-six years of Australian history.