Classic/Member Ride: Ford Falcon Futura XL

Ford Falcon Futura XL

An unloved classic gets a new lease on life.

It is 1962. John F Kennedy is president of the United States. Marilyn Monroe, one of the biggest movie stars in the world, dies unexpectedly at her Los Angeles home. The space race is underway and astronaut John Glenn orbits the Earth. In South Africa, Nelson Mandela is arrested. The first James Bond film is released. The Beatles release “Love Me Do”. In Australia, Perth hosts the Commonwealth Games.

This is the world into which Ford released its new-look Falcon, the Futura XL.

The Falcon had soared into the Australian market two years earlier with the XK. The model would remain a solid feature of the Ford family until 2016. The 1962 iteration was the first significant upgrade to the Falcon, to XL, a range-topping sedan—semi-luxury, semi-economy—and an answer to Holden’s EJ range. There were station wagon and utility models, too.

In its most basic form (with a three-speed stick shift and a 144-cubic-inch Falcon Six inline-six engine), the Futura cost £1070. (There was also a 170-cubic-inch version). It was both affordable and aspirational.

The new design had a characterful convex grille, bumper-mounted park and turn lights, new-look taillights and squared-off roofline.

Driven by Bob Jane and Harry Firth, the XL was first across the line in the 1962 Armstrong 500 at Philip Island—filling the first four places in Class B. Although it is perhaps less famous and less beloved than the iconic EJ Holden it competed against, the XL is undoubtedly an Australian classic. There were almost 76,000 of them produced in the less than two years it was in production (when it was replaced by the XM).

Ford Falcon Futura XL featuring the inside with red vivid seats contrasting with its exterior ocean blue colour

It was the remains of one of those original XLs that sat for years under the floorboards of a house in Toowoomba, Queensland. It was covered in dust and full of rust when Capricorn Member Nick Barton, of Barton’s Auto Electrical, bought it off a mate.

“We had to drag it out from under the house,” Nick said. “It was a rolling shell but with no tyres because the house was so low, so we rolled it out with steel wheels. It was bare.”

Nick took the XL to his workshop in the centre of town, intending for it to be a fun restoration project whenever he found the time. As so often happens, the vehicle sat there for ages, getting in the way, with very little progress.

“I asked my Dad if he could put the car in his shed,” Nick said. That’s when Covid-19 would intervene, changing the fortunes of the long-unloved XL forever. Nick’s Dad, Bruce—who started Barton Auto Electrical in 1982 and ran it until Nick took over the business in 2013—was a retired “grey nomad”, travelling Australia. The pandemic meant he was confined to the house and had a lot of time on his hands.

“He got bored sitting at home doing nothing and asked if I minded if he started fixing a few things on it—fixing a bit of rust and stuff like that,” Nick said. “So he just got stuck into it, and I was paying the bills and finding the parts and he was doing the manual labour.”

Bruce did the lot—from the panel beating to the paintwork. From a rusty rolling shell, the car was gradually rebuilt back to its former glory—only leaving Bruce’s shed once, to get an exhaust.

“It was probably meant to be a father and son project, but Dad’s done all the hard work,” Nick said. “He should get all the accolades, really.”

The interior has been redone to match the original. It still has drum brakes. There are still no seatbelts. But it’s not a pure restoration— although you can’t tell until you look under the bonnet. Gone is the old inline six, replaced by a 250 Log motor from an old XB Falcon.

“It’s a little bit longer so we had to adapt a few things, put the fans in front, but it all fits in there,” Nick said.

It’s car club registered, so Nick and his old man like to take it out for Sunday drives and shows with the local Aces and Eights Car Club in Toowoomba.

Nick said he had about 18 cars in his stable, including three Falcon XPs, which are yet to be restored, and “probably six different models of Commodore”.

Nick laughed at the suggestion that if he wants to get them all restored, he should stick one in his dad’s shed.

“He’s got one in there now!” he said.

1962 gave us many icons. JFK. Monroe. Bond. Mandela. Glenn. The Beatles. We don’t talk about the Falcon Futura XL in the same breath as those other legends, but perhaps we should? It has earned its place in the pantheon of the greats.

This article was published 07/12/2023 and the content is current as at the date of publication.