XB Falcon GT

Holden had no answer to the Ford XB Falcon

The XB Falcon is the car that propelled Ford past Holden and into first place in passenger cars sales in Australia.

Holden had not been beaten in this critical market segment since the early 1950s.

It predicted an even greater slide in sales and market share to come, as Holden’s top executives struggled to decide what to do to counter a surging competition form value for money imports and a gung-ho Ford.

The XB was released in September 1973.

It was a face lift of the XA, which had been unveiled only 20 months previously.

Infused with Mustang design themes, the retired director of Ford’s global design efforts, Jack Telnack, once told me that he thought the XB was one of the top three best looking Falcons.

The other two, if you are curious, were the XD and EA models.

The aggressive Mustang-esque appearance reinforced Ford’s advertising mantra that the Falcon was the “Great Australian Road Car”.

The marketing folk had been selling variations of this incantation since 1966, beginning with the famous “Mustang Bred Falcon” slogan.

Holden had nothing to counter the XB.

They were still selling the HQ, which was then over two years old.

A new Kingswood was not due until mid-1974.

Ford ensured packed the XB with additional visible value.

This was a deliberate strategy implemented by Ford, since the 1969 XW model, to ensure buyers were aware they were better off with a Ford.

The seating comfort and interior layout was so much plusher than the HQ Holden.

The cockpit style dashboard continued the theme of the Falcon being a driver-focused road car.

Inertia reel front belts were fitted, ahead of impending legislation.

The heater output was increased and the high-beam switch was moved from the floor to the indicator stalk.

Ventilated front disc brakes became standard. 

Buyers got a choice of four engines, the 200 cu.in/3.2litre and 250 cu.in/4.1 litre sixes and 302 cu.in 4.9/litre and 351 cu.in/5.7 litre eights.

A four-barrel version of the 351 was reserved for the GT.

Embarrassingly for Holden, its largest six was the size of Falcon’s smallest.

On a model for model basis, Ford gave buyers bigger six cylinder engines and more power than Holden.

That difference was highlighted by sales representatives in dealerships.

When it came to the station wagon, the option of a rear facing seat, which allowed eight passengers, was something else Holden could not match.

All up, the XB was better value and more powerful than the HQ

And buyers responded.

The XB was Ford’s bestselling model.

More than 211,000 left the factory.

Ford’s two millionth was an XB.

That was achieved on 11th November, 1975.

It generated scant publicity, because earlier that day Sir John Kerr had sacked Gough Whitlam’s government.

The XB also saw the end of the GT.

The nameplate would not return until 1992, to celebrate its 25th anniversary.

The XB has become immortalised in film.

The black “Mad Max” coupe was an XB, as was the yellow “Interceptor” sedan.

David Burrell is the editor of retroautos


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