This is a rare Ford Falcon XY 4×4 Ute – if you’ve never seen one before that’s entirely understandable, just 432 of them were ever made and they were exclusively sold in the Australian market.
The example you see here is now being offered for sale by Blak Douglas, one of Australia’s most prominent artists and the winner of slew of awards including the prestigious Archibald Prize in 2022.
Fast Facts – The Ford Falcon XY 4X4 Ute
- The Ford Falcon XY 4X4 Ute was developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s as a potential new 4×4 for the Australian armed forces.
- The project showed a lot of promise, and there was a surge in interest in the vehicle from regular Australians after spy shots of an early prototype appeared in the press.
- The military version of the XY 4X4 Ute would never see the light of day as the army opted to stick with more familiar body-on-chassis designs from Land Rover.
- Due to public demand 432 XY Ute chassis were converted to full 4×4 and offered for sale in 1973 after significant delays, they all sold and today the vehicle remains one of the rarest of the Australian production Fords.
A New 4×4 For Australia’s Military. Almost.
In the late 1960s the Australian military was looking to acquire new four-wheel drive vehicles that would be a little more powerful than the four-cylinder Land Rovers they then had in service.
Ford Australia got wind of this potentially lucrative new military contract and set to work developing a four-wheel drive version of their model XY ute, ute being a shortened form of “utility” which is used to describe single or double cab vehicles with a pickup or cargo tray rear in Australia and New Zealand.
As it happened, Ford was working closely with Willys at the time, the local importer of Jeeps, supplying them with engines and other parts from their Falcon model line to ensure that spare parts availability for Australian Jeep owners would be straight forward.
As a result of this connection Ford had access to Jeep’s highly respected drivetrain hardware – and they opted to use it on their prototype rather than develop a new system from scratch.
Sadly the XY 4×4 was never even tested by the military, they decided to stay with the rugged body-on-chassis Land Rover, but opted for the more powerful six-cylinder engine rather than the more common four-cylinder unit.
The Ford Falcon XY 4X4 Ute
Despite the significant setback of missing out on the military contract Ford executives decided to stay the course and develop a production version of the car – based largely on the fact that spy shots of a prototype had been published in the media and the public reaction had been overwhelmingly positive.
The biggest challenge faced by the engineering team was getting a leaf sprung front axle assembly under the front of the XY Falcon, a car that had been designed with independent front suspension on coil springs.
Significant strengthening and reinforcement was necessary front and back, particularly in the front where a new steel frames were added from the firewall forwards to better cope with the weight and loads of the live axle.
The inline-six cylinder engine needed to be tilted to one side to allow clearance between the sump and the front differential, this also required an angled adapter be fitted to the intake to keep the carburetor level.
Power was provided by the venerable Ford Falcon six-cylinder 4.1 liter overhead valve engine, it produced 155 bhp at 4,000 rpm and 240 ft lbs of torque at just 1,600 rpm making it ideal for off-road use.
Power was sent back to a Borg Warner AS5 T15A three-speed synchromesh manual gearbox, and from there to a Spicer Model 20 two-speed transfer case. As was common in the era the brakes were drums front and back along with 16″ steel wheels and relatively slim 6.00 x 16″ all-terrain tires.
A production run of 432 vehicles was planned, no one is quite sure why this specific number was chosen, but production was delayed significantly due to the Dana front axles needing to be shipped across the Pacific from the USA.
Ford developed a series of three options for the XY 4×4 which are now exceedingly rare, they included an 8,000 lb PTO winch (Power Take-Off, shaft-driven from the centrally-mounted transfer case), a heavy duty tow bar, and a steel-framed high canvas canopy for over the rear cargo area.
Due to the labor intensive nature of the build process of the Falcon XY 4×4 they were all essentially hand-built, with assembly needing to take place on weekends in order to avoid slowing down the main production line during the week.
Despite the incredible popularity of the XY 4×4 Ford opted to discontinue the program after the first 432 were built. In hindsight is seems like an off choice given the incredible popularity of the vehicle and the fact that it was potentially the beginning of a whole new market genre.
Looking forward four decades and Ford has now all but discontinued its regular car sales in Australia with just the small Puma left in production – the rest of the model range consists of SUVs, 4×4 pickup trucks, and commercial vehicles.
Blak Douglas was born Adam Douglas Hill in Blacktown, Sydney to a Dhungatti Indigenous Australian father and a Caucasian mother. He trained professionally in illustration and photography before becoming a self-taught painter.
As a classically trained Yidaki (didgeridoo) player Blak Douglas has performed both in Australia and around the world with the likes of Albert David, Christine Anu, Gondwanna Voices, Paul Jarman, Jessica Mauboy, Jane Rutter, Music Viva, and Peter Sculthorpe.
Some of his most notable performances have been on Australian Idol, with the The Deadlys, the Rugby World Cup opening ceremony, and the welcome for Nelson Mandela.
It would be through his art that Blak Douglas would become a household name in Australia, he won the Blacktown City Art Prize in 2002 followed by two wins of the Mil-Pra Art Prize, Maria Locke Award, and most recently the Archibald Prize in 2022.
The Archibald Prize is Australia’s most prestigious portraiture art prize, first being awarded in 1921 and then every year since. Douglas won for his painting titled “Moby Dickens,” a portrait of Wiradjuri artist Karla Dickens from Bundjalung Country in Lismore (see it pictured above).
Blak Douglas’ Falcon XY 4X4 Ute
Blak Douglas bought this XY 4×4 Ute four years ago specifically to use it as a daily driver, he nicknamed it “Xanthia” and it’s often used to transport his paintings and supplies around Sydney thanks to the ample room in the rear for cargo.
The vehicle has become a regular at many Australian car meet ups, including Cars & Coffee events, where it always draws a crowd of curious onlookers – many of whom have heard of the almost mythical XY 4×4 but never actually seen one.
The bright yellow “Summer Gold” paintwork is rare on the XY 4×4, just four left the factory wearing this color, and when combined with the vehicle’s unusual looks it draws the eye of people as it’s driven around – becoming a drivable billboard for Douglas in the process.
With a new vehicle project in the works Blak Douglas has decided it’s time to part with his beloved ute, he’s selling it out of Sydney, Australia and you can contact him via the XY’s own dedicated Instagram account here if you’d like to enquire about buying it.
Images copyright – Benjamin Branch ©2022 – Silodrome
Articles that Ben has written have been covered on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, Autoweek Magazine, Wired Magazine, Autoblog, Gear Patrol, Jalopnik, The Verge, and many more.
Silodrome was founded by Ben back in 2010, in the years since the site has grown to become a world leader in the alternative and vintage motoring sector, with well over a million monthly readers from around the world and many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.