The XP has proved Ford’s most popular Falcon yet. But how does it stand up to rough roads? Michael Sanders, an outback Queenslander, reports on HIS experience.
It was stiflingly hot as I climbers out of the Peugeot and lifted the bonnet. The dipstick showed the oil level to be just on the empty mark, and I found the underside of the car covered with oil from the crankcase breather. I had a quart of oil in the boot, so after emptying this into the engine, I set out very slowly on the 190 odd miles back to Boulia.
The local garage’s verdict was that the main bearings were gone, the crankshaft would have to be reground, and at least one value was burnt out. Not unnaturally, I started to think about buying a new car.
Considering the mileage I was covering (about 30,000 a year), and the nature of the roads in the area, my choice was pretty well whittles down to one of the big three, or possibly another Peugeot.
Trade-in offers from Westco in Brisbane (Peugeot agents) and the local G.M. garage were uninspiring.
Until then I had always been rather anti-Falcon (front suspension, diff etc.), but my economic situation put me in a rather different frame of mind. Anyway, I had considered the XM to be a step in the right direction, and felt that the new model might be better still.
On the day the new model was released, I wrote what seemed an inordinately large number of cheques, signed my name a few times, and drove away in a hire purchase company’s new XP Falcon.
I must admit that at the start I did not expect to be as satisfied with the car as I was eventually. The Peugeot had been a very comfortable car – very easy and relaxing to drive over long distances, and the sort of machine in which you give yourself one hell of a fright before you get into trouble.
It’s hard to put on paper the feeling of ‘rightness’ or ‘balance’ which some cars posses. The Peugeot had it, and, much to my surprise, it soon became apparent that the Falcon had something of this character, which enables you to forgive many of the small irritating trivialities in the face of the generally satisfying sensation of owning and driving the car.
My first impression of the car were its stability on rough surface and good handling on bitumen; excellent fore and aft seat support, and – surprise, surprise – 28 mpg for a trip to Brisbane with a still tight motor.
The suspension soon loosened up to give a very good ride indeed, except on sharply elevated grids where the long wheelbase makes it inclined to pitch rather violently.
My earlier claims of stability in the rough had to be revised. On deeply channelled roads, the front end was inclined to slide, rather alarmingly. This was eventually traced to a slight toe-out on the front wheels, and round shouldered tyres which do tend to climb up an inclined surface, as anyone who has ridden a motorbike across and incline can verify.
I eventually fitted Goodyear nylons on the front, which, with a front-end alignment, cured the problem completely. I do feel, however, that the front is inclined to be a little more twitchy then the rear, which is particularly stable.
From the time I took delivery of the car I had been plagued by a noticeable jerk when accelerating from a closed throttle. Eventually it was found that the springs controlling the vacuum, advance were wrongly adjusted – very touchy on Falcons as there is no centrifugal advance.
At about 5000 miles I had to replace a rear shock absorber. This still remains a sore point with me, as the lower mounting is definitely not suitable for gravel roads. Stones thrown up and inwards by the front wheels strike the lower mounting stud below the rubbers. The stud is gradually bent backwards until it is torn out of the body of the shock, allowing the fluid to leak away.
On subsequent units which I fitted. I sawed the front end of the stud off level with the lower surface of the mounting nut.
This reduced the distance from the point where the stones hit to the mounting plate, thus reducing the leverage, tending to bend the stud.
At about 15,000 miles, both front and rear shockers were replaced by Armstrongs. These, although I did not realise were a heavy duty type. From that day on the ride was rougher, and it became very difficult on corrugations. As luck would have it, they lasted no longer then the original Monroe-Wylies, and I reverted to these when the Armstrongs were done.
Before the warranty had expired the local mechanic assured me that the front bush in the upper control arm was wearing too rapidly and should be attended to. Apparently the outer metal sleeve of the rear bush was turning in the control arm, where it was supposed to be and interference fits.
I did not find out until much later that they “fixed” it by putting small welds on the control arm surface to provide the necessary interference. Meanwhile, the trouble recurred twice.
The second time I resolved to do the job myself, as at $10 a time it was becoming expensive. I replaced both control arm and bushed, and have had no trouble since.
The car had a laminated windscreen when I brought it. I had not ordered this, and at the time I begrudged the extra $30, but I’ve blessed the thing many a time since. It now carries a large number of chips and a 10in. crack scored by a supersonic Valiant near Warialda, but it’s still in one piece. I had an acrylic protector on the Peugeot, and after 12,000 miles it was useless driving against the sun or approaching head lights.
The Falcon steering has received much criticism in the past, and deservedly so. However the smaller wheel on the XM and XP is lower and further away from the body of the driver, making the necessary rapid twirling a little easier. For general use I find it quite acceptable but in the a bad slide on gravel or mud or when faced with a sudden change down on tight corners, something a little more precise is necessary – about four to four and a half turns lock-to-lock, I’d say.
With regards to the “eternal argument,” I do feel that the Holden does offer a softer and more comfortable ride at the expense of stability, and passenger and luggage capacity. I have never bottomed the rear suspension of the Falcon, but an HD Holden will bottom easily with a full boot and one passenger. It will even scrape its petrol tank on wavy, channelled roads with nothing in the back at all. However, it’s way ahead on parts availability and service in western areas.
Fuel consumption? I get about 25 mpg for fast cruising and town running, but careful driving and observance of Queensland speed limits can give as high as 30.
Goodyear G8s were fitted to the car originally, and lasted about 13,000 miles. The nylons do improve on that figure, but this figure, but they are more expensive. Their main advantage is their resistance to stakes and stone damage. This is where radials fall down, too. The sharp edges on grids work havoc on the sidewalls.
The headlights leave something to be desired in ‘roo country, and quite early in the piece I fitted a Lucas spot, only to curse myself later when the quartz iodide spots were marketed. It does quite a good job, however, and I wouldn’t be without it.
Fittings in general are rather sparse, and I found it a windscreen washer an absolute necessity. It’s the foot operated type which automatically switches on the wipers.
Fourth thousand miles of country motoring does take it out of a car and show up many things which are not apparent in a road test. The body is still as tight as a drum, and the engine and transmission are so far free from expensive noises.
All in all, the Falcon isn’t the most comfortable car in the world, nor the best handling, but for long distance driving I can only describe it as satisfying. I enjoy driving it, and it is largely responsible for what slight smug expression I wear when I drive.