Inside the Collection

Ford to close in Australia: an Australian icon, the 1965 Ford Falcon XP

Photograph XP Ford Falcon
Sectioned XP Ford Falcon, Powerhouse Museum Collection. Gift of the Ford Motor Company of Australia, 1966. B1644

On 23 May, 2013, Australians were stunned to learn that Ford was to finish production of cars in Australia in 2016. The first Ford cars were sold in Australia in 1904 and a sales office opened in Melbourne in 1909, established by Ford of Canada. In the same year a local manufacturing plant was established in Victoria, at Geelong, 70 km SW of Melbourne. The Broadmeadows assembly plant, 16 km N of Melbourne, was opened in 1958 and an engine machine shop built in the expanded plant two years later. This enabled production to almost double from 50,000 to 90,000 units in 1961.

The Powerhouse Museum has one of the iconic Fords of the twentieth century, a Ford Falcon XP, Deluxe Fordomatic, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan, made by the Ford Motor Company of Australia at Broadmeadows in 1965. What’s really interesting about this car is that it was sectioned for display at a motor show in Melbourne, after which Ford donated it to the Museum. The sectioning shows not only the internal workings of the engine but also the construction of the body, upholstery, tyres, brakes and paintwork.


Model: XP Falcon deluxe sedan Fordomatic 3S

Gearbox: 3 speed automatic (Borg-Warner)

Engine: “Pursuit 170” water cooled, overhead valve

Cylinders: 6 in line

Bore & stroke: 3.68 in x 3.126 in (89 mm x 75 mm)

Capacity: 170 cu in. (2786 cc)

Compression ratio: 8.7:1

Maximum torque: 156 lb/ft (211 Nm) at 2400 rpm

Maximum power: 121 bhp (90 kW) at 4400 rpm

Top speed: about 95 mph (153 km/h)

Brakes: 9 inch (22.9 cm) drums front and rear

Fuel system: single throat carburettor

Fuel tank: 11.7 gals (53.2 litres)

Steering: recirculating ball, ratio 27:1

Wheels and tyres: pressed steel disc wheels with safety rims

Rear axle ratio: 3.50:1

Performance: 0-60 mph (0-96.6 kph) in 14.5 seconds

Photograph of boot lid of the Falcon showing the paint layers.
Boot lid of the Falcon showing the paint layers.

The Ford Falcon range commenced in September 1960 with the XK and by 1962 the 100,000th Falcon had been built. The car and its successor, the XL, were based on a Canadian design with some minor modifications. With the following model, the XM in 1964, a more serious attempt at designing and making a car for Australian conditions was achieved, culminating in the XP with its torque box chassis which ran the entire length of the body, improved suspension and shock absorbers. In that year a durability trial organised by Bill Bourke, who was marketing the car for Ford Australia, saw five standard XP Falcons race around the clock for nine days over the rough and twisting 4 km dirt track of the You Yangs Proving Ground, Ford’s new test track, between Melbourne and Geelong, aiming to cover 70,000 miles (112,651 km) at an average of 70 mph (112.7 kph). Although several of the cars rolled over, they averaged 71.3 mph (114.7 kph). Even Henry Ford II flew in for the event. The publicity stunt established 49 Australian endurance records and established the Falcon’s reputation as a tough family car. It was ordered by fleet managers, the police and for taxi fleets. The XP was named “Wheels” Magazine’s “Car of the Year” in 1965, the first Australian-made car to win this accolade, and the model turned the tide for Ford Australia as a serious competitor to Holden.

Photograph the 'Pursuit 170' engine of the Falcon.
The ‘Pursuit 170’ engine of the Falcon.

A total of 70,998 XP’s were made between February 1965 and September 1966. Thirteen models were produced over that time: standard, deluxe, Futura and Fairmont sedans; standard, deluxe, Squire and Fairmont station wagons; deluxe and Futura 2-door hardtops; standard and deluxe utilities; and a van.

The XP’s selling points for dealers at the time included a one-piece 8-inch (20.3 cm) deep chromed steel wrap-around bumper; engine insulation under the bonnet, a choice of three engines (the 96 hp “144” engine, the “Pursuit 170” and the “Super Pursuit 200”); a choice of manual, 2-speed “Fordomatic” automatic and 3-speed “Fordomatic 3S” automatic transmissions; a range of high-fashion colours including new metallic “diamond lustre”; massive chassis reinforcement members called “torque-boxes”; safety grooves in the wheel rims; self-adjusting brakes; chrome drip mouldings; classic large round Falcon tail lights; the spare wheel positioned upright in a well in the boot; vinyl seats and trim; interior insulation against heat and cold; ribbed floor mats, a zone of toughened glass in the front windscreen in front of the driver; 2-speed electric windscreen wipers; an illuminated selector quadrant on the steering column; and a dome lamp in the centre roof turret.

Photograph sectioned interior detailing of the Falcon.
Sectioned interior detailing of the Falcon.

Accessories included an “auto-portable” transistor radio; fresh air heater and ventilating system; stainless-steel wheel covers and wheel discs; chromed locking fuel tank caps; deluxe rear vision mirrors; and windshield washers. Made in an era before car air-conditioning, the car could come with a range of accessories to combat the Australian heat, including exterior sun visors for the front windscreen; a Venetian blind for the rear window; and a weather shield for the driver’s window.

The Falcon XP was the first Ford to challenge Holden’s grip on the family car market. It epitomised the post-war attitude to cars in an era of prosperity; they were no longer cherished family heirlooms, but instead were consumer items.

“65 Falcon Produce Review Booklet”, (issued to Ford dealers), Product Training Dept, Ford of Australia, [1965].

Ford Falcon Registered Owner’s Manual, [1965].

Wright, John. “The History of Ford Falcon 1969-1994”, Ford Motor Company Limited Australia, 1994.

‘The XP Series Falcon 1965-66’ in “Restored Cars”, No. 162, Jan-Feb 2004, p.40.

Post by Margaret Simpson, Curator, Transport



4 responses to “Ford to close in Australia: an Australian icon, the 1965 Ford Falcon XP

  • My parents had an XP Falcon and when I was old enough I bought a second hand one. I loved the car. It was a sedan with a 170 Pursuit motor with a three speed manual gearbox. The car was six years old when I bought it and I did the usual kid stuff like venetians in the back window, a radio, dress rims, chrome locking petrol cap. That car used to sparkle in the sunlight, it had so much chrome on it. I drive an XR6 now, but there’s many a time when I sit in front of the computer and reminisce about my first love. At the time I didn’t realise the XP played such an important part in the manufacturing of Fords in Australia. I’ve had my 2005 XR6 for five years now and I still feel a great sense of pride when I drive it. You’ve done us proud, Ford!

  • I’ve owned and modified several early Falcons…upto 1966…including a current ’65 xp sedan running a modified ’51 flathead ford V8 engine for the last 12yr’s…On reading your specs’ that the 170 c.u. engine was rated at 120hp…and stand corrected if i’m wrong, but i’ve always known the 170 c.u. to be rated at 101 hp and the 200 c.u. of the xp series at 121 hp…..
    It’s a sad time loosing Ford in Australia………….

  • Hi Dad bought an 200 pursuit x p falcon sedan auto in 1966 . The colour is green velvet metallic . The car was given to my young brother , then the car was passed on to my brother In law , then it was passed on to myself , and I passed the car on to my son . My son has this car today . My mechanic has just done a tune on the car and said this car is in good condition for its age . My mechanic has seen x p falcons in good condition for sale at $25000 . My has a daughter and she is looking forward to the day she is old enough to drive this car .

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