Historic Car Brands
Henry Ford built his first internal combustion engine in 1893 and in 1896 he produced a quadricycle. In 1901 he formed the Henry Ford Company, but he left some nine months later and that company became Cadillac. The final iteration – the Ford Motor Company – was formed in June, 1903 and remans to this day under Ford family control.
Henry Ford 1919 – US Library of Congress
The company produced the Ford A,B, C, F, K, N, R and S models between 1903 and 1908. Against Henry’s will his financiers forced him to produce larger, more expensive six-cylinder cars in this model range and Henry was planning for the day when he could be free of financial backers.
The low-priced, 15hp Model N arrived in 1906 and that led to the development of the 1908 Model T. The ’T’ and its variants continued in production until 1927, by which time, some 16 million had been produced. The Ford Model T is said to have ‘put the world on wheels.’
1910 Ford T – Harry Shipler
In the early 1920s, half the cars in the world were Ford Model Ts.
Henry Ford was a pacifist and tried to influence peace in Europe in 1915, via a Peace Ship initiative, with a spectacular lack of success.
In 1922, Ford bought out the Lincoln Motor Company, to compete with luxury brands Cadillac and Packard.
1928 Model A Ford – Richard Smith
All good things come to an end and so it was with the Model T that gave way to the four-cylinder Model A in 1927. The ‘A’ had a conventional three-speed sliding mesh transmission, in contrast to the T’s two-speed epicyclic box and it also had four-wheel brakes that were an upgrade on the T’s rear-wheel braking system.
The Ford Model A also was the first car in the world with a safety-glass windscreen and some five million were made.
In the background, Henry Ford had his engineers working in secret on a new project: a series production V8 engine. In the meantime, in late 1931, the 40hp Model B – an improved version of the A – was released, but the Great Depression restricted sales somewhat.
1942 Ford Super Deluxe engine – Stephen Foskett
Despite the economic situation, the V8 engine was released in 1932 and was destined to continue for the next 21 years. The ‘flathead’ side-valve Ford V8 displaced 3.6 litres and developed 65hp – 50-percent more than the four. Its last installation was in the UK Ford Pilot sedan and station wagon models, between 1947 and 1952.
Check out this video history of the Ford ‘flathead’ V8:
1950 Ford Pilot – Charles01
Across the Atlantic, Ford of Britain not only didn’t want the V8 yet, but, thanks to engine-size taxes across Europe, was even struggling to sell the detuned, 14.9 RAC-hp Model A. A new ‘small Ford’ – the Model Y – was developed for Europe and built at Ford’s Dagenham (UK) plant, from 1932.
The Model Y’s one-litre four rated at 8 RAC-hp and produced only 23hp, but was just what was needed in Depression Europe, so it soon captured around a 44-percent share of the UK market. Like the Model A it had transverse-leaf front and rear suspension and a three-speed transmission.
Although Henry Ford remained a pacifist, he was shocked by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Ford swung into wartime production in Allied countries and, also, under Hitler’s direction, in Ford of Germany pants.
Ford-Willys Jeep production
In the USA, by the end of the War, Ford had built 86,865 complete aircraft, 57,851 aircraft engines, 4291 military gliders and thousands of engine superchargers and generators. In addition to aircraft, Ford plants built 277,896 vehicles that included trucks, tanks, armoured cars and licence-built Willys Jeeps.
The pre-War V8 was upgraded through the late 1930s and horsepower increased to 85hp. In 1937 Ford introduced a smaller-capacity, 2.2-litre 60hp version that was more economical.
In 1942, US-market vehicles adopted the Mercury 3.9-litre engine that developed 94hp.
Henry Ford died in 1947 and that freed up the design teams to incorporate modern mechanicals.
1949 Ford Coupe Utility – Sicnag
However, the post-War cars were largely pre-War carry-overs until the ‘American Line’ models debuted at a gala at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, in June 1948.
The new integrated steel structure was advertised as a ‘lifeguard body’ and even the ‘woody’ had steel framing and panels underneath. The convertible models had a stiffening ‘X member’ for structural rigidity.The previous Custom, De Luxe and Super De Luxe models were replaced by new Standard and Custom trims and the cars had integrated mudguards.
Beneath their sleek skins the new Fords had independent front suspension and semi-elliptic rear springs.
The new Fords were assembled in Australia and ‘Coupe Utility’ models were introduced.
1954 Ford Consul – Charles01
In the UK, the V8-powered Ford Pilot was replaced by four-cylinder Consul and six-cylinder Zephyr sedans, with McPherson strut front suspension.
In the USA in 1952 the base L-head, 3.7-litre six was replaced by a new six-cylinder, short-stroke, overhead-valve 3.5-litre that was produced until 1964. The flathead V8 was upgraded to 110hp.
Ford Zephyr Six – Cambridge Smart Cars
The model line was Mainline, Customline, Crestline, Sunliner convertible, Victoria hardtop and Country Squire wagon.
In 1954 the six displaced 3.6 litres and a new overhead-valve, 3.9-litre V8 was introduced.
1952 Ford Crestline Sunliner Convertible Coupe – Lars-Goran Lindgren
Ford Australia’s ute dilemma
When the Holden FJ ute was released in 1951, it gave Ford Australia a headache. Ford’s utes were RHD versions of US-market pickups, that were heavier, more expensive and more thirsty than the Holden.
As a potential alternative, Ford Australia experimented with a ute version of the newly released Zephyr Mk I. The UK-designed Zephyr was a lengthened version of the four-cylinder 1508cc (92 cu in) Consul, with a 2262cc (138 cu in) six-cylinder engine producing 68bhp (51kW).
The UK Ford Zephyr Six was available with four-door saloon, estate and two-door convertible bodies, but not a ute.
At least one local prototype ute was built on the Zephyr Mk I chassis, but never saw production. These are three-quarter front and rear photos of it. Ford also built a two-door coupe prototype.
For whatever reason, the Zephyr MkI was judged unsuitable as a Holden FJ ute competitor, so Ford soldiered on with its US-derived ‘single-spinner’, ’twin-spinner’ and then Customline utes.
In 1956, the Zephyr Mk II was introduced, with a larger, 2553cc (156 cu in), 86bhp (64kW) engine. The wheelbase was increased by three inches (76mm) to 107 inches (2700mm) and the width increased to 69 inches (1800mm). The weight distribution and turning circle were also improved. Top speed increased to 88mph (142km/h), and the fuel consumption was also improved at 28mpg (10 L/100km).
The Mk II Zephyr was a much better base for an Australian ute, but only four-wheel drum brakes were available, so some dealers fitted servo-assistance from 1961.
In Australia, the Mark II Zephyr, ute was built at Ford Australia’s factory in Geelong and differed significantly in its cab design and rear panels from those of its British counterpart.
Australian Ford Zephyr Ute Mk II – Jeremy
Mark II manufacture continued until 1962 and was planned to continue, with some facelifting. However, the exorbitant price being asked for by Ford UK for its then-redundant production jigs for the Mark II, meant that Ford Australia chose to manufacture the newly-released North American Ford Falcon range instead, including a ute version.
In Australia the Customline scored the overhead-valve V8 in 1955. The 1956 model featured the 1956 US Customline grille, 12-volt electrics and a new Fordomatic automatic transmission option.
The 1957 model retained the 1956 body but featured a large V8 badge positioned in the grille and utilized 1956 Ford Fairlane trim.
The 1958 model used the 1955 Canadian Meteor grille with a four-pointed star and 1956 Meteor side trim.
1956 Ford Customline – Lars-Goran Lindgren
The 1958 ‘star model’ was badged as either a Customline or as a Fordomatic. Production ended in September 1959 with the introduction of Australian assembled 1959 Fairlane 500, Custom 300 and Ranch Wagon models. An estimated 18,000 examples of the 1955-1959 sedan were produced.
1958 Ford V8 Customline sedan – Sicnag
In the USA, the Skyliner retractable hardtop model was sold from 1957 until 1959. The US-market engine range embraced 4.5-5.1-litre sixes and V8s, in a 21-model lineup.
In France, Ford’s small, 2.2-litre V8 had passed into Simca’s hands in 1954, where it was enlarged to 2.4 litres and 75hp, and powered the Vedette.
In the UK and Germany, the 1170cc side-valve four slogged on, powering small sedans. The 1950s’ 103E Popular was virtually a pre-War car.
In Australia, the Anglia/Prefect series was produced from 1939 until 1953, with pretty much pre-War styling and mechanicals, until the 100E model that had all-new bodywork – unfortunately covering antiquated mechanicals.
Ford Anglia 123E Super – Arpingstone
The 105E was launched in 1959, with a radical, reverse-slope rear window and – finally – an overhead-valve, one-litre engine and – be still, my beating heart – electric windscreen wipers.
In the USA, the Thunderbird caused a sensation in 1955, creating the personal luxury car segment. It wasn’t conceived as a sports car, but the initial models were all two-seat convertibles.
1958 Edsel Pacer – Order242
Definitely the result of ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’ brain fade, the Edsel brand was released for 1958.
In the year leading to its release, Ford invested in an advertising campaign, marketing Edsels as the cars of the future. The Edsel introduced multiple advanced features for its price segment, but it was Introduced in a recession that catastrophically affected sales of medium-priced cars,
Edsels were considered overhyped, unattractive – distinguished by a vertical grille that resembled a toilet seat – and low quality. The car also suffered from several reliability issues and its radical push-button auto box selector was a horror.
Following a loss of over US$250 million in 2019 dollars on development, manufacturing and marketing, Ford quietly discontinued the Edsel brand in late 1959.
1959 Fairlane 500 – Sicnag
The US Ford line-up was freshened with a simulated hood scoop and dual-headlights for 1958.The rectangular grille openings gave way to circles and grille was set in the bumper. A new three-speed Cruise-O-Matic automatic was optional along with the two-speed Ford-O-Matic and manual transmission.
Engines were also updated, with the 272 CID dropped, the 292 CID making 205hp, and a new-generation 5.4-litre V8 rated at 240hp in two-barrel form and 265hp in four-barrel ‘Interceptor’ form. A new 352 cubic inch V8, also dubbed ‘Interceptor’ and rated at 300hp made its debut.
The 1958 Thunderbird put on bulk and became a five-seater.
The top-line spot for 1959 was the new Galaxie, positioned above the continued Fairlane 500. The Custom became Custom 300 and all 1959 Fords used a long 118-inch (2997mm) wheelbase.
This version was also assembled in Australia, beginning in late 1959. Local models were the luxurious Fairlane 500 and lower-priced Custom 300 sedans, as well as the Ranch Wagon. The Australian models were powered by the 332 cu in (5.4-litre) ‘Thunderbird’ engine, producing 204 hp. For 1960, the range was updated with the grille and trim from the 1959 Canadian Meteor.
1960 Ford Falcon Sedan – Rex Gray
The Falcon was introduced to the US market in 1960 and had a 10-year model life. However, it was manufactured in Australia for much longer: from 1960 to 2016. The luxury-oriented Ford Fairmont model joined the range from 1965. Luxury long-wheelbase derivative versions called the Ford Fairlane and LTD arrived in 1967 and 1973, respectively (with production ending in 2007)
From the XA series of 1972 onward, every Falcon model was designed, developed and built in Australia.The Ford Falcon and its derivates have been Australian-made best-sellers, with over 3,000,000 sales in seven generations to 2003, mainly in Australia and New Zealand, but also South Africa.
Naming the Falcon
In one of the great ironies of the car industry, the Falcon may owe its name to Chrysler. One story goes that Chrysler initially short-listed the Falcon name for its new compact car, having previously used it on a mid-1950s concept show car.
Ford also liked the name, so Henry Ford II rang Chrysler chief Tex Colbert and asked if he could ‘borrow’ the name. Colbert consulted chief designer Virgil Exner, who agreed, given he preferred the name Valiant anyway.
Another more plausible version is from an article in the New York Times, dated 21 May 1959:
Two Auto Makers Pick Same Names
But Ford Wins Falcon Only Minutes Over Chrysler
The Ford Motor Company won a close race with coincidence. Both Ford and the Chrysler Corporation, unknown to each other, chose the name Falcon for their new compact cars. But Ford reserved the name with the Automobile Manufactures Association only twenty minutes ahead of Chrysler, winning the right to the name.
The Association is the official industry arbiter and its Proprietary Name File is the trade-name bible for carmakers.
Actually, Chrysler was said to have been the first to indicate its interest in the name Falcon, when it asked that a search be made on the availability of the name.
The report was made, but while Chrysler was making its final decision, Ford called and registered the name, unaware, association officials said, that Chrysler was considering it too.
Falcon is not new to the automobile industry. The roster of 2600 names that have graced the automotive scene in the last sixty years shows the name Falcon was used by at least three other manufacturers: a Falcon-brand passenger car was made in 1922; a Falcon-Knight was marketed in 1926 and Riley had its Falcon model in 1935.
Ford XR Falcon 500 Station Wagon – GTHO
The first bird of spring
September 1960 the first month of spring was not only a change of seasons but also an entirely new direction for the Ford Motor Company in Australia, when it launched its all-new Falcon to take on and beat General Motors Holden in the Australian family car market.
The all-new Ford Falcon XK was launched two weeks after Jack Brabham won his second Formula One World Championship and a month before Sydney’s long-awaited Warragamba Dam, the biggest mass-gravity dam in the Southern Hemisphere, was opened.
The XK Falcon had a low and sleek profile, in comparison with its Zephyr predecessor that was stodgy and past its use-by-date. The UK-sourced Zephyr was also too expensive to be competitively priced against the Holden.
Initially, Ford Australia had commissioned Ford’s Dearborn styling studios to redesign the Mark II Zephyr into the Mark IIA, to become its sales weapon against Holden. However, when they wheeled out the Zephyr in the design studios at Dearborn, Michigan in August 1958, the Ford Australia executives simply didn’t like the look of it.
The Aussies were then shown a mock-up of a new compact being designed for the US market, known as the Falcon. After viewing the new car, and after some discussion, it was agreed: ‘That’s the car we want for Australia’.
The Australian management team then geared up for the all-new Falcon. The Victorian Geelong plant was commissioned to build the engines and the newly opened plant at Broadmeadows in Melbourne, along with the Eagle Farmplant in Brisbane would produce the cars.
The svelte Falcon was lighter and lower than its FB Holden competitor. Ford’s catchphrase for the new car was ‘Australian built – but with a world of difference’.
The tooling and launch costs budget blew out by £3.3 million ($6.6m) and that wasn’t the only thing to blow out. A press launch was held, and journalists were embargoed from publishing stories until after 9pm on Sunday 11 September 1960, with the public release to follow on Wednesday 14 September.
However, this was the biggest Australian motoring story since the launch of the 215/48 series Holden, so both the Sun News Pictorial and the Melbourne Age broke the embargo by having the XK Falcon on the front pages of their Saturday 10 September morning editions.
The new car was quickly accepted and dealers took orders more rapidly that they were able to get supply. Ford couldn’t build them fast enough to keep pace with the buying public, who wanted to have new Falcons sitting in their driveways.
Ford had 10 percent of the total Australian market in 1959, compared with Holden’s almost 50 percent. However, by year’s end 1960, the Falcon vindicated Ford Australia’s decision when Ford’s market share had increased to 16.5 percent and rose to 19.4 percent by close of business on 31 December 1961. The growth was helped by an expanded range that included station wagon, panel van and utility variants.
Good as it was that sales penetration could have been greater had the new car not suffered from component failures, due to the absence of field-testing under Australian conditions prior to its release.
The Falcon earned a reputation for poor quality and, as a consequence, became known by some consumers and in certain motoring circles, as the ‘Foul Can’.
The front suspension wasn’t strong enough, so ball joints and spring towers failed. There was a factory recall program to rectify these failures, coded Campaign 21.
Some cars kinked so badly at the firewall that owners had their cars replaced. To rectify that situation a heavy-duty tube was bolted between the inner lower control arms and engine mounts and additional angled sections were welded to the diagonals that anchored the strut towers to the firewall.
Clutch shudder was horrific and in extreme cases it was almost impossible to lift-off.
The cause was a mechanical clutch mechanism, with a crossover bracket linking the clutch pedal inside the car via a metal tube that connected the mono-construction longitudinal box section to an anchor point at the clutch bell housing. The tube section had half-moon brass bushes at each end around a steel ball.
This utilitarian layout was little better than a backyard attempt at transferring the effort of pushing the clutch pedal to the throw-out fork.
To fix this problem, another factory recall, coded Campaign 24 was implemented. The length of the levers and fulcrum points were moved and nylon bushes replaced the brass ones. There were several more Campaign 24 upgrades.
The early cars were also under-tyred, having standard fitment 6.00×13 rubber. Some dealers, particularly those in the country, fitted 6.50×13 boots and beefed up the rear springs with the edition of an extra leaf.
The launch RRP was £1137 ($2274) for the standard model; £1199 ($2398) for the deluxe and £119 ($238) for the optional two-speed Fordomatic transmission.
The Falcon was £30 ($60) dearer than the FB Holden of the day, which had no automatic transmission option. Ford considered there was more than £30 worth of value in the XK over the FB.
The production run for the XK model was 68,465 units: very close to Ford’s original production forecast of 70,000 units.
With all its initial faults the ‘first bird’ of the 1960 spring was the start of a bloodline, the forerunner of a dynasty that has etched an indelible mark across the highways, byways and racetracks of Australia. And now of course, the Falcon has gone to its final resting place – the king is dead. Long live the king!
(Historic Vehicles’ Jim Gibson started his automotive apprenticeship as a mechanic in November 1960, at a Ford dealership in Sydney and therefore has firsthand knowledge of the problems these early Falcons had.)
XKs go racing
There were two XK Falcons entered in the 1960 Armstrong 500 race that was the forerunner of the Bathurst 1000. In those days it was held at the Phillip Island circuit, in Victoria and was a 500-mile (about 800-kilometre) enduro.
Autoland entered one car, with Bob Jane and the legendary Lou Molina sharing the driving and Wangaratta Motors, teaming Ron Phillips and Ernie Seeliger as the drivers, entered the other XK.
Forty-seven entrants lined up for this gruelling 167 lap, eight-and-a-half hour journey, but only 35 finished. John Roxburgh and Frank Coad, driving a Vauxhall Cresta, eventually won the race.
The Jane/Molina car was running in second slot, but the track was breaking up, causing Molina to roll the Falcon. The car somersaulted, ‘doing a 360’ and landed on its wheels. It kept running and eventually finished fifteenth outright and third in its class. The second Falcon was a DNF.
In 1962, Bob Jane and Harry Firth took line honours in the same race in an XL Falcon powered by the bigger Pursuit 170cid engine. XL Falcons also took out third and fourth places outright.
Previously the Falcon range also included a hardtop coupé until 1978; a panel van until 1999 and a station wagon until 2010), as well as the Futura variant. The Falcon platform also spawned luxury models such as the Landau coupe and long-wheelbase Fairlane and LTD sedans.
The Ford Territory two-wheel-drive SUV was developed on the AU Falcon platform in 2004 and continued until 2016.
The Falcon GT became an Australian collection icon and we have several Falcon GT stories on this website.
Luxury variants of the last-model Falcon, known as the G Series, were marketed as the Ford G6, G6E, and G6E Turbo, replacing the Fairmont and Fairmont Ghia models.
2014 Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo – Jeremy
In May 2013, Ford Australia announced the end of local production, which ended in October 2016.
The Ford Cortina was a medium-sized car, produced in various guises from 1962 to 1982, and was the United Kingdom’s best-selling car of the 1970s.
The Cortina was produced in five generations (Mark I through to Mark V. From 1970, it was almost identical to the German-market Ford Taunus and was replaced in 1982 by the Ford Sierra. In Asia and Australasia, it was replaced by the Mazda 626–based Ford Telstar, although Ford New Zealand did import British-made complete knock down kits of the Ford Sierra estate for local assembly from 1984.
1963 Lotus MkI Cortina – Sicnag
The most collectible Cortinas are undoubtedly the Lotus Cortina variants. The MkI version was powered by a Lotus-head, 115E,105bhp, 1588cc, twin overhead-cam Kent engine, with a close ratio gearbox. It came as a two-door in white, with green flash, quarter bumpers on the front, unique seats and dash, and Lotus badging.
The early cars also had lightweight alloy door, boot and bonnet panels, battery in the boot, drastically altered suspension; shorter struts at the front and coils and A-frame at the rear. In 1964, the panels were back to standard Cortina and in 1965 the rear suspension was back to standard GT leaves.
The Australian ‘semi-Lotus’ Cortina was the two-door GT500, developed by Harry Firth as a Bathurst race winner. It had leaf springs, an auxiliary fuel tank in the boot, with two filler necks behind the rear window, a hot-cam, overhead-valve engine and the Lotus close-ratio box. (Allan Whiting rallied one in 1966/67 – not very successfully.)
Ford Mustang serial number one – Alvin Trusty
The Mustang was released in mid-1964 and became much more successful than Ford had predicted. Still in production in the 2020s it was easily the longest-serving Ford brand of all time. The Mustang was essentially a 2+2 sports car, built around as many existing Ford-brand components as possible.
Initial power offerings were an in-line 2.8-litre six with 101hp and a 4.3-litre V8 with 164hp, but these were quickly upgraded to 3.3-litres with 120hp, and 4.7-litres with 210hp.
The Mustang increased gradually in size, so by 1973, it was seen as ‘fat and lazy’ by some critics.
The reduced-size ‘Mustang II’ was launchd in 1973, powered by the Pinto’s 2.3-litre, the Capri’s 2.8-litre V6 or the Windsor-block 4.9-litre V8.
The third-generation Mustang was larger and initially had carry-over powertrains. Then the four was turbocharged and the V6 was replaced by an in-line 3.3-litre six that was, in turn, replaced by a 3.8-litre V6 in 1983. The V8 was downsized and then resized.
The fourth-generation Mustang was the basis of an Australian effort in 2001 to compete with the Holden Monaro, but it was too expensive and only 377 were sold.
2015 Mustang launch – Ford Media Center
The Mustang had strayed from its original rationale, but the 2015 model was different, echoing the original styling and becoming available in right hand drive.
Being a 50th Anniversary model year, to 2015MY Mustang deserved a big launch.
1965 MY Mustang parts in an Empire State Building elevator, April 1964
When the original Mustang was launched in 1964, Ford revealed it on the top of New York’s Empire State Building. For the 50th Anniversary reveal of the 2015 model year Mustang, Ford decided to repeat the exercise.
Assembly practice, 1964
But how do you get a shiny, new, pony-car Mustang to the 86th-floor observation deck of the Empire State Building?
That took some creative thinking and some creative destruction.
Ford worked with Michigan-based DST Industries; the same company it collaborated with on the original 1964 project.
Although technology had moved on apace in the previous 50 years the team determined that the 443 metre-high lift would be too high for a mobile crane and that the Empire State’s spire would make a helicopter delivery impossible.
That’s why Ford and DST decided to employ the same method used to get that original Mustang to the top of the building: chop it up in elevator-sized pieces and rebuild in on the 86th floor.
The team measured elevators and doors in the building, then used a scale-model Mustang to plan cut lines.
Mustang prototype turned into an assembly kit
Two left-over prototype Mustangs were used, with one of them acting as a donor so technicians could determine where to make the cuts. Wheeled carts were then custom built to transport the body sections, then loaded up and placed in a mock-up of the smallest of the three elevators the car bits would have to ride in. The sections were then weighed, to make sure they didn’t exceed the elevators’ SWL.
Then the crews practiced assembling them, pit-crew style.
Speed was of the essence, as the Empire State Building’s observation deck was closed for only six hours every day, from 2:00am to 8:00am. The carts had be ready to enter the elevators at 2:00am and the assembly job had to be finished and the carts cleared from the building, before opening time at 8:00am.
The reassembled Mustang atop the Empire State Building
After the crew finished assembling it, the Triple Yellow Mustang was on display on April 16-17, 2014, coinciding with the New York Motor Show. At 2:00am on April 18, disassembly began and the broken-down car parts were removed, the same way they came in.
Ford Escort Twin Cam – Brian Snelson
The Escort took over from the Anglia in 1967, as a two-door sedan and four-door version arrived in 1969.
By far the most collectible Escorts are the twin-cam models. The first had an engine with a Lotus-made, eight-valve, twin camshaft head fitted to the 1.5-litre, non-crossflow block, which had a bigger bore that gave a capacity of 1558cc. This engine had originally been developed for the Lotus Elan.
Production of the Twin Cam was phased out as the Cosworth-engined RS1600 production began. Ford also produced an RS2000 model as an alternative to the somewhat temperamental RS1600, featuring a 2.0 L Pinto OHC engine.