John Mole’s 31 years at Ford
“We had the best years at Ford. We were producing cars that were made in Australia, we had interesting work to do, and it was great.”
John Mole is speaking about the experience of his own 31 years at Ford Australia, but he could easily be speaking for the many thousands of people who have also worked at the company.
“One of the good things about working at Ford was the moral integrity. People like to give big companies a hard time, but I know the customers always got treated well. And the engineering was good,” Mole says.
He is 75 now and living in Geelong, driving a Ford Territory partly from pride and loyalty and partly because he still gets a 22 percent discounted priced.
Mole joined FoMoCo in 1968 after an attempt at teaching and was quickly into the product development ranks after graduating in engineering from university.
“I realised I was better off as an engineer than a high school teacher,” he says.
His first work when he joined was in the chassis group in Geelong, before he moved into power-steering development for the upcoming XA Falcon, including troubleshooting a series of problems. It’s a pattern that was to be repeated throughout his career.
“I was in drum brakes at first, which I realised at the time was a dead-end job,” he laughs now.
Mole moved around through various chassis and driveline groups, but some of the work he enjoyed most – and which dovetailed with weekend work with motorsport mates – was on the suspension tuning that culminated in the original XR version of the EB Falcon.
“The first of the XRs were wonderful handling cars. People were comparing them to the BMW 5 Series,” he says.
It was the Tickford project, a special vehicles operation ignited by Jac Nasser with a $500,000 budget and engineering connections to Britain, which really fired Mole’s enthusiasm.
“The time working with Tickford was a real highlight. And it was, in part, because Ford management left us alone.”
His early memories of car-making are not great, but working on a series of all-new Falcons – including the program to put the first plastic petrol tank in a mass-produced car anywhere in the world – gave him plenty of satisfaction.
“Australia was building rubbish and selling it successfully. The liaison with Mazda, which has one of the highest quality standards in the world, was a godsend to Ford. The Laser, which had to be built to the same quality standard as the Mazda 323, changed quality at Ford.
“The objective with the AU Falcon was to produce something that customers didn’t have a problem with. We launched and there wasn’t a single problem with the car.” He retired in 1999. How, then, does Mole feel about the end of the Falcon, which is the beginning of the end for all Australian carmaking as Holden and Toyota shut their factories in 2017.
“To some extent it was inevitable. I’m always astounded by the interference by various governments.
“There was a time when, if you wanted to go anywhere outside the city, you had to have Falcons and Holdens. But it’s all come to an end.”