XD Ford Falcon (1979-82)
The XD Falcon was the first iteration of the fourth generation of Australian Falcons. It represented a new direction for the Falcon range and was a complete design overhaul by Ford on the previous models. The new design seemed far from the influence of the American styling, which had been the inspiration for Australian Falcons since their inception in 1960. The XD model showed a closer resemblance to the European built Ford Granada than the Mustangs or Torinos of the last decade.
The XD was the product of Ford’s $100 million investment to develop a more efficient Falcon that could fulfill the changing requirements of the car-buying public. After extensive research, Ford concluded that the public wanted smaller, lighter cars that were more economical to run amidst rising fuel prices. Although its exterior was slightly smaller than that of the XC Falcon, the XD had the same interior-passenger dimensions and similar-sized chassis. Not wishing to make the XD much smaller, Ford decided to make it lighter in order to increase performance and efficiency. It replaced some of the heavy steel components, such as bumpers and fuel tanks with lighter plastic alternatives.
In terms of driveline, the standard six-cylinder engines remained within the range but the 302 (cu) and 351 (cu) V8s engines that were once fitted to the luxury models were optioned only. The 3.3L inline-six was the basic engine fitted across the range except in the Fairmont and Fairmont Ghia variants which ran the 4.1L six. From 1980 onwards, Ford would switch the heads in six-cylinder engines from iron cast to alloy. The choice of alloy heads improved fuel consumption marginally, but with the bonus of increasing torque and improving the overall performance.
Ford was keen to promote the practicality, safety and performance aspects of the new range of Falcons. New features included side-bracing pillars for passenger protection, a new padded “crash pad” dash and front and rear crumple zones. Ford also began the transition to using printed-circuit instrument panels and electronic fuel and speedometer gauges.
Ford reduced the number of of available models within the range for the XD. Previously, the XC model offered nine passenger variants, whereas the XD would offer only five. The hardtop was dropped, and the Falcon and Falcon 500 models were seemingly consolidated into what was now called the Falcon GL. The GL was available in sedan or wagon format, as well as the Fairmont which kept its position at the luxury end of the Falcon range.
The Fairmont Ghia was offered as the top of the line luxury model within the range. Promoted as a luxury-sports sedan, it featured a number of interior upgrades, unique two-tone paint, and was optioned with the 4.1L engine or an optional V8. Promoted as an upgraded Fairmont, it came with power-assisted disc brakes front and rear, alloy wheels and radial tyres. Ford would only release a limited run of XD Fairmont Ghias, 500 in total.
A few additional upgrades included the “S Pack” and the European Sports Pack or or ESP. Extras for the S Pack were mostly cosmetic, such as distinctive paint treatment, slotted steel wheels, radial tyres and a front spoiler. The ESP was slightly more substantial and attempted to bring the feel of a European sports saloon to the large Falcon XD. The package included Bathurst-globe wheels and radial tyres, a four-speed manual transmission, upgraded suspension and front and rear disc brakes.
In terms of commercial vehicles, Ford offered four options, in the form of Falcon and Falcon GL vans and utes. The XD model also saw the continuation of the Sundowner which was a GL model van-meets-camper with sports styling.
From March 1979 to March 1982, Ford Australia produced 197,293 units of the XD Falcon until it was replaced with the XE model.