Ford Falcon XB GS
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 3
The XB Futura and Fairmont
The Futura name was pensioned off by Ford in the "Trim, Taut, Terrific" days of the early Sixties - only to be dug up again by Ford marketing director, Keith Horner, in 1969
. The Futura started life as a model step-up from the basic Falcon in 1962
. But, by 1965
, the read-out from market research was showing a significant percentage of Futura buyers were fitting even more luxury accessories to their cars.
It was decided to incorporate these features in a new model - the Fairmont - and the Futura was quietly laid to rest. But, by 1969
, the Fairmont was well established and selling about $1000 dearer than the Falcon 500 so the Futura was re-introduced as a mid-way stop-gap between the 500 and the car it created four years earlier.
But by the time of the XB Falcon
the model differentiation was not so clear cut. For example, you could add the standard options of the Fairmont to the Futura, as well as the Grand Sport Rally Pack, and save around $230 over a similarly equipped Fairmont with GS Rally Pack. That $230 in 1974 was no small amount, but the Fairmont would have better re-sale, and the slightly better quality trim made it worth paying the extra.
The Grand Sport rally pack was itself nothing more than dressing up – even Ford admitted as much. The only practical inclusions in the pack were the complete instrumentation which included tacho, oil, fuel, temperature gauges and voltmeter. At night, however, the calibrations on the smaller dials could be seen but the red needles were hard to make out. Although available on both Futura and Fairmont, the GS rally pack was also available on the XB Falcon 500 Van.
The Grand Sport Rally Pack
The smaller diameter, three-spoke sports steering wheel, with less leverage at the rim, had the advantage of making the steering more direct at the wheel but more difficult for parking. Sports road wheels of the GT
type were included but there was no change to the suspension, nor indeed to the engine. The rest was stick-on or stick-in equipment of the order of GT
hood with twin air scoops, hood locking pins and a gold (and restyled on XB
) stripe running the length of the car with the initials GS at the rear.
Of the other options, the wider radials, heated back window and tinted laminated screen stood out as the better safety aids; the tinted windows helpful in the glare and the beige vinyl roof a better proposition than black for the mid-summer sun. There was no choice on the inclusion of a centre console because it was mandatory with the four-speed box to house the floor-mounted gearstick.
So if you were ordering the four speed manual, which was a very good thing to do, you had to add another A$37 to cover the cost of the console. Apart from housing the gear-stick, the console also featured a very deep pocket with a lid that doubled as a centre armrest. The area around the gearstick was finished in stick-on imitation wood grain which didn’t last too well in the Australian sun.
Unfortunately the GS Pack did not include the comfortable Ford reclining bucket seats, the standard bench pews offering very little in lateral support, while being (on the rearmost adjustment) far too close to the wheel to afford a comfortable driving position. That Ford didn’t ditch the bench seats, at least on the Futura, was a shame, because they were very comfortably upholstered with hugging lateral support and encouraged the ideal, balanced driving position that also helped with alertness behind the wheel. When fitted, the buckets did of course turn the Falcon into a 5 seater instead of a six, while making the rear seat best kept for children. The thicker squab and reclining adjustment limited rear seat legroom to a surprising degree.
The New 4-Speed Manual
On the mechanical side, power was left to the 250 cubic inch in-line six which came as the basic engine with the Futura. It was mated to the four-speed manual gearbox but this wasn’t a match made in heaven - the long throw on the Falcon clutch detracting from the finesse normally associated with a four-speed manual. Ford knew the four-speeder was their Achilles heel on the XA Falcon
, and with the XB
they introduced a new single rail four-speed box more suitable to the Australian engines. The old American box used on the XA was designed to take the loads dealt out by engines of up to 427 cubic inches, was built like a Sherman tank and felt like it. The XB GTs
continued to use the American version, but during the XB
run Ford made the switch, however we are unsure exactly when this occurred (Feel free to enlighten us in the Reader Reviews section at the bottom of this article).
The new box was similar to the Cortina
units in that it used a single internal rail controlling gear selection and was specifically designed to provide lighter, more positive changes. The complex external linkages of the American box were eliminated thus reducing linkage maintenance. Basically the new box was lighter and more simple.
Ratios were also revised to suit the Australian engines and those selected were a compromise between performance, economy and long life. It resulted in more positive and less truck-like changes but the box still lacked the outright smoothness other car makers, particularly the Europeans and Japanese. Road testers remained unconvinced, however, that the 250 was happy with this box.
Everyone knew the 250 handled three-speed gearboxes very well but that extra gear seemed to only narrow the workable rev range. Most Australians were used to only having three forward gears, so the additional cog was obviously thought by most as a small step in the right direction - even if it wasn't perfect. The 250 was no slouch with plenty of torque low down (240 lb. ft. at 1600 rpm) and maximum power of 155 bhp at the other end of the scale at 4000 rpm.
It was redlined at 4800 rpm but it ran out of breath long before that. Between 2000 and 3500 rpm was quite adequate for ordinary work, but over 3000 things got a bit noisy (particularly the fan) and anything over 4500 seemed to be outright abuse. It could propel the Falcon along the standing quarter in 18.6 seconds and offered a 0 to 60 mph time of 11.5 seconds.
were power assisted on the Futura, to go with the front discs which were fitted right through the XB
range. The power assistance did not just make braking easier for the driver, but resulted in better performance from the brakes
too. It seemed the power assisted variety made the back wheels less prone to locking up, while stopping distances were improved.
On the highway the XB
Futura was a pleasant drive, tyre
and engine noise kept to acceptable levels. The car remained well behaved, the wide rubber guiding it through the corners cleanly, despite the XB
still being fitted with the dated semi-elliptic leaf springs.