According to the late Howard Marsden, head of Ford Special Vehicles at the time, the catalyst for the short-lived XY Falcon 4×4 ute was the Australian Army need to replace the underpowered 4 cylinder Land Rovers. So in response to the army request, FOMOCO decided to tender a new 4×4 light truck based on the XY Falcon Ute.
The greatest engineering challenge Ford faced was to install a complete leaf-sprung live axle assembly under the front of a Falcon ute that was never designed for such things. Marsden recalled just how difficult this task was as the Falcon ute featured the same unibody construction (body and chassis combined as one unit) as its sedan sibling rather than the traditional and much stronger body-on-ladder-frame design employed by Land Rover.
As a result, new mounting points for the front leaf springs fabricated from steel plate had to be welded directly to the bodyshell’s underfloor. High-lift leaf springs and shocks raised the rear end of the utility to match the newly raised front end.
Another challenge was providing enough clearance between the front axle and the engine’s sump and exhaust system to allow for adequate suspension travel. The simple solution was to make new engine mounts that slanted the engine over to the right by several degrees.
This tilt was large enough to provide adequate sump-to-axle clearance, but it also required a wedge-shaped spacer to be fitted between the carburettor base and inlet manifold to compensate for this angle change and maintain the correct static float bowl levels.
The Falcon’s 250 cid (4.1 litre) inline six had plenty of performance on tap, with 155 bhp (116kW) @ 4000 rpm and maximum torque of 240 ft/lbs (325Nm) available from a very low 1600 rpm.
A heavy duty 10-inch dry plate clutch, Borg Warner AS5 T15A three-speed full-synchro gearbox with floor-mounted Jeep gearshift and a Spicer Model 20 two-speed transfer case also with floor lever control got power to the front and rear wheels through one-piece propeller shafts.
Brakes were 11 x 2 inch drum brakes all round (typical fare for 4x4s of this era) with 16 x 4.5 inch steel rims on skinny 6.00 x 16 all-terrain tyres.
Ford also developed some useful accessories including a powerful 8000 lb PTO winch (shaft-driven from the transfer case), a heavy duty tow bar and military-style high canvas canopy to cover the load area.
With a kerb weight of only 3620 lbs (1642 kgs), a useful payload of 1380 lbs (625 kgs), excellent approach and departure angles and a lateral tilt angle up to 45 degrees, the Falcon 4×4 ute had impressive cross-country performance and a high torque-to-weight ratio with or without load due to its relatively light unibody construction.
Not that any of this mattered to the Army, because the military never got to the stage of even field-testing Ford’s prototype, opting for Land Rover’s more powerful six cylinder version.
However, after ‘spy’ photos of the 4 x 4 being tested at the company’s vast vehicle proving ground at You Yangs in Victoria appeared in motor mags, Ford decided to go ahead with the build purely based on public demand. The Aussie public were clamouring for this ‘cross-over’ type of vehicle, one that could cope with the rough dirt roads in more comfort than the typical noisy, rough-riding 4×4 vehicles of the era.
So Ford set aside a batch of 432 XY Falcon ute bodies that were earmarked for the 4×4 production run in the second half of 1971. According to Ford workers, those XY ute shells actually remained stockpiled in the backyard of the Brisbane plant for almost a year, as ordering and delivery of the new Dana front axles from the US caused crippling delays.
By the time the imported front axle units finally arrived, the new XA Falcon range had been on sale for months, which would present a real challenge to dealers trying to sell a superseded XY Falcon ute as a ‘new’ offering alongside the latest swoopy XA.
Marsden recalled that each of the 432 XY 4×4 utes produced at the Brisbane plant were essentially hand-built. They also had to be assembled on weekends by a dedicated team of workers, as each vehicle required the fitting of unique parts that would have disrupted the flow of normal plant production lines during the working week.
And given the unplanned model overlap, they also scored some XA parts during their construction including the high back bench seat with integral head rests, column-mounted ignition key/steering column lock and screen-bonded rear view mirror.
When the XY Falcon 4×4 utes finally went on sale in early 1973 for a base price of $3680 with full 12,000 mile/12 month factory warranty, there was considerable pent-up buyer demand and Ford sold every one of them.
Now for sale is one of these rare 4x4 utes. Sure she's in need of some body work and paint but these Falcon 4x4's are now rarer than rocking horse poo. This 4x4 is running a '66 Mustang 289ci Windsor V8 rebuilt 100 km ago with receipts for the rebuild, a C4 column auto strengthened for off road use, and the original full Dana 44" diffs front and rear with the original transfer case. The free wheeling hubs are now heavy duty one turn selecto style.
Inside, the original XA bench seat is in excellent condition. The original dash has been modified with XY GT style dash, speedo and tachometer and the ignition is now on the dash as per a standard XY with push button starter.
There is provision for a second fuel tank on the drivers side. Original front GTHO spoiler is in place which is used to hide front spring hangers. Comes with an original repair manual and original log books. Has a canopy and plastic sliding windows behind the driver but the owner still has the original rear ute window glass and the original tool box. Comes with heaps of spares.
Brisbane, QLD car. (Ref: 5356)