With the recent resurgence in the popularity of high-performance Ford vehicles, it's only natural that previous models will now be looked back on in a new light. In Part One of this series we looked at the EB to EL Ford XR8s. This time we'll check out the most powerful Windsor-powered machines – the late-model AU Falcon XR8 and the various limited edition models.
Following the EB-EL shape XR8, Ford Australia introduced the all-new AU model in 1998.
The AU Falcon copped plenty of flack about its innovative styling when released but, thankfully, the XR version managed to escape much of this criticism thanks to its more attractive quad headlight front-end. XR8s were also fitted with a subtle body kit and an optional bi-level rear spoiler, which is said to generate actual downforce – it doesn't merely reduce rear aero lift.
But the biggest news in the AU Falcon was the long-awaited introduction of a double wishbone independent rear suspension. This – combined with a host of other chassis and suspension changes – gives the AU XR8 class-leading handling and stability. The standard wheel size is 16 inch but many buyers spent extra on 17s.
Under its bonnet, the AU XR8 adopts a Windsor 5.0 that was said to be designed for the US-market Ford Explorer. This engine brought new heads, inlet manifold, camshaft and the EEC-V engine management was recalibrated to suit. Peak power remained pegged at 185kW but peak torque increases slightly to 412Nm (achieved at 5000 and 3500 rpm respectively).
Fitted with either a revised 5 speed manual or 4 speed auto, the 1650-odd kilogram AU XR8 can accelerate to 100 km/h in the low 8 second range. The quarter mile takes a shade under 16.0 seconds.
In today's second-hand market, an AU XR8 costs around AUD$17,000 to AUD$25,000. But note that this applies only to the AU XR8 Series 1...
For the 2000 Series 2 version of the AU XR8, the faithful Windsor V8 was given another major revision.
Struggling to compete with Holden's newly introduced 5.7 litre LS1 V8, Ford Australia gave the Windsor an upgrade to the tune of 200kW at 5000 rpm and 420Nm at 3650 rpm. This powerplant – when backed with the base 5 speed manual gearbox – delivers a LS1-beating launch but falls behind as road speed increases. The AUII XR8 can rip to 100 km/h in the low 7 second bracket and does the quarter mile thing in low 15s - not hanging around.
The XR8 ute received the 200kW donk in early 2001.
To cope with the extra speed, Ford offered standard dual-pot front brakes and an optional 329mm Premium brake package. Other options include leather, a high-end sound system and body kit. The body received less daring styling and the original AU XR8's bi-level rear spoiler was dropped to make way for a conventional single element spoiler.
And just when you thought you'd seen everything the AU had to offer, the Series II was boosted to 220kW half way through its model run.
The 220kW Windsor was hand-built by Tickford and features reengineered cast iron heads, a match-ported intake manifold, larger throttle body, ceramic coated headers and revised camshaft. Fuel pressure was also increased and the management system was recalibrated. Compression ratio had crept up to 9.4:1 – still low enough to cope with normal unleaded fuel.
Producing 220kW at 5250 rpm and 435Nm at 4000 rpm, the late AUII XR8 is decidedly quick. In 5 speed manual guise, it can launch to 100 km/h in high 6s and run the quarter mile in high 14s.
The final AU XR8 – the AUIII – appeared in late 2001 was available with the choice of a traditional XR appearance or a Ford Racing body kit. It was unaltered mechanically.
Second-hand, these 220kW monsters fetch around $25 to $30 grand.
The AUIII stepped aside for the BA series in late 2002.
Limited Edition Ford V8s
Not long after the release of the original EB-series XR8, Ford rekindled the glory days of old and released another Falcon GT.
The 1992 25th Anniversary EB Falcon GT employs a heavily reworked Windsor 5.0 with big valve GT40 heads, hydraulic lifters, roller rockers, a high-flow intake manifold and throttle body, large diameter airflow meter and a recalibrated engine management system. This gave the EBII GT an even 200kW at 5200 rpm and 420Nm of torque at 4000 rpm.
It was more than enough to take on HSVs from the same era.
The EBII GT was available with a T5 5 speed featuring a heavy-duty Mustang Cobra gearset and upgraded bearings, while the optional 4 speed auto was a recalibrated BTR 85LE unit. The auto version uses a shorter diff ratio than the manual.
A comprehensive add-on aero kit, bigger brakes, improved suspension, 17 inch alloys and mega-dollar 235/40 Pirelli P Zero tyres give the EBII GT all-round talents to match its grunt. Its high price tag also meant full leather/timber trim, climate control and electric everything was essential.
Unfortunately, the 'give it everything' approach contributed to a substantial 1646kg kerb weight. Combine this with doubts that the engine really made 200kW and it's no surprise the EBII GT struggles to hit 100 km/h in 7.5 seconds. Auto versions took low 8s and around 16 seconds to run the quarter mile.
Ford retrospectively admitted the Ford was built as a luxury express to satisfy men who had once owned GT Falcons of the '60s and '70s.
An immaculate 1992 EB GT currently fetches around AUD$20,000 due to its collector appeal.
ED XR8 Sprint
Hot on the heels of the EBII GT was the ED XR8 Sprint – a vehicle that offers virtually the same performance without all the hoo-ha.
The XR8 Sprint is equipped with essentially the same engine as the EBII GT but, curiously, it is quoted with 8kW less. The Sprint is said to generate 192kW at 5000 rpm and 404Nm at 4000 rpm.
Also available in 5 speed manual and 4 speed auto form, the cloth trimmed XR8 Sprint weighs almost 100kg less than the EBII GT and takes only 7.3 seconds to accelerate to 100 km/h. The quarter mile requires only 15.0 seconds of your time.
Visually, the XR8 Sprint received unique chunky-style 16 inch alloys and Sprint badges. The interior is standard ED XR8 fare with the addition of a Momo wheel.
An ED XR8 Sprint currently costs around AUD$15,000 depending on kilometres and condition.
The GT name was dusted off once again for the 1997 EL Falcon series.
The EL GT – which is based on the top-line Fairmont Ghia – is equipped with a total of 11 stick-on body parts and an integrated bonnet vent. The look is, well, controversial but unarguably attention-getting... At least the rear spoiler is effective – it is said to reduce rear axle lift by a massive 70 percent.
Behind its vertical barred grille are a pair of air intake scoops, which ram induction air into a free-flow induction system. The intake manifold was also swapped for a mandrel bent tubular set-up with a 65mm throttle body. The heads are cast-iron GT40 items with 2mm oversize inlet valves and providing a 9.0:1. compression ratio. Interestingly, the cam profile is identical to that used in the cooking model Windsor but increased valve lift is achieved through the use of 1.7:1 roller rockers (instead of conventional 1.6:1 units). Exhaust gasses pulse through 4>1 headers, twin cat converters and dual mufflers.
The EL GT's quoted power output is 200kW at 4700 rpm and it has 420Nm of torque at 3700 rpm. There's no doubting its power and torque figures, but its limited rev range is far from sporting.
The live axle suspension is retuned while 17 inch wheels, 329mm front discs and twin-spot calipers come standard. The cabin is decked out with leather trim, wood inlays, a Momo wheel, 240 km/h speedo and all the power luxuries Ford had available. This, like the EBII GT, adds weight and the EL GT tips the scales at 1668kg.
As a result, its straight-line performance is nothing astounding – 0 – 100 km/h in the mid 7s and the quarter takes mid 15s.
Price wise, an EL GT costs a bit more than a comparable EBII GT – up to around AUD$25,000 for one in collector's condition.
During the AU Series 1 timeframe, Ford's newly formed FTE division released the T-series.
The 1999 TE50 and Fairlane-based TL50 were the first AU models to use a 200kW version of the Windsor. The 200kW output was achieved using a more aggressive camshaft, aluminium roller rockers and bigger induction piping. Peak power arrives at 5000 rpm while peak torque – 420Nm – can be reached at 3750 rpm.
Marketed alongside the TE and TL50 was the mid-spec TS50, which boasted a full 220kW and 435Nm. Further camshaft development, big valve aluminium heads, a flow-matched GT40-type intake manifold, bigger throttle body, upgraded exhaust manifolds and cat converters and increased fuel pressure are required to achieve the 220kW output. Compression ratio remains at a mild 9.0:1. Note that both power and torque arrive at higher revs – peak power is at 5250 rpm and peak torque is at 4000 rpm. Unfortunately, much of the Windsor's previous refinement has been lost – the 220kW TS50 has a lumpy idle, which is a tell-tale sign of its relatively hot cam.
An electronic sports shift auto transmission – with buttons on the steering wheel – was standard for the first time in the TS and TL50 and was optional on the TE50.
Both TE and TS50s employ 329 x 28mm front discs with Cobra Mustang calipers. The discs are grooved and the master cylinder is modified to suit. The independent suspension systems of each are improved over the XR8. TS and TL50s also employ Koni dampers and traction control. Unique 17 inch alloys and 235/45 tyres come fitted to the TE, while the TS50 and TL50 use 18s with 245/40s.
A chrome mesh grille, colour-coded headlight bezels and other subtle body touches give the TE-series their own look. Interiors are also upgraded, with the TE50 having sports fabric trim and the TS and TL50s having leather. A Momo wheel comes standard.
And what about performance?
Well, high 6 second 0 – 100s are typical for the manual 220kW TS50. TL50 autos take about 7.5 seconds.
When the Falcon AUII upgrade came along, the T-series received some important revisions.
The 200kW engine was dropped so the TE/TS and TL50 were now standard with 220kW/435Nm. A manual gearbox was also available on the TE and TS50s. Mechanically, the AUII T-series vehicles were given a revised cam profile, SVO alloy heads and recalibrated engine management to provide improved bottom-end performance. The big 329mm brake package was also made standard on TS and TL50s and optional on the TE50.
Other engineering changes made to the AUII range apply to the T-series and there are other minor trim and detail changes. It appears that buyers wanted a greater variety of colours and styling options – not everyone wanted a subtle look.
And now for what is the ultimate Windsor engine development – the Australian-built 5.6 litre stroker.
For late 2001, FTE released the hairy-chested T3 range of TE, TS and TL50s.
The T3s share the same under-bonnet monster – a 5.6 litre stroked Windsor. The big-cube motor is hand-built with a new crankshaft, ported GT40P iron heads with hi-po springs and valves, billet rods, lightweight 9.6:1 pistons, revised cam, 82mm throttle body, unique high-flow intake manifold and a conical air filter with a dedicated airflow meter.
Power and torque?
Try 250kW at 5250 rpm and a monster 500Nm at 4250 rpm!
It's no surprise these machines – despite weighing over 1700kg - can rip to 100 km/h in around 6.0 seconds in Tremec 5 speed manual form. The spread of torque and throttle responsive is also very strong. Just don't expect a huge amount of refinement – the 5.6 shakes around at idle and suffers excess vibration at high revs.
Based on the AU Series III, the T3s feature a heavy-duty Dana M78 LSD, 355mm front discs with 4 pot Brembos, 18 inch wheels and an aggressive body kit on TE/TS50 models. Note that a 5.6 litre FTE Pursuit 250 ute was also released.
We've seen early 200kW TE50s appear for sale from AUD$25,000 while 5.6 litre TS50s nudge AUD$45,000.
The stroker T3s go into the history books as the undisputed king of Aussie Windsor performance. The only other Ford V8 that's managed to upstage them is the current DOHC beast 5.4 in the BA-series.