Ford Australia did pretty well throughout the 90’s, at least until they released the WTF-styled AU Falcon in 1998. Here are my top five Ford vehicles from that decade.
EB Falcon GT
The EB series saw the return of the V8 to the Falcon lineup which paved the way Ford to revive the GT badge for the first time since the XB series in 1976. The luxury interior and relatively standard-spec 5.0 litre Windsor motor wasn’t as wild as the old 351 Super Roo GT’s of the past which led many to claim it wasn’t a “real” GT Falcon.
The body kit was a bit bloated and looks pretty plain by modern standards but it certainly differentiated the GT from the rest of the EB lineup, largely because of the massive rear wing. Performance was good but didn’t blow away the HSV competition the way Ford fans would have liked.
Still, values are currently climbing on these so it seems the blue oval faithful have accepted the EB as the genuine article. The styling is very 90’s and the interior is a bit too “taxi grey” for some but it’s still a whole lot of car for the money.
Having owned an EB Falcon S in the past I always liked the lines of the EB series. Less boxy than the XD-XF Falcons but still roomy and comfortable. The GT kit never ruined the basic EB style, just puffed it up.
You don’t see too many EB GT’s on the road these days but when they do appear they still stand out.
EL Fairmont Ghia with Tickford body kit
Getting a little specific, eh?
As much as I liked the EL XR Falcons with their bonnet scoops and quad headlights, I always felt the Tickford body kit suited the Fairmont Ghia even better. The sports-luxury combo just worked. The EL was a good looking far, correcting the faceless styling that let down the EF series. In Fairmont Ghia guise with the body kit was the pick of the crop to my eyes, smoother than the XR’s and more subtle and mature than the GT.
A short-lived and unsuccessful attempt to add some sporty interest to the Mondeo lineup, the ST24 was an attractive addition to the range with its 2.5 litre V6 replacing the standard (and impotent) 2.0 4-cylinder from the standard car. Power was still well short of its competition like the WRX and the manual-only spec probably limited its appeal in a market that already didn’t love the Mondeo.
Personally I thought it was a reasonably attractive car, especially from the front. The body kit was well proportioned and the new mesh grille gave the ST24 a chunkier yet understated presence.
Unfortunately the market didn’t take to it and the ST24 was a sales failure. They’re fairly rare but the lack of interest in Mondeo’s generally means you can usually get them pretty cheap when they do pop up.
Ford brought the 4.6 litre V8 Mustang to Australia late in the decade in a bid to add some muscle to the local lineup. Unfortunately the RHD-conversion for such low volumes drove the sticker price up towards $90,000 for a car that offered less space and comparable performance to a far cheaper V8 Falcon. Cashed-up Ford fans jumped on board but not in great numbers, meaning the Mustang only appeared in showrooms for a few years.
Offered only in manual in an attempt to boost its sports car credibility probably kept a few buyers away who prefer their muscle cars to cruise lazily on an auto box. The choice of either coupe or convertible wasn’t enough to push sales to a sustainable level, however the V8 was widely lauded.
It wasn’t until the 2015 Mustang with factory RHD arrived that the ‘Stang became a successful vehicle in Australia.
Fairlane By Tickford
Wanted GT performance without the attention-seeking style of the GT Falcon? Well, Ford had you covered in 1998. A limited-edition Fairlane By Tickford essentially put the GT driveline into the standard Fairlane. From the outside, a mesh grille, new 17-inch wheels and lowered suspension were the only hints that this wasn’t the run-of-the-mill long wheelbase Ford.
With only 106 rolling off the assembly line these are pretty rare beasts. It’s a car the knowing Ford fan will recognise with an approving nod while everyone else thinks its just an old Fairlane.
Honourable Mention: EL XR6/XR8
The EF XR’s were a bit smooth and plain across the face for me, but Ford toughened the appearance up with a subtle tweak to the front end for the EL. Small bonnet vents and a stylish body kit (when optioned) gave the XR’s some serious street presence.
The V8 XR8 had the higher top speed but the lighter six-cylinder XR6 was faster off the mark. Aside from badges they were identical and were the peak of Falcon performance until the limited-edition GT arrived.