It’s hard to mention the Commodore without its opposite number. And, much like Holden’s effort, it was never really all that interesting to begin with. Now, with 100 per cent of the Australian population now apoplectic with rage, let’s continue.
Much like the Commodore, the Falcon was the product of Australians adopting an American brand (and in this case, a nameplate) and then going completely off the reservation with it.
Now. Full disclosure time. I’m an Australian and my first car was a Ford Falcon, which was the about the most hilarious way to tempt the Grim Reaper I’ve ever found, short of waving one’s wedding tackle at a Great White. The car in question, a base-model 1994 GLi, was not what you’d call advanced. There was a 4.0-litre straight six up front, good for about 210bhp and 265lb ft. This was channelled through a five-speed manual to an open diff, live rear axle and six-inch-wide tyres. And this meant that, even in the dry (it is Australia, after all), it was entirely possible to provoke ridiculous powerslides and absurd levels of tyre smoke from every corner. And, as an 18-year-old, it felt vital that I always did that.
But, in the cold light of day (it is London, after all), I have to admit that it wasn’t genuinely interesting; the joy was derived from behaving like a fool, which is fun in just about every old rotter you come across.
So, just like the Commodore, it was the crucible of motorsport that made the Falcon interesting. In the 1970s, Ford, Holden and Chrysler were throwing every performance trick in the book at their top-tier performance saloons. Why? To win at Bathurst, of course, because winning on Sunday meant selling on Monday. So, armed with a 5.8-litre V8 that was good for 400bhp – in the 1970s, remember – the planned Falcon GTHO was a 160mph, four-door saloon car. But a series of do-gooders decided that everything was too powerful and too dangerous and the so-called ‘Supercar Scare’ put an end to Australia’s power wars. Instead, the Germans did it three decades later without any undue fuss. Not that we’re bitter or anything.
Again, let’s remember that this was the era when the UK’s performance Ford was the RS2000, with one-third the displacement and a top speed of 108mph. Let’s also remember that the few GTHO Phase IVs that were actually built before the public furore scuppered a full production run are more powerful than the Lotus Carlton, which came along 15 years later (and created its own public outrage). It took years for Ford to return to its big-power mantra, but when they did, there was the small matter of that same 4.0-litre straight six as my wayward blancmange, tinkered with and turbocharged to the tune of 436bhp and 425lb ft. Ah, the local boy did good.