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Falcon coupe: GT or not to be?

Show-stopper: The joint-venture Falcon 300+ coupe received an overwhelmingly positive reception at Melbourne motor show in March, but will it ever hit the road?

Falcon coupe project stalls as Ford puts Falcon 300+ ball back in AEC's court

23 Apr 2001

THE future of a supercharged V8 Falcon coupe is in doubt and will be decided this week during a face-to-face crisis meeting between Ford Australia president Geoff Polites and the brainchild of the Falcon 300+ project, Perth-based Advanced Engine Components Limited's Danny Williams.

The appearance of the two-door Falcon concept car on the Ford stand at the Melbourne motor show in March attracted a level of public and factory support not experienced by a Blue Oval car in many years.

It is rumoured up to 15 firm orders were placed by customers at the show, but no deposits have been taken.

Ford's own enthusiasm for the project extended as far as allowing Millard Design, the company responsible for the styling of the joint-venture project at the request of Ford, to bless the radical Falcon coupe with 2002 "Barra series" AV Falcon headlights. But since then the Blue Oval board appears to have gone cold on the project.

"The ball is in AEC's court," Ford marketing manager performance cars Rick Nayler said last week.

"We've asked them to go back and show us they can do this thing in a way that would be acceptable to us in terms of quality and the like. And they're preparing that submission as we speak. Only then will we make a decision, so it's still up in the air at the moment." Ford has requested that AEC present a full engineering and financial business case before the project goes any further but AEC, which has already invested a reputed $1 million in the project, is adamant its responsibility lies only with proving to the Federal Office of Road Safety that the car's 310kW, 4.6 litre V8 powerplant is "engineeringly sound" and to gain secondary manufacturer's compliance.

Mr Nayler also quashed any suggestions the blown Falcon coupe would be badged a GT.

"I can confirm that the 300+ will not carry the GT badge. GT is firmly a Ford product and the two-door is a collaborative effort," he said.

Ford has committed to selling, warranting and servicing the two-door through its national dealer network and would supply the AEC/Millard joint-venture with body-in-white Falcons to begin producing a limited production runs of 100 cars early next year.

AEC also recently acquired ownership of Bullet Supercars, a Tweed Heads-based company that builds Mazda MX-5-based supercharged V8 sports cars, with the intention of building the wild Shelby Cobra-type vehicle at the same manufacturing facility.

But due to the low volume nature of the project it is believed "ownership of the project" and an ability to turn a profit have become the major sticking points.

Millard's expertise includes the ability to produce the low volume tooling necessary to produce the unique coupe sheetmetal, and it's believed customer capital would offset the cost of building a production facility.

However, to make the venture viable or even profitable, it would need to include the manufacture of less expensive models to be sold alongside the image leading 300+ flagship.

These could include anything from an otherwise standard Falcon sedan with the 310kW V8 to the $100,000 full house 310+ model with Brembo brakes, leather interior and Momo gear. Or, as Holden plans to do with its two-door Monaro, to offer a number of six and eight-cylinder engine options in the coupe range.

Problem is, both options are believed to have received a cold response from Ford executives, who are also unwilling to spend any money on the project due to their focus on the extensive $200 million AV Falcon facelift due late next year.

AEC is believed to have a solution that does not involve any financial input from Ford but requires Broadmeadows to share its confidential body design computer interface. In effect, Ford would have to "bare its soul" by opening doors previously locked to all but its performance partner, Tickford Vehicle Engineering.

Ford was able to gain a strategically important coup over Holden by revealing the show-stopping Falcon 300+ in Melbourne. Now it appears only Ford president Geoff Polites can prevent that coup becoming a hollow promise.

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