By Barry Green
“Today is an emotional day for all of us,” Ford Australia CEO Graeme Whickman said. “We are saying goodbye to some of our proud and committed employees and marking an end to 91 years of manufacturing in Australia.”
Yes, it was truly a time for reflection, not just for Ford management and employees but the Australian populace at large.
As a car buff of five decades and a motoring writer of more recent times, I can look back through blue oval eyes on a fleet of Fords that I have either owned or driven, raced or road tested. Some locally made, others imported.
The best? That’s easy – the legendary American muscle car, a 1965 Mustang GT, a brilliant example of which I drove and wrote about here.
Another standout was the previous generation Focus RS hot hatch, a five-cylinder rocket of which just 315 were imported to Australia in 2011.
The latest Focus RS is said to be something else again, but I’ve yet to luck into time behind the wheel. It’s a similar story with the new Mustang GT. Despite Ford’s ongoing assurances that there’s one on the way, I have yet to drive a press car all these months later.
Bang-for-buck has to be the feisty little Fiesta ST. At just $25,990, it rewrote the parameters for affordable, exploitable fun hatchbacks with its sharp handling and entertaining response.
Of the locally-made iron, back in the 1990s a borrowed Capri convertible enabled me to take to the hillclimb tracks at Mt Cotton and Toowoomba’s Echo Valley and sample grass roots motorsport without too much twitching of the hip pocket nerve.
Then there were the various performance-focused Falcons and FPVs that delighted and thrilled in equal measure – a V8 Supercar replica trackday car that Marcos Ambrose put his signature to, along with the final FG-X XR8 (click here and then select the Compare Luxury Cars tab) and brawny GT-E come instantly to mind.
How ironic that the best Falcons ever designed and made coincided with a terminal slide in traditional Aussie family car sales?