IT WOULD be easy to dismiss the original XR6 as a fluke that took.
Like a nick-name from your youth that stuck or a reputation for a one-off incident (you touch one goat, for example) the XR6 seemed like a half-baked experiment at the time, yet it worked so well, the badge has stuck around for almost half the Falcon’s lifespan.
Even the original name of the model was Falcon S XR6, as if Ford was admitting that if it didn’t associate the XR6 tag with the S badge, nobody would get the gag.
But here’s how you know the XR6 was indeed a serious tilt at a new market sector: the EB model in which it first appeared was also the model that Ford used to reintroduce the V8 engine option.
And if you think Ford would risk muddying the water in that particular puddle for the sake of a toe-in-the-water six-banger, you’d be dead wrong. Nope, the XR6 was always part of the long-term plan, it’s just that back in 1992, the XR6 was still feeling its way a bit.
Of course, so was the organisation overseeing its development. Tickford Vehicle Engineering was newly minted and had been set-up as a counter-point to Holden’s HSV. So the XR6 got the Tickford treatment including alloy wheels and some small trim touches but, crucially, a modified cylinder head and different camshaft that saw the 4.0-litre SOHC Ford six sprout an extra 13kW for a total of 161, an unheard-of figure for an Aussie six at that point.
As well as being sensational value, the original XR6 was also a good drive. It still felt and sounded more or less like a Falcon but that wasn’t all bad either. The accurate steering remained and the tweaked suspension was a pretty decent compromise between ride and handling.
And when you got up it, that old six fairly took off. The extra kilowatts could actually be felt, yet the torque of the thing meant you didn’t need to rev it hard, and the popular automatic option was truly viable. In fact, with shorter overall gearing (thanks to a shorter diff) than the XR8, the six was a tad quicker to 100km/h although, after that, the V8 reeled it in. Still, as a real-world package, the point had been made.
When you think about it, a hotted up six-cylinder family car was a no-brainer. Consider the success Holden had with its GTR and XU1 Toranas that included winning Bathurst and giving its whole range an aspirational tune up.
Clearly the actual notion of a performance car having just six pots wasn’t too hard to comprehend. Thanks to the solid basics of the EB XR6, that was precisely the reality. And when you think that without that first XR6 there would never have been an XR6 Turbo, we owe the hot six-banger EB an even bigger debt of gratitude.
Engine: 3984cc 6cyl, SOHC, 12v
What's our fave Falcon? Check out MOTOR's take on the top 10 Fast Ford Falcons ever made here.