XA Ford Falcon (1972-73)
Ford released the XA Falcon in March 1972. It was the first iteration of the third generation of Australian-made falcons. The XA was the closest model in the Falcon range so far to being called an entirely homegrown design. The previous models had borrowed heavily from the range of Falcons produced and sold by Ford in the United States. However, in 1970, Ford US decided to discontinue production of the Falcon range in North America. This gave Ford Australia more freedom to design its own products specially tailored to the Australian market. The manufacturing of parts was also taking place within Australia with the 5L 302 V8s and some of the 5.8L 351 V8s being Australian-made rather than US or Canadian imports.
The XA Falcon was the product of a stated $50 million development invested by Ford and was quite different stylistically from the previous XY model. Although based on the same substructure as that of the XY, the bodywork of the XA was a complete redesign and had much softer curved contours than that of the angular XY. The new Falcon was noticeably larger with extended rear wheel arches, providing space for wider tires. The grill design was changed to smooth horizontal bars that came to a pronounced point in the center. The taillights were also altered to three linear lights rather than a rectangular cluster.
The release of the XA Falcons came with the reemergence of a two-door hardtop coupe option that had not been seen since the XP in 1966. Released just five months after the initial launch of the XA Falcon range, the hardtop had a more streamlined body similar to the Ford’s Torino model. Ford commercials of the time made much of its “low, aerodynamic design.” It was sleeker and wider than the sedan, with a slightly wider track and a roofline that sat almost two inches lower. The rear passenger windows were smaller and the large doors had a frameless window design which were also used on the utes and panel vans. The Falcon 500, Fairmont and GT were the three models available in hardtop form.
In an effort to boost initial sales of the XA Hardtop, Ford created a “Superbird” edition to exhibit at the Sydney motor show. Following a positive public reaction, Ford produced a limited run of about 700 XA Superbirds that featured striking colour combinations and hand-painted graphics.
Available models in the XA range were the familiar lineup of Falcon, Falcon 500 and Fairmont sedans and wagons, and Futura and GT sedans, as well as utility and panel van models. The wagons and commercial models were slightly larger than the XY versions with an increased load capacity. Flow-through ventilation was fitted across the range for the first time in the Falcons, while some rare models also had quarter-vent windows. The dash was plastic and came in a new wrap-around driver-centric format.
Engine and transmission combinations were carried over from the previous XY range. The six-cylinder options were a 3.3L (200 cu), a 4.1L (250 cu), and a 2V (twin venturi) carburettor option of the 4.1L. The 4.9L Windsor (302 cu) and 5.8L (351 cu) Cleveland V8 engines were optioned across the range apart from the Fairmont which came with the 351 as standard. Transmission options included the 3-speed automatic, 3-speed manual and 4-speed manual.
The XA GT did not have a GT-HO option due to media pressure and public outcry in what has since been dubbed “the supercar scare.” This was based upon news reports that the big three Australian car manufacturers Ford, GM-Holden and Chrysler were developing vehicles capable of speeds up to 160mph that would be commercially available to the public. The negative publicity caused Ford to abandon development of the car that would have been the Phase IV GT-HO.
Ford Australia built 129,473 Falcon XAs between March 1972 and September 1973 before they were eventually replaced with the XB Falcon in September 1973.