Fifty years ago Ford Australia released a car which was pivotal in the company later achieving market leadership.
The new 1969 XW Ford Falcon presented a powerful and assertive alternative to the HT Holden and VF Valiant.
Back in late 1966 when Ford Australia was planning the XW Falcon the company’s Managing Director, Bill Bourke, was determined to eradicate any thoughts in buyers’ minds that Ford Australia sold copies of the American Falcon.
The XW needed to be seen as ruggedly “All Australian”.
Plus, linkage of the Falcon and the Mustang through “Mustang Bred” advertisements was a powerful sales image which resonated with Australian buyers who wanted a bit of the Mustang’s glamour in their four-door family sedan.
In short, the Falcon had to say it was as “All Australian” as its main competitor, yet was still infused with the sporty Mustang heritage.
And so it was that the design team, led by the newly arrived 29-year-old American Jack Telnack and 25-year-old Brian Rossi, was tasked with developing a styling proposal that met those objectives.
The duo immediately set to work .
The target was to have the shape defined by Christmas 1966.
Brian and Jack knew the XW would retain the A pillars, windscreen, roof, door frames and door panels of the XR/XT models.
Rather than model the whole car in clay they cut off the front and rear ends of a production XR Falcon.
This idea saved a lot of set-up and modelling time and meant they could focus on where the major changes would occur — the front and rear.
The general exterior shape of the XW was finalised and agreed by December 21, 1966.
And here’s what I think Jack and Brian achieved.
If you ever wondered what a four-door Mustang might have looked like, then cast your eyes on the XW Falcon.
From its short, broad shouldered flat rear deck through to its recessed rear window and wide C pillars, and along its sharply defined front fenders to its wide open grille, the XW has Mustang DNA everywhere you look.
The eye-catching recessed window was created by lengthening the C pillar. This change made the boot look even shorter and the front fenders longer.
The open mouth grille absolutely dominated the front end.
It was not a direct copy of the Mustang’s, but contained all of the necessary styling cues.
It was framed by turn indicators which were embedded in the fender’s leading edges.
The XW looked like an all-new car, a sleek machine for the forthcoming decade.
Neither Holden nor Chrysler had been able to freshen up a three-year-old design to this extent.
Buyers responded and propelled Ford Australia to a sales record.
The GT with its HO option package added to the aura of success.
The legacy of the XW is that it sent an unambiguous message to Holden and Chrysler that Ford was a real contender for market leadership.
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