Ford Falcon XA
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 2
The XA model was the first completely designed and built in Australia. By the time it was released, the US version had been discontinued some 18 months earlier, and the designers had the opportunity of designing a more 'Australianised' car. The result was a swoopy, coke bottle design, sleek but featuring a bigger, more roomy body and available with a wider choice of engines and a longer list of options.
In fact, the XA sported arguably the boldest design of any Falcon model to date. There were a plethora of body and engine choices on offer; the range started with the Falcon, then Falcon 500, Futura, Fairmont, and the mighty GT. The station wagon versions used a longer wheelbase than the sedans, affording an even greater load space, but were only available in Falcon, Falcon 500 and Fairmont levels of trim.
Uniquely, the wagon's tailgate could be opened either down-wards or to one side. As for the engines, both the 200 and 250ci six cylinder version carried over from the XY, the latter iteration available with either a single or twin-venturi carburettor.
Naturally the 302 and 351ci V8 engines remained, and although far less of the bent 8's were sold, they remained the stuff of dreams. Transmissions too remained as they were on the XY, with a 3 speed manual column shift or 4 speed floor mounted shift.
The XA Hardtop
After a break of seven years, Ford introduced a two door Hardtop version based on the sedan but with a lower roofline and wider rear wings. The Hardtop shared its skin with the XA utility and van, which resulted in a large Hardtop – it was wider (by 3in.) and lower (by 2in.) than the sedan - but exactly the same overall length. The Hardtop was only 36 lb. heavier, at 3053lb., and the interior shoulder and hip room were the same, as was the front leg room.
But the design did come with a compromise, with the front seat headroom down from 38 in. To 36.7 in. Since the turret-height was reduced by 2 inches, this meant Ford must have lowered the seat by around 0.7 inches to compensate. Thankfully the visibility on the Hardtop was not noticeably different from the sedan. Inside, the rear seat dimensions were the same laterally, but again the headroom was down on the sedan, from 36.8 inches to 35.8 in.
It didn’t get much better in the legroom department, this being reduced from 36.7in, to 31.9in. – which made it strictly for kids or for short journeys. But, as always, the Falcon’s front seat legroom was so good that the front seats could be comfortably shifted forward for an acceptable compromise when carrying rear seat passengers. The rear seats were not all that comfortable either, with little seat padding, and a poor shape to add to the frustrations of an awkward seating position. The squab (or upright part) was very well padded and provided good location, however access to the rear seat area was easy through the wide doors.
Ford had to build a new mechanism to flip the seat backs forward - however some road testers lamented that Ford didn't decide on a snap-forward spring-tensioned assembly that would move the whole seat out of the way. Ford were also using wind-type knurl knobs on the 1972
models to adjust the laybacks. While these allowed a more accurate adjustment, it also made it more difficult to use. Seats aside, Ford were on-song with the quality of the Hardtop. They used strong spring counter-balancers on the massive doors, their weight caused not only because of their size, but because of some additional reinforcing (although this was not of a standard high enough to pass the side intrusion safety standards of the time). Proper springing made the doors light to handle.
The design of the entire glass system in the Hardtop was genuinely impressive. The big doors also meant lots of glass area, but Ford designed what they called a "double-arm window regulator" that sent the glass sliding effortlessly into place in single-tube-and-shoe guide rails with a light but low-geared five turns of the winder. Two guiding-trim tabs made sure the glass alignment was true and large rubbers wrapped around all the glass edges - particularly the difficult seal between the frameless and pillarless front and rear glasses.
The Hardtop had through-flow ventilation (extractors in the door uprights) so the side-window shape was free of quarter-windows front and rear and was very clean. Road testers claimed that, at a whopping 134 mph in the GT model, there was no sound of wind-howl and no air drafts. The rear deck glass was massive and heavily contoured, yet it produced no distortion. View through the rear vision mirror was good, though, because of the low seating position and high-waist design, it was impossible to see any more of the rear-end of the car than the outline of the rear window frame. But as you would expect, the slab-type styling at the rear produced big blind-spots.
Born on the Wind
Ford continued the rear seat backs up to provide a lip for a large flat rear parcels shelf. However anything left there would produce an annoying reflection in the glass to further reduce rear vision. Seat belts were always a difficulty in Hardtops of the era, because of the difficulty in finding a mounting point for the upper end of the three-pointer for the front seats. This was covered by a design safety rule (rule 5A) to further complicate the issue, but Ford trumped the opposition with a belt that located without slipping from the shoulders. However it still came too close to the neck on some drivers. The rear seat belts were good for the time.
The XA Hardtop was a very quiet car - some people even thought it quieter than the sedan - however we have no proof this is the case. There was no extra sound proofing, so maybe it was because of the Hardtops shape, and maybe because there were only 2 doors which meant fewer entry points for outside noise. The extra rigidity around the three-quarter panel probably helped reduce body drumming too.
The Hardtop had a bigger boot (29.3 cu ft) than that of the sedan, and lockable fuel tank caps were standard on all models except the GT, which retainsed the racing-style flip-top lid. The styled exterior rear view mirror was also standard - and to our mind it remains one of the best looking pieces of kit on a 1970s car from any manufacturer. Trim wise the Hardtop shared the sedans kit, however the GT model featured a black-out bonnet only as optional equipment.
Marketed under the 'Born on the Wind' slogan, the XA was a great success for Ford of Australia and a confident statement of its independence. As for the Hardtop, although the use of new sheet-metal was extensive, the ergonomics of the Falcon Hardtop were good. The car stacks-up well against the Monaro on a mnodel-for-mode! basis.