EA series II
In October 1989 came the first ‘official’ update of the EA. The big news was the long-awaited BT-R 4 speed automatic transmission, known internally as the 85-LE. It was the first electronically controlled automatic transmission fitted to an Australian car. Though BT-R was based in Albury, the transmission was hailed by many as the equal of the world’s best in terms of smoothness. Half a second was stripped of the 0-100 km/h acceleration time compared to the 3 speed automatic. Better fuel economy, lower noise levels and a greater top speed were other benefits. Perhaps showing Ford’s sense of humour, the new transmission cost only $10 more as an option over the 5 speed manual, or $508 in total. The downside to this box was significantly reduced longevity compared to its 3 speed predecessor, which inspired many EA II taxi drivers to retrofit the old 3 speed ‘box.
The series II and later cars are distinguished by a body coloured B pillar – arguably a step downmarket in purely aesthetic terms, but a distinction nonetheless. The suspension of the series II gained heavy duty front dampers and superior lower trailing arm bushes for the rear end. Additionally, stiffer stabiliser bar bushes, shorter bump stops, thicker front stabiliser bars, increased front spring stiffness and lower front ride height had all been done as running changes in the months since the original launch of the EA.
EA 30th Anniversary
October 12, 1990 saw the birth of the EA 30th Anniversary Falcon range. While celebrating 30 years since the launch of the XK Falcon was a worthwhile cause, the ulterior motive was to unleash yet another series of improvements. This time, the big news was the so-called Tibbe locking system on the doors, bootlid/tailgate and ignition of all models. This was claimed to provide the highest level of security achievable in a mechanical locking system, in addition to being nicer to use than the keys of the older cars. Door locking buttons now retracted to be flush with the door sills, and central locking became a standard fitment on all models. The EA’s value for money advantage over the VN Commodore was heightened.
Security coded radios on all models, and ‘Falcon in flight’ badges behind the front wheel arches (the badges were silver on the GL and Fairmont, and red on the S) helped distinguish the updated cars. The EA 30th Anniversary Falcon S gained power mirrors and grippy Pirelli tyres, while the EA 30th Anniversary Fairmont gained alloy wheels as well as the same electric mirrors.
The EB Falcon was a very minor facelift, with its front Ford badge now located in the grille, smoother tail lights, new slot-free C pillar trims, new exterior mirrors and glossy door handles among the changes. While this was hardly exciting news, the Falcon being available with a big V8 for the first time since Easter 1983 was another story.
The V8 was optional on all sedans and wagons. Of 5.0 litres (4.9 to be more precise) capacity, it was fitted with an up-to-date fuel injection system to help it produce 165 kW @ 4500 rpm, and 388 Nm of torque @ 3000 rpm. The new small-block engine, called the Windsor, was sourced from Ford’s Mustang and fully imported from the US. It was some 90 kg lighter than the carburetted 4.9 and 5.8 engines manufactured locally for the Falcon between 1972 and 1982.
Equipment upgrades on all models were updated significantly, too. This applies less to the EB Falcon GL, which gained wider (albeit still 14″) wheels and tyres. The driver’s seat gained height and lumbar support adjustments, as well as a footrest. Side indicators, built into the mouldings between the front wheel arches and the leading edge of the front doors, added visibility.
On all models, uprated springs, gas shock absorbers, negative camber and increased castor front end geometry, and other revisions gave the EB Falcon sharper handling than ever before. The EB Falcon S took this a step further with front springs stiffness rates increased 39%, and 25% at the rear. Front seats gained bigger side bolsters and doughnut headrests. Lovely new 5 spoke 15 x 7″ alloy wheels replaced the XF Fairmont Ghia-derived ‘snowflake’ alloys, and the price remained at $28,561.
At the launch of the EB, Ford’s executives hinted that the EA Fairmont had not only been lacking luxury equipment, but falling behind the value benchmark of the EA Falcon S. This problem was attacked heavily with the EB Fairmont having electric windows only optional, but the MPI engine, EA Fairmont Ghia alloy wheels, automatic transmission, climate control, cruise control, a trip computer, velour interior, full instrumentation all became standard. Showing that humour again, only $768 to the car’s list price.
The EB Fairmont being such a well-equipped model opened the door for the EB Fairmont Ghia to position itself as a sports/luxury model. It gained Falcon S analogue instruments, plus Falcon S seats with velour inserts, and leather bolsters and seatback. BBS alloy wheels wrapped in premium Michelin tyres, combined with body coloured mouldings around the car, double pin striping and a chrome exhaust to move the car’s positioning further upmarket.
Combining the S credentials with the power of the V8 was a new model called the Falcon S-XR8. This model also gained even sportier front seats, while a rear bootlid lip spoiler and a chrome exhaust tip lifted its tasteful appearance subtly. The wheels were identical to those of the Falcon S, but with a highly machined finish. Colour coded mirrors, air conditioning and a limited slip diff helped to justify its $32,595 pricetag. By comparison, the Commodore SS of the time missed out on air conditioning, central locking, power mirrors, security coded radio, split fold rear seats and the adjustable steering column.
Most importantly, the EB Falcon range represented a shift of attitude within Ford Australia. There was more emotion in the products, and the resulting cars could appeal more to enthusiasts. The energetic Jacques Nasser, later to become CEO of Ford Motor Company in the US, was president of Ford Australia at this time.
EB series II
A car known as the EB Evolution, or more commonly the EB series II, was unveiled in April 1992. For all intents and purposes, this was the most significant EA update of all, despite appearing identical to its EB predecessor. The EB series II managed to steal market leadership back from Holden.
The big news for this model was ABS being available for the first time on a mainstream Australian car. Mitsubishi had offered ABS as an option on its KR Verada Xi flagship, but this was out of the reach of most buyers. Ford’s ABS system was called the LC5 by Bendix. The system was critically acclaimed due to its impressive isolation of the brake pedal during braking, as well as its optimisation for Australian gravel roads. Priced at only $990, it was comfortably the cheapest optional ABS system in the country. The system was standard on the EB II Falcon S-XR8 and EB II Fairmont Ghia, and optional on other models
But the safety upgrades did not stop there. Front belt webbing clamps were designed to limit payout from the belt retractors to just 12mm in a frontal collision, while ‘rip-stitch’ belt construction enabled the belt to lengthen to help absorb impact energy. Strengthened A, B and C pillars aimed to correct the weakness of the EA-EB Falcon’s crash safety. Ford boasted that the roof could now withstand a 3 tonne load.
While the strengthening also made the car more refined, detail revision suppressed NVH further, such as quieter windscreen wiper motors, an instrument panel brace, and more extensive use of sound deadening materials. All audio systems were upgraded to replace that road noise with more desirable sounds. Security was improved too, with major components given Vehicle Identification Number labelling. The EB II Falcon GLi gained a slight name compared to the GL, its predecessor. The digital dash was discontinued where it had been fitted to the EB Fairmont, too, while models with trip computers and climate control now got classier black rather than silver buttons.
If all that was not enough, a revised engine improved reliability, power (up from 139 to 148 kW), torque (from 338 to 348 Nm) and smoothness. With such a comprehensive update, it is interesting to note Ford Australia’s reason to not call this model the ED. In Ford bureaucracy, a change of model name requires a model to go through an expensive crash testing procedure. The public might have expected more money to be directed towards cosmetic upgrades other than the 4.0 badge behind the front wheel arches, too.
In October 1992, a further update to the EB series II brought a new security update called Smartlock. Developed entirely in Australia, it was regarded as one of the world’s best security systems to that time. Uniquely, it required no input from the driver. Put simply, smartlock only allowed the starter motor and and fuel system to start the car if it received the correct (rolling) code from the key module. In addition to immunising the car from hotwiring, the convenience of keyless entry became standard from this point. Ignition strength was upped, too. The South Australian police unleashed experienced car thieves to test Smartlock, but the thieves gave up… after 4 days.
Released late in 1992 were a couple of very special Falcons. The first was the EB II Falcon S-XR6, which looked identical to the S-XR8 bar different badging. This was only tuning specialist Tickford’s second local Ford, the first being the Ford Capri Clubsprint. A red rocker cover with Tickford wings represented a power increase from 148 kW to 161 – only 4 shy of the V8. All figures aside, however, The S-XR6 became a classic because of the way it humbled more exotic machinery. It was typically at least 2 seconds quicker than the S-XR8 around Phillip Island. As for top speed, the 200 km/h speedo was again laughably inadequate. Wheels magazine again got the dial off the clock with a top speed of 224 km/h, compared to 220 for the S-XR8. That the S-XR6 cost little over 30 grand, complete with ABS, alloy wheels, Momo steering wheel and an LSD, earned it a place in history.
To celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Ford’s classic GT badge, a limited run of 250 EB II Falcon GT models was created. Just weeks before its release, an infamous display of yobbos jeering Mark Skaife and Jim Richards for winning Bathurst in a Nissan Skyline GT-R. But rather than being designed for the racetrack, the new car was what the designers thought the Falcon GT would be if it had evolved rather than been discontinued in the early ’70s. It featured a 5.0 V8 with a claimed (but disputed) 200 kW, combined with a wild body kit including a huge rear spoiler, and various bonnet scoops that Ford claimed were for genuine aerodynamic reasons. Inside was a full leather interior complete with wood-look furnishings, implying this model was aimed at a more mature audience. The GT was no faster than the S-XR6 around Phillip Island.
In August 1993 came the final EA facelift. This car was not a very strong competitor for the formidable VR Commodore range, but was designed to keep the Falcon reasonably fresh for a year until the heavily revised EF’s August 1994 unveiling. In truth, the EB received fewer changes than the EB II. Still, 288 components had changed – though nothing like the 5714 new or revised parts incorporated since the EB II. New Ford corporate grilles of an oval shape looked a little out of place to most eyes, but was one of only a few ways to distinguish the new and old cars.
Improved side impact protection on all models put the Falcon 30% ahead of ADR29 requirements, while R134a air conditioning refridgerant was CFC-free. Minor exterior trim colour changes was not big news, but there were 4 new exterior colours: Reef Green, Cobalt (a blue-purple that debuted on the EB II Falcon GT), Polynesian Green (the most popular colour) and Magenta. All models bar the GLi gained colour-coded door-handles. The base Falcon S was discontinued, but in its place was a new family model between GLi and Fairmont. After 187 names were reviewed, the ED Falcon Futura (its name dating back Ford’s luxury model of 1962) was born. Like the ED Fairmont, It was equipped with ABS as standard. Full instruments, cruise control, a multi-speaker Clarion audio system, ignition and map lights and sunshading across the top of the rear window were standard. A 3 point inertia reel lap/sash seat belt for the rear centre passenger was also fitted – a safety feature rarely found any other cars in the world at the time.
The XR models were the most heavily revised of the range. Their names were changed from S-XR6 and S-XR8 to simply become XR6 and XR8 respectively. A unique 4-headlight arrangement gave a purposeful stance reminiscent of the Ford Escort RS Cosworth. A body coloured front airdam, Tickford wings badge and grooved-spoke alloy wheels provided further distinction. A “Supersport” suspension option was available on these models, too, which included extensive use of urethane bushing for the front anti-sway bar and its drop links, the front tension rods and the rear lower trailing links. Negative camber increased to 1.25 degrees, and 2 mm of toe-in was also part of the package. There was also provision for camber/castor adjustment by shims.
Another new ED model was released, this time an XR8 that had been modified by Tickford. But in truth, the ED Falcon XR8 Sprint was best described as a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing Falcon GT – omitting power windows and cruise control in addition to shedding the GT’s wild bodykit. But even with tasteful 16″ ROH alloy wheels and suspension work, it was only 2 or 3 seconds faster than the EB II S-XR6 around Phillip Island. Still, that is not to call this model slow – far from it.