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Ford's T-Series toughens up

T-off: T-Series is now Ford's line in the sand against HSV.

Tickford's hot Falcons have the power, now they want the glory

Ford logo27 Nov 2001

FORD Australia has come out swinging with its latest Tickford-developed T-Series "T3" Falcon, president Geoff Polites declaring "we're not going to have sand kicked in our faces anymore".

With its power and torque figures now more than competitive with HSV's hot Commodores courtesy of a Tickford-stroked 5.6-litre version of the Windsor V8, Mr Polites and his team have made it clear that T3 is far more significant than the 400-odd sales it is expected to generate.

T3 is the third and final T-Series iteration based on the AU Falcon. Originally launched in October, 1999, as a more upmarket and subtle vehicle than HSV, it has failed to capture buyer imagination.

In T3 form it will go on sale on December 1 but will be superseded by the "Barra" T-Series range before the end of next year, which will be introduced with an all-new 5.4-litre modular V8.

Despite its short life span and the $1.5m cost of development - a budget provided by Ford in the US - Ford decided T3 had to become a reality.

"T3 is big in the sense that it's us saying we are not going to have sand kicked in our face anymore," Mr Polites said during last week's launch of T3 in Tasmania.

"We are fair dinkum about all this stuff." Ford performance cars marketing managing Rick Nayler said: "This car is a line in the sand or a stake in the ground, this is where we really start to get serious.

"This car is targeted directly at the sort of customers who currently buy HSV products. There's nothing to be ashamed about with this car, it is something that will cause that buyer demographic to seriously consider a T-Series." The T3 range, which continues to comprise TE50, TS50 and the long wheelbase TL50, is now priced and equipped to go head-to-head with its hot Holden opposition.

That means both the TE and the TL rise in price. But the TS50, the flagship car in the range, has dropped by a staggering $8005 to line up directly against the ClubSport R8.

Even more importantly in terms of image, Ford is claiming the manual TE and TS Falcons accelerate fractionally faster than their ClubSport equivalents, with a 5.9-second 0-100km/h time and a 14.1-second quarter mile.

The Windsor delivers that extra power thanks to an all-new crankshaft, ported cylinder head with high performance springs and valves, billet machined connecting rods, lightweight pistons with fully floating pins, a revised camshaft profile, an 82mm diameter throttle body, three-piece high-flow inlet manifold and conical air cleaner with dedicated mass air flow sensor. Most of those parts have been developed and manufactured in Australia.

The result is the most powerful production Falcon ever and certainly one of the few volume-manufacture based cars in the world to have a hand-built engine.

To signify that, each engine carries a build plate signed by the Tickford technician who worked on it.

Mr Polites said the introduction of the T3 was important for Ford fans, who had not warmed to the T1 and T2 T-Series ranges because of their power inadequacies compared to HSV, and their less aggressive styling.

"If you read the internet site I correspond with, the guys on that have been so excited about the prospect of seeing this vehicle ultimately come about. They have been following its progress in the press and they are genuinely excited about Ford being in this business again." Mr Nayler emphasised the power of the people in the emergence of T3.

"That's the way it should be, customers should drive the end product. It's not much good - producing something the customers don't want," he said.

"I was always sure in my mind that's (T3) what customers wanted us to do and this product that Tickford has produced is a testimony to that. We are pretty much convinced that is what the customers are looking for. They want something that is a credible competitor."

Advertising coup

FORD'S decision to target HSV with T-Series has even included hiring its rival's old advertising agency, KWP, to sell the struggling performance brand.

KWP ended its association with HSV about two years ago. Its recruitment to T-series is particularly significant because of Ford's worldwide relationship with J.Walter Thompson.

"It's a huge change if you understand internal Ford culture to have a separate agency," Ford Australia performance cars marketing managing Rick Nayler said.

"To have this little group do this car is quite significant." The link grew out of the hiring of KWP's sister company Total Brand Management to conduct a review of T-Series brand almost two years ago.

Mr Nayler said the company's previous association with HSV would help grow the T-Series.

"I think it is a good thing to move it away, to get it away from being caught up in the normal grind," he said.

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