Ford’s EA series represented a new generation for the local nameplate, coinciding with Australia’s bicentennial. Here’s John Wright’s take on the landmark generation: In one of history’s interesting flukes, 1988 was also the year that Holden and Ford Australia each launched important new cars, cars that were meant to be futuristic, practical, quintessentially Australian and – to use a hackneyed phrase – ‘world class’.
Ford was first with its EA Falcon, introduced in March under the bland alliterative banner ‘Simply Stunning’. Elements of it were stunning – such as the entry-level 90kW 3.2-litre engine (quietly discontinued at the end of ’88), the poor panel fit (especially the heavy plastic bumpers) and the difficulties experienced with front-end alignment.
The EA had been ‘scooped’ by Wheels magazine some years before its debut. Just after the magazine appeared with the EA on the front cover I happened to be at Ford Australia with (the late) Brian Woodward having driven down from Sydney in a Fairlane which we were returning to base. PR boss Mike Jarvis laughed bravely when we asked him about the next Falcon and denied it point blank. We, of course, didn’t believe him.
Jarvis and his colleagues were nervous about the fact that Borg-Warner would not have the new four-speed electronic automatic transmission in time for the EA’s debut in February, 1988. And so Ford ambassador, Sir Jackie Stewart, was flown to Australia to address a group of journalists several months prior to launch. He spoke of the superb torque of the new 3.9-litre engine and how well it worked with the three-speed transmission.
There was no doubting the EA’s physical beauty and I thought it among the best looking sedans in the world at the time. The suspension was too soft, producing body roll and roll steer. But the Falcon S, with firmer suspension and wider Snoflake alloys, handled quite well.
And, yes, the three-speed automatic was – despite Sir Jackie’s efforts – far too old-fashioned. The problem was the final drive. The car ran out of rpm at about 170km/h in top where a five-speed manual with the optional multi-point engine could approach 200.
Specify the optional Multi-Point injection engine in a Falcon S with five-speed manual transmission and you had a better car than a VN Commodore.