High-speed endurance testing in 1965 of the new XP Ford Falcon proved its suitability for tough Australian roads

High-speed endurance testing in 1965 of the new XP Ford Falcon proved its suitability for tough Australian roads.

Ford Australia may be pulling out of local manufacturing in 2016, but continues to expand in the design, engineering and testing fields. In fact there are more engineers employed than every before and the company is searching for more as I write this.

Indeed, after the other two car makers, Holden and Toyota, close their factories in 2017 Ford Australia says it will be largest automotive employer on Australia.

Some two billion dollars has been invested by Ford Australia in research and development (R&D) in the past six years, with $300 million during 2015 alone. Most of it invested in the famed Ford proving ground in the You Yangs. Members of the Australian motoring media were invited to the Proving Ground yesterday to inspect some of the new facilities, learn what is coming next and to reinforce our knowledge of the high regard in which Australians are held in the automotive business globally.

Best of all, we were asked to take part in celebrations the 50th anniversary of the Proving Ground. The latter by listening to the obligatory speeches, then eating a slice of the huge cake made of the occasion. It came as no surprise that the cake was an exceptionally heavy-duty one as befits a site used for heavy-duty vehicle testing. (My wife still doesn’t believe I only ate half a slice before giving up…).

Ford Territory on the cobbles test.

Ford Territory on the cobbles test.

Though Ford began making cars in Australia in 1925 it wasn’t until the near failure of the Falcon in this country made convinced the Ford chiefs in Detroit that Australian design and testing was essential. The first Falcon, the XK of 1960 had gained a dreadful reputation for suspensions collapsing and bodies sagging when driven on Australia’s rough roads. Holden’s tough cars were killing Falcon in the sales race.

Work on the Proving Ground commenced in 1964 and while that was underway Ford’s Aussie engineers were hard at work beefing up the suspension and body of what was to become the XP Falcon (the final model in the first generation). To prove the success of the rework of the Falcon a 70,000 mile (11,270km) durability run was made on the new Proving Ground.

Ford Territory on the body twist test.

Ford Territory on the body twist test.

That event has become legendary in Australian motoring history as near-lunatic drivers thrashed and crashed six Falcons at speeds averaging 70 miles per hour for eight days. No one died but there were some close calls due to three rollovers and several other off-track excursions. (OH&S? No such thing back then! Try YouTube for some sensational footage.)

Ford Australia is respected globally for its design and testing and is currently working on numerous vehicles to be sold in up to 200 different countries. May the work continue and Ford prosper as the Proving Ground enters the early days of its next 50 years.

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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