Robert Strange McNamara passed away yesterday, and will be remembered and reviled for many things, primarily the Vietnam War. For car enthusiasts, as well as taxi riders all over Australia, he's the forgotten man who ushered into the world the Falcon and its sexier two-door cousin the Mustang.
During his time as US secretary of defence, McNamara helped John F. Kennedy defuse the Cuban missile crisis and oversaw the United States' involvement in the Vietnam War until he was booted from cabinet in 1967. He then served as World Bank president until 1981, growing the bank from US$1 billion of annual lending to US$12 billion at his departure.
Prior to all this though, he was an integral part of the team that reshaped Ford in post World War II period. He eventually rose to become head of the Ford division, overseeing the development of cars like the Galaxie and four-seat Thunderbird, as well as the Falcon.
Up until this point Ford was selling a mix of Zephyrs and V8s, but they were proving to be ineffective against "Australia's Own" Holden. When Ford Australia executives toured the US, they saw an early mock up of Ford US' upcoming Falcon "small" sedan and in that instant the Australian motoring landscape changed. It was produced locally from 1960 with very few changes, right-hand drive being the most noticeable.
The Falcon was one of the last Fords brought to market by McNamara before he took up his post as secretary of defence under JFK.
To make its upcoming sports car affordable Ford decided to base the Mustang on parts from the Falcon, as well as the larger North American Fairlane.
Thanks to the Falcon's demise in the US, the XA was the first Falcon to be primarily designed, styled and engineered in Australia.
Based on the XB Falcon coupe, the Interceptor starred alongside some chap called Mel Gibson in the small arthouse movie
Holden ditched its Kingswood line for the smaller Commodore, based on the Opel Rekord and Opel Senator. As the oil crisis eased in the 1980s Ford's decision to stay large started paying dividends. To keep weight down plastic was used extensively, notably for the bumpers, grille and fuel tank; the latter being a world first for a mass produced car.
While 1988 EA Falcon was a big step forward in a technical and engineering sense, it was beset by a host of quality issues. With the EB version many of these were fixed, so Ford attempted to sex up the range, first with the XR6 and then this plastic clad monstrosity.
During the design of this most controversial of Falcons, the Ford hierarchy overseas were busy mandating a new corporate style called "New Edge" that was first seen on the Focus and Ka. With its dome-like roof and its mixture of curves and sharp edges, the cutting edge styling was meant to entice more females into the Falcon fold. Unfortunately its sad face, waterfall grille and droopy bum was a turn off for most guys and gals.
After a series of facelifts, the AU's multitude of sins were washed away with the BA Falcon.
Based on the BA Falcon but with a taller body, better ground clearance and optional four-wheel drive, the Territory was the first locally made "soft-roader".
From 1967 onwards local Fairlanes have essentially been stretched Falcons used for ferrying around captains of industry and politicians alike. Without any significant export markets and unable to keep up with foreign competitors, let alone Holden's Statesman, the Fairlane finally met its maker in 2007.
Although only a distant relation, at best, to the original XK Falcon, the Falcon soldiers on today. A little known fact: sat nav equipped Falcons were the first cars available in Australia with traffic messaging.