The Ford Falcon, after 56 years of production in Australia, reaches the end of the road on October 6, while this issue sits on newsstands. What a shame. Personally, I feel like a little bit of my childhood has been scrunched up and tossed in the bin. That’s because my earliest memories are of white Ford Falcons parked on the nature strip outside our family home in suburban Sydney.
Most of my father’s working life was spent on the road as a sales rep for Metal Manufactures Ltd, a mob that made copper pipe and fittings.
For two decades, from the early 1960s to 1981, Metal Manufactures supplied him with a succession of Falcons as white as the driven snow. Dad was as proud as punch of these company cars. As were his four children, of which I was the youngest.
My mum’s photo albums display countless black and white prints of family holidays and day trips, many featuring our faithful Falcons. A good example is the shot shown below of my three older siblings, Mum and an XL Falcon at Urunga on the NSW North Coast in 1965, four years before I lobbed on the scene. Among the many things I love about the photo is the contrast between that pristine first generation Falcon and the old beach shack behind it, which looks just one southerly buster away from becoming flotsam and jetsam.
When I arrived, my first assigned spot was a wicker basket perched on an XT model’s backseat. By the time it was replaced with an XY I had taken up my long-term possie on the front benchseat between Mum and Dad. Meanwhile, the pecking order in the backseat saw the two eldest West children in the window seats sandwiching No.3, Martin.
We don’t remember these white Falcons ever breaking down. They provided safe transport and sanctuary for my parents’ most precious cargo and were truly dependable servants.
Dad’s work turned the cars over every three or four years, so we missed out on an XA given its extraordinarily short, by today’s standards, 18-month lifespan. Thus, the XY was replaced by an XB Falcon. And it’s to this machine that my family owes a particularly hefty debt.
In June 1977 Dad was driving into the lateafternoon winter sun in unfamiliar territory, near Wyong, when he failed to spot a Stop-signed intersection. He sailed through and cleaned up another motorist, who, thankfully, was uninjured. Dad, however, suffered broken ribs and other serious, though not life-threatening, injuries and was out of action for months.
The fact he made a full recovery is testament to his general fitness and Ford Austalia’s mid1970s safety standards. That Polar White XB was a write-off after performing magnificently in Dad’s hour of need.
In the interim he inherited his boss’s old Skyview Blue Falcon. Us kids loved it, simply because it wasn’t white! Dad hated it due to the unsightly brown nicotine stains in the saggy rooflining that smelt as bad as it looked.
Bob West was soon back in a pristine white Falcon, a brand new XC model. He was particularly chuffed with this model, with its massive underdash Mark IV air-conditioning unit. He brought this Falcon 500 home a matter of weeks after Allan Moffat won the 1977 Hardie-Ferodo, Ford’s finest racing moment. I toyed with the idea of adding blue and red electrical tape to its flanks to mimic the Moffat Ford Dealers team 1-2 livery, but thought better of it.
It was in this car that I cut my first laps, as a 10-year-old passenger, of Mount Panorama on a rainy May day in 1979.
Two years later, at XC turnover time, Metal Manufactures had changed its company car policy, stipulating four-cylinder models only. This crushed my dreams of a Dicky Johnson-like XD.
Dad, after ruling out the ancient Cortina with its horrendous body-roll, had no choice but to follow the lead of pop band The Vapors and turn Japanese. More on this in a future issue, when AMC covers the Bluebird Turbo race program in-depth.
When I was old enough to drive and buy (second-hand) cars myself, I tried a variety of makes and models, but strangely never a Ford.
Fast forward now to 2006 when my wife and I found ourselves parents to two pre-school aged boys and needing a bigger family car. What did I buy to protect the three most precious things in my life? A Ford Territory – my first ever new car purchase.
The Aussie-made SUV model’s practicality was the prime reason, although, upon reflection, I reckon my subconscious reminded me that Fords had always safely transported West kids.
I lost my Dad in May this year – to old age – and while compiling the pics for his funeral service I had more than one melancholy moment, usually triggered by the old Falcon shots. Without wanting to get too poetic, it occurred to me that he died the same year the Falcon did – 39 years after the crash that could so easily have claimed his life, but didn’t... thanks to the efforts of a past generation of Ford Australia staffers.
I hope you enjoy our salute this issue to a handful of former Ford personnel, representing the thousands who contributed so much to our country’s motoring history.