No more Ford Falcon – The end of schoolyard brawls?
Ford ended production of the Falcon last Friday but, as I write this, prior to the running of the Great Race (Bathurst 1000) there were a bunch of Falcons inside the qualifying top 10…
1978. BATHURST. I WAS BORN. Less than five months after I was born in 1978, Peter Brock had wrestled his Holden Dealer Team Torana, along with Gentleman Jim Richards, around Mount Panorama to claim his third Hardie-Ferodo 1000 victory. I must have caught some sort of Brock and Holden fever, because for as long as I can remember, I’ve always supported Holden, and while he raced, Peter Brock, on Bathurst weekend. And I don’t really know why.
Having been born in Bathurst it stood to reason the Mountain would figure large in my formative motoring years, I was taught to drive the family Land Rover Discovery on the open-to-the-public circuit. And I understood, from an early age that Both Holden and Ford banked on the adage that if you won on Sunday at Bathurst then you’d sell on Monday.
Like no other motorsport event in the country, and maybe in the world, the Bathurst 1000, in recent memory anyway, was always just a two-horse race, Holden Vs Ford. With each vying not so much for victory at the Mountain but proof that their ‘vehicles’ could withstand 1000km of abuse and come out unshaken at the end of the event, thus making them perfect family hacks. Or something like that.
And, like me, you’ll have probably been witness to the odd dust-up about which was better, Ford or Holden. As the years wore on, kids moved away from the maker to the model, was Falcon or Commodore king.
Sure, I supported Brock and Holden every Bathurst weekend and would wear red every Sunday. But away from that weekend I never really understood the tribalism of Holden Vs Ford. See, while the families around mine went from Falcon to Falcon, or Commodore to Commodore, my old man flitted from Mazda 929 to Rover 3500 SD1 and then Jaguar XJS V12 and then Land Rover Discovery Series 1. Yes, both Rover 3500 and Jaguar XJS were raced at Mount Panorama, winning their classes, but no-one ever wanted to get pugilistic about which was better, Ford Falcon or Rover 3500, with me. And neither me with them. But I’ve been to enough V8 Supercar rounds to know how deep the passion for Red and Blue runs.
So, with Ford pulling the plug on the Falcon last Friday, after 56 years of local production and around 3.5 million cars sold, and with the Commodore set to limp on until 2017, I’m left wondering… What the hell is going to happen to car culture in this country? And what will happen to the Bathurst 1000?
They’re all big questions that I can’t possibly hope to answer, or even fully explore here, so I’ll let them hang in the air and hope that some of you, dear readers, can suggest some scenarios in the comments below.
More than that are the workers who’ll be left without a job and facing a dwindling local manufacturing industry. I’ve been made redundant. It’s a horrible feeling and I wish every single worker the best of luck going forward.
Now, in this job I get to meet and talk with plenty of automotive engineers working for different brands around the world and those that come here love the place, because we have actually have a car culture. Here, in Australia, owning a car isn’t just about owning something that will get you from A to B. Well, it wasn’t until now.
Anecdotally, young drivers are choosing to get their licences later in life and while I understand that our taste in cars has changed to the point the Falcon and Commodore are now no longer relevant, you can’t deny that without them Australian car buyers might just transition from being car owners to simply being car buyers… and what I mean by that is that the line of succession will break as we transition from a life without Falcon and Commodore. It will be hard for owners to feel as passionate about their choice of vehicle without watching it race year in and year out on the Mountain…
So, and leaving aside motorsport, what will take their place? Will my son come home from school bloodied and bruised after using his fists to defend the honour of our family Skoda Octavia against a rival’s claims that the Ford Mondeo was the superior family car? I doubt it. Now, I don’t want the boy fighting at all, but thinking back to the tribalism of my youth I can’t help but lament the future of car culture in this country, and while on this weekend I’m a died-in-the-wool Holden fan and, no, I really can’t explain why, I do hope a Falcon managed to cross the line first.