There’s an odd feeling at the presentation of Ford’s Falcon Sprint range - a room full of upbeat engineers and designers, extolling the virtues of their latest creation, all just a little bit downbeat that they won’t get to do a project like this ever again.
Sure, Ford Australia’s engineering, and research and development teams will continue to work here.
In fact, after 2017 Ford stands to be Australia’s largest automotive employer, but they’ll work on global products, like the Ranger ute, or Indian-market Figo.
However, the Falcon - a car originally designed for the American market, adapted and built in Australia since 1960, and uniquely Australian since 1972 - the Falcon is special. Living proof of the capabilities of Ford’s Australian arm.
And as something of an Australian hero it has a frenetic following of died-in-the-wool supporters that wouldn’t be seen dead driving anything without a blue oval badge front and rear.
The Falcon Sprint edition is Ford Australia’s salute to them.
David Burn is the Chief Program Engineer for the Sprint, and offered TMR an insight into how the Sprint was transformed from a swirling pattern of ideas into a production reality.
When quizzed about the Sprint project, Burn is entirely candid: Ford’s budget to bring the model to life was modest, but there weren’t any big-ticket items the engineering team had to leave behind. This is the Sprint Ford wanted to build.
And it’s a way of saying thank you to the large sedan’s supporters over the decades, filled with the suggestions previous Falcon owners have made.
“After we’d built the [FPV] GT-F, I got asked by an owner why we didn’t clear-coat under the bonnet. It wasn’t something we’d thought of, but it was a good idea so we did it with this” Mr Burn starts.
It’s only a small thing, but with so many enthusiast buyers likely to want to pop the bonnet and gaze at the high-output six and eight cylinder Sprint engines, it made sense to present the engine bay as neatly as possible.
It’s the first time ever that Ford has extended the clear-coat to the engine bay of the Falcon.
While Ford won’t mention the Sprint’s development budget (it’s somewhere between very little, and not much at all) getting the biggest benefit from the smallest spend was paramount.
The best example of that resourcefulness might just be the front engine cover of the XR6 Sprint, where the bespoke build number plaque is fixed.
“We wanted to be able to do something special with that” Mr Burn said, “But the money wasn’t there to create a new part, and we didn’t simply want to glue the plaque on top.”
The staff at Geelong’s engine plant, where the turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine is built, agreed and were able to provide a new front engine cover that’s technically not new at all.
“Do you remember the AU VCT Intech cover?” Mr Burn asks, referring to the high output six-cylinder engine used in the AU Falcon XR6 and Fairmont Ghia. “They took that casting, machined out the VCT logo and gave us a proper frame to mount the plaque in!”
Likewise the black rocker cover of the XR6 Sprint delves into Ford’s history. Without the time to validate a new paint colour, Ford revisited the colour used on the Territory Turbo rocker cover - bypassing the need to recheck it against Ford’s stringent quality standards.
“We wondered what else we could include to give owners ‘something different’ and make the Sprint special” Mr Burn said. “Little things like the electrochromatic mirror, we had to add a little wiring, but we wanted to make it happen.”
There’s more to the car too. Small details that don’t appear on the spec sheet, but when pressed for more details Mr. Burn remained coy.
“There’s some things we put in for enthusiasts. These guys know every little running change we make. So we included some stuff for them to discover once they get their cars.”
Things like the redesigned foglight surrounds - at the top inner corners the foglight surrounds add a small vent not present on the regular XR6 and XR8, but if XR8 owners choose to add their own aftermarket intercooler that vent has been designed to direct airflow towards it.
A subtle addition for sure, but one that recognises the enthusuast appeal of the XR8 amongst its buyers.
As for the name, across the board Ford’s team are unanimous that this car was always going to be called Sprint. Other names were mooted, but from the beginning of its development this celebration of Falcon scored the Sprint nickname, and it stuck.
But those looking to get their hands on a piece of Ford Australia history had better be quick, the entire allocation of XR6 Sprints (500 for Australia and 50 for New Zealand) has been spoken for, and of the 850 XR8 Sprints being built (750 for Australia and 100 for New Zealand) the manual is already sold out with a “handful” of automatics remaining.
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