XR Ford Falcon (1966-68)
In September 1966 Ford Australia launched the XR Falcon which was a successor to the XP Falcon. Styling from the previous model was changed considerably and based on the third generation 1966 American Ford Falcon.
A much squarer, more refined design saw the XR Falcon promoted as the “Mustang-bred Falcon”, due to many of its features and characteristics being carried over from its US counterpart, including the introduction of the V8 engine.
The XR was unquestionably a significant advancement for the Falcon with Ford Australia making major changes from the previous XK–XP platform with an estimated $35 million dollar investment. These changes would see almost every aspect of the vehicle updated, from it’s exterior styling, to the interior, driveline, suspension and accessories. At the time of its release it quickly gathered attention and in many ways, made Holden’s HR range, (released only six months prior) look somewhat dated.
In terms of engines, the 144 CID six-cylinder engine was no longer available for the XR series. Ford continued to offer the 170 CID six cylinder as the entry level engine, as well as the 200 CID and 200 Super Pursuit engines.
However, the 289 CID Windsor (4.7L) 200 BHP (150 kW), was the first Australian Falcon to be offered with this configuration available across all models.
Transmissions included a 3-speed manual with optional synchro, as well as two 3-speed automatics – the Cruise-o-matic (dual range, standard with the V8) or the previous 3-speed borgwarner. A 4-speed manual was optioned with the introduction of the XR GT in March 1967.
Being a larger vehicle, with a wider track and longer wheelbase, the XR Falcon was heavier than its predecessor by 300lbs.
In an effort to cope with the additional weight and increase in power for the V8 variants, strengthening of the chassis and subframe were undertaken. This ensured greater torsional rigidity and structural integrity, whilst also improving the vehicles handling capabilities. It also made the vehicle much more suited to Australian driving conditions.
Standard brakes for much of the range were still drums, however front disc brakes were optional and standard on the Fairmont (and later the GT). Gone were the 13 inch 4 stud rims from the previous models and in their place, 14 inch 5 stud rims, of which buyers could now specify radial tyres.
On the inside, a completely revised interior provided more comfort whilst increasing cabin space. Passengers gained an additional 75mm of hip and shoulder space, whilst boot space had been better utilised due to the repositioning of the spare wheel. Seatbelts were now fitted as standard.
One noticeable change had been the fuel tank capacity. Increased almost 20 litres, 75lt over the previous XP model which had a capacity of 53lt. Many believe this change was made in preparedness of what was to follow with the high performance XR GT model.
The XR Falcon had the largest model range yet of any Falcon. The line-up included 9 different models across 4 different body styles. Falcon sedan, station wagon, panel van and utility available in the following trim – Falcon, Falcon 500 and Fairmont. Changes included the Falcon Deluxe being replaced by the Falcon 500, the Futura being dropped and the 2-door hardtop being discontinued due to a decline in sales.
In 1966 Ford Australia celebrated yet another Wheels Car of the Year award, this time around with the XR Falcon, giving Ford Falcon two consecutive victories.