Ford Falcon EA
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1
Ford Australia are reputed to have invested over $700 million in the development of the "EA", the long overdue replacement for the XF Falcon. Much like the "BA" of 2002, the "EA" had countless improvements over its predecessors. Most importantly for Ford was the introduction of new fuel injected 3.2 and 3.9 litre (SOHC) engines - which were a great improvement on the harsh and thirsty 3.3 and 4.1 litre pushrod sixes they replaced.
Gone were the troublesome carburettors, and with them rough idling and the need for regular tuning. But now the standard Falcon was fitted with power steering, 4 wheel disc brakes
and a 5 speed manual. The front suspension
was new from the ground up and offered a better ride, handling
The "variable assist" power steering
was far superior to the XF model, and offered the added benefit of delivering a tighter turning circle (the QE2 putting a XF to shame). Unfortunately for the EA reliability issues were soon to surface and the model quickly gained a bad reputation with the Australian motoring public. Some analysts believe it was Ford's desire to get the new model to market quickly, without first ironing out the bugs, that caused the problem.
But Ford were committed to the new car, and the subsequent "EB" model had all of the problems sorted. Far too recent to be collectable in "Falcon" guise, there are some models such as the muscular Peter Brock edition EA Falcon and various SVO and APV models that an astute collector may just be able to purchase at a good price! We will take a closer look at the APV SR3900 below.
EA Falcon APV SR3900
Advanced Performance Vehicles were based in the Melbourne suburb of Bayswater, and the company was run by a bunch of Brock-HDT
men who decided to set up their own business along similar lines. Set up in July 1987
, the company soon achieved a reputation for quality work and drew plaudits for its modifications to Commodores
– and they are probably best remembered for the awesome APV VN Commodore
. Having succeeded with the General's products, APV decided to throw its hat into the ring when Ford floated the idea of special-build EAs - the result was the SR3900, the first APV car to bear a name of its own.
The SR3900 followed pretty much the established format from the 1980s - improved interior and cosmetic treatment, uprated wheels/tyres
, and as much of a power boost as ADRs would allow. It was available straight from the local Ford dealer as a fully-installed package, the basic SR3900 transformation was worked with a six-piece body kit (designed by Ford styling personnel doing a bit of authorised moonlighting), a stainless steel extractor system that added approximately 15kW to Ford's multi-point six, APV's 'integrated suspension
system', a choice of either 15x7 or 16x8 wheels and tyres
, and a Momo steering wheel and shift lever. Base price was A$8450 with the 15-inch wheels, or A$9600 with the bigger wheel package. There were other options too, such as tinted windows at A$280, retrimmed sports interior with reworked standard seats A$3200, an optional 3.23 slippery diff A$680, and a set of Pirelli's then latest P700-Z rubbers on the larger rims. All up that was A$13,760 on top of the base car, which, in this case being a manual S, brought the cost of the APV SR3900 close to A$36,000.
That was a lot of money for a Falcon, but, to be fair, the styling kit and the interior revamp did give the family Ford a lot more presence on the road as well as improving occupant comfort with a suitably 'sporty' driving environment. And what the extra money was really buying you were the things you could not see, such as the suspension
mods, and these, more than anything were what put the icing on the SR3900 cake. Exclusive to APV, the 'integrated suspension
system' consisted of lowered, uprated front and rear springs
, adjustable Koni shock absorbers, heavy duty front anti-roll bar, Ertalite 90 Duro bushes on the front and rear roll bars, and revised front geometry. On top of that was the considerable amount of development work APV had put in. Working with engineers from the Ford and Koni factories, APV had put in numerous hours at the track swapping springs and shocks, eventually coming up with their own unique spring rates and shock valving.
Another modification worth its weight in gold was the extractor system - a system that did more than just produce a tough note. It's less restrictive layout freed up Ford's congested six allowing the engine to rev quicker and smoother, especially up over the 3500rpm mark. There were plenty of other motor-tuners who knew that, by loosening up the Falcon's breathing, the EA Falcon had a much more pleasant and purposeful feel, and sitting behind the Momo wheel of the APV, belted into the comfortably bolstered seats and surrounded by APV's grey suede and velour interior the SR3900 gave, it was reported by one motoring scribe, "... an almost European air of luxury performance".
Performance, of course, is a relative thing and no more relative than when you're talking about a car modified so as not to contravene ADR requirements or void warranties there was bound to be some disappointment. It was no fire-breather - but straight line performance was not what the APV EA Falcon was about. Rather, it was the creation of a better handling vehicle able to exploit the chassis to the full. A suspension system that, unlike the stock EA Falcon, could actually cope well with mid-corner undulations. With Pirelli's nthen ew Z-rated 225/50 P700s at each corner there was prodigious grip (even in the wet). Road testers did note that, as speeds increased, there was a bit of front end waffle under turn-in and some float at speed on the straights.
So good but not great you may be thinking. Not so, as all you needed to do to fix the lack of damping was to lift the bonnet and give the adjustment knob on the Konis a quarter of a turn (rear units were, unfortunately, inaccessible without removing boot trim). Winding them up a notch, you would immediately have noticed a 'tighter' front end eliminating most of the float and waffle. Wanting to press just a little harder into the corners. No problem, give the Koni's another half twist and you were really setting the car up for a sports tune. Too firm for the likes of some backsides, but for the driver wanting something more this would have been close to perfection. With the front shocks dialled up three-quarters of a turn from APV's soft standard setting the SR3900 really would, it was said, "percolate - turn-in sharpened up noticeably, and with a more precise feel at the steering wheel confidence in the car took a quantum leap".
On the straights the APV SR3900 would swallow up bumps and potholes without complaint and diving into corners it would tuck into the chosen line holding it without fuss, sweeping through the turn sitting flat on the road and generating G forces that pressed the driver firmly into the seat bolsters. At times it was reported that the enjoyment was hampered by a reaction that ran diagonally across the car, for a split second some road testers noted a feeling that either the left front, or right rear, tyre
was about to lose contact with dire results. It feels a bit like a front/rear mismatch, but according to APV track testing revealed a high degree of torsional flex in the EA Falcon and it was this chassis 'wind up' that occasionally came through when you were in the middle of the twisties. You had to be pushing at 10/10ths however, and for the vast majority of driving the SR3900 was reported as having behaved itself admirably.
APV's suspension engineering was essentially designed to provide the driver with something they could drive quickly without getting themselves into trouble. What that meant was that a small amount of understeer was built in - if you misjudged your entry speed the front gently scrubbed off speed seeking equilibrium. Get it right though and the SR3900 would take a neutral stance that could be easily kicked into oversteer with the throttle. There were of course some compromises, particularly given the family car model the APV was based around, but in the case of the SR3900 the compromises were all in the right places. It was a car that could be shuffled through city traffic to and from work with absolute ease and considerable comfort, or thrown up a mountain pass with a degree of elan equal to almost anything Europe then had to offer.