It was 1991 when Ford Australia jumped back into the V8 space, re-declaring war with Holden in the process.
For the Blue Oval purists, this was Ford agreeing that it was wrong to drop its bent-eight heroes for 1984’s XF Falcon range.
At the time Ford argued that the modernisation of its long-tenured 4.1-litre straight-six, complete with unleaded fuel alloy head and electronic fuel injection, gave most of the V8’s grunt but was far more efficient.
The beancounters may have been proven right, the XF range outselling the VL Commodore competition, but something was lost: on the street, the brand had no sparkle.
No longer were up-and-coming bluebloods able to lust after a local muscle car to compete with their mates in HDT-fettled Commodores.
By 1991, the V8 goalposts had moved even further away. Holden’s latest 5.0-litre ‘304’ engine was updated with electronic fuel injection, generating 165kW on a diet of unleaded… and up to 215kW in VN Group A form.
In contrast, the 1988-1990 EA Falcon flagship was a 3.9-litre multi-point fuel-injected straight-six with 139kW. It was a performance gap Ford could no longer ignore.
Come August of that year, Australian car magazines were splashing Ford’s latest EB-series Falcon across their covers… with the big news being the return of V8 power.
Rather than a development of the Australian-built 4.9- and 5.8-litre V8s that were phased out in the 1980s, the new EB sported an import sourced straight from a Mustang’s snout.
Also displacing 4.9 litres (or 302ci in the old money), this overhead-valve ‘Windsor’ donk had its origins in the 1960s, however, like the Commodore engine it now benefitted from sophisticated fuel injection and electronic engine management.
Power matched the standard VN Commodore’s 165kW, but the Ford had a 3Nm torque advantage: 385Nm against 388Nm.
To make the most of this new-found power, Ford produced the very first Falcon XR8, or ‘S XR8’ as it was officially described at launch.
By 1992’s EB Series 2 range, the S XR8 had been further developed in collaboration with England’s Tickford Vehicle Engineering (TVE), an association that would continue for the following decade.
As well as the regular production S XR8 (and its hi-po six-cylinder sibling, the S XR6), TVE was tasked to bring the Falcon GT nameplate into the 1990s.
Again using the Windsor motor as a base, the reborn Falcon GT produced an apparent 200kW – matching it with HSV’s VP GTS – however, in practice wasn’t much faster than the S XR8, as it was saddled with a hefty body kit and luxury specification.
As the millennium drew to a close, the Ford/TVE tie-up had some hits – the strong-yet-subtle ED Falcon XR8 Sprint, for example – however, HSV continued to push the performance envelope more overtly.
A stroked, 5.7-litre version of the venerable Australian HSV V8 punched holes in the Falcon’s torque curve, and when the updated VT Commodore switched to an imported, 220kW 5.7-litre Chevrolet V8 as its base engine, the ageing 175kW (185kW in the XR8) Windsor motor had sung its last song… or so the world thought.
A true Tickford Experience
In late 1998 Ford moved directly into HSV territory by forming the ‘Ford Tickford Experience’ to coincide with the controversial AU Falcon’s launch.
Under the FTE banner, Tickford would create bespoke ‘T-Series’ machines that featured stronger performance and higher luxury than the regular Falcon V8s offered.
Starting with 1999’s T1 Series, Ford offered a Falcon-based TE50, a Fairmont-based TS50 and a top-line TL50 that transformed the Fairlane Ghia luxo barge.
Styling was less divisive than the AU-Series XRs with their quad-headlight fronts, Tickford instead adopting a more sophisticated sporting look.
The venerable 4.9-litre V8 was massaged to 200kW for the TE50 and 220kW – complete with aluminium heads – for the TS50. Roller rockers were employed, as well as a more aggressive camshaft and less restrictive exhaust, among other detail modifications.
In late-2000 the series was updated to T2 specification, the TE50 also receiving the 220kW engine, though it oddly lost the premium brake package that was standard on the T1 version.
Still, the HSV horsepower race dictated another raft of upgrades, resulting in the T3 range.
FTE stroked the Windsor to 5605cc, finally reaching towards the 5.7-litre opposition. With a 9.6:1 compression ratio, billet connecting rods and lightweight pistons, the ‘5.6’ generated 250kW at 5250rpm and 500Nm at 4250rpm – improvements of 30kW and 65Nm respectively.
The entry TE50 housed a heavy-duty five-speed manual gearbox and retailed for $57,350 in 2002. A four-speed automatic, with what Ford called ‘Electronic Sports Shift’ that allowed sequential or wheel-mounted shifting, was optional for an additional $1000 outlay.
Specific 18-inch alloy wheels featured 245/40 Dunlop SP Sport 9000 tyres and worked with Tickford-specific double wishbone front and independent rear suspension systems, with a Koni system optional (standard on TS50 and TL50).
Braking was via an ABS system with two-piston callipers all round, though a Brembo four-piston set-up with larger discs was optional.
The stroker TE50 could hit 100km/h in under six seconds, giving The General something to think about: though the HSV GTS hit 300kW at that time, it was priced north of $90,000.
Despite this continuous series improvement, Ford and FTE broke up when the BA Falcon came out.
With the new-age, 260kW DOHC ‘Boss’ V8 in the regular XR8 and a punchy 240kW turbo six in the new XR6 Turbo, Ford’s regular range moved the performance game on and Tickford was quietly retired.
Ford Performance Vehicles had arrived in the shape of a 290kW Falcon GT… but that’s a story for another day.
A prime example
According to its owner, the vehicle you see here was build number 002 of the T3 TE50 production run and was highly optioned from new, being a display vehicle at a Sydney dealership.
As such it has the tasty (and $5350 when new) Brembo brake package as well as rear sensors, premium sound, full charcoal leather and sunroof. It also sports the four-speed ‘electronic sports shift’ automatic.
According to the T-Series Club of Australia, it is one of 26 T3 TE50s to be finished in the Silhouette black exterior finish.
It’s travelled less than 155,000km in its 17-year lifetime, and the selling owner clearly adores it, having owned it for the last 13 of those years.
Kept largely standard, apart from a chrome air inlet pipe and overflow tank, this nicely-specified T3 TE50 is up for grabs at $22,000.
Rare, and with Aussie ingenuity built-in to the stroker Windsor V8, we reckon the asking price makes it a bona-fide bargain.