Luke West


Australian Muscle Car - - Induction -

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.

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