2002 Ford AU Falcon 'Arrow' Coupe: classic MOTOR

The Arrow flew in the face of Ford’s reluctance to compete with Monaro. And we were the first to thrash it

2002 Ford Arrow Coupe review classic MOTOR

The Falcon-based Arrow coupe represents car customisation in the same way Pablo Escobar represents pharmacology. I mean, not even a Jesuit could withstand the very real urge to drive it like an obstreperous wasteoid.

This feature was originally published in MOTOR’s June 2002 issue

If you’ve a lazy $165 large stuffed under the Posturepedic, and you rue the day Ford’s bureaucrats decided ‘boring’ was hip, the Arrow’s 370kW, two doors and four seats can be yours.

You want the ultimate Monaro competitor; you’re looking at it. And Ford’s not involved, so the Arrow’s limited production aspirations might be realised, unlike the growing list of hot concepts Ford’s beancounters have managed to sideline.

Does it go? You bet. The massive Pirelli P-Zero Asymetricos – 285/35 ZR19 down the pushing end and 245/40 ZR18 up the pointing end – are only just up to the job, frankly. You want sideways? Set that right Blunnie to ‘shred’ and watch those P-Zeros disappear, son.

If you drive the Arrow, just remember that there are two equally effective steering devices – the wheel and the throttle. Profligate application of the latter will see you back off the road when you least expect it.

Calling the Arrow a ‘production’ car would be stretching veracity further than Roseanne’s bike pants. It’s a hot rod whose saving grace is that much of the fundamentally sound Ford engineering remains unchanged. That means it’s spared the evil ergonomics and dynamic flaws that clean-sheet one-offs display if megabucks in R&D haven’t been part of the exercise.

Flaws are minor – the clutch pedal’s too heavy; the brake too soft. Strange noises issue from the power steering when she’s heeled over hard at 5000rpm in third and the shifter wants to be disobedient. The kind of things that used to be called ‘character’ before perfection became the golden fleece for auto designers.

The Arrow’s idle feels lumpier than Plastic Pammy from the waist up. Throttle response off idle is not on the pace – it’s easy to stall – but there’s a helluva lot to like about how the Arrow sounds (and goes) at 6000rpm, just before the rev limiter cuts in.

 

It’s all induction, bellowing exhaust and the kind of neck-snapping acceleration that comes only with the best part of 400kW abetted by more than half a Newton-kilometre of torque. That much old-fashioned grunt blurs the line between second and third-gear corners; both gears feel right.

The Arrow is what happens when two hearse builders from the bush, Troy and Clayton Hillier, from Tenterfield-based Hillier Conversions in northern NSW, join forces with Sydney-based MOMO, Recaro and Speedline distributor, Bob Roman of Autotek.

Hillier accepts used AU Falcons for conversion – anything from a bought-yesterday XR8 to a high-mileage taxi – while Roman waves his magic trim and fit out wand over the conversion, which can take up to 15 weeks all up.

Hillier and Autotek jointly promote the vehicle, but you buy it from Hillier. Because the converted cars are existing, registered AUs, Hillier gets an accredited engineer to report on each car to ensure ongoing registration compliance.

Hillier will do anything from convert a taxi to a coupe (and return it to the owner on taxi running gear) to build the equivalent of this vehicle. Price ranges from $35,000 to $165,000, depending on which of the dozens of boxes your bank manager lets you tick.

Troy Hillier says there’s actually more work in producing a hearse than the Arrow. Still, every panel except the boot lid gets up close and personal with the MIG welder. The roof is lowered at the rear, and
all-new quarter panels are fabricated and welded in. The B-pillar goes back around 200mm, with a corresponding increase in front door length. Bigger intrusion beams are fitted for side-impact compliance.

A new, deeper sill is welded over the existing sill, while all wheel arches are unpicked and boosted. The distinctively angled up crease along the body side is added in. The only fibreglass components are the front and rear bumpers, as well as the rear deck spoiler.

The headlights? Yeah, Mercedes-Benz. Or, in Hillier-speak, “European Bosch”. Neither Hillier nor Roman will use the ‘M’ word.

The distinctive arrow-shaped bonnet scoop (which inspired the name) is optional, though not with this engine, which won’t clear the bonnet any other way.

Starting up the front, the Brothers Hillier fit both engine oil and power steering coolers. Next is a twin-row 52mm Group A-style aluminium radiator in front of a standard-ish auxilliary drive belt arrangement.

The engine displaces 392 cubes in the old money (6.4-litres) and runs Edelbrock heads, a 3.85-inch crank, steel rods, forged pistons, a Ford Motorsport SVO cam and injectors, and Crane roller rockers. Inlet air enters through a K&N air filter, flows through a 75mm throttle body, past an 80 mm Mustang airflow meter and into a Victor EFI inlet manifold. The rotating and reciprocating bits, including the billet flywheel and 10.5-inch Centreforce clutch, are balanced.

Gearbox is a Tremec T56 six-speed feeding a Hardie-Spicer two-piece tailshaft and a Ford nine-inch diff with Moser billet axles and a Strange Engineering LSD centre. Brakes are 330 mm Harrop slotted rotors all round (alloy hats at the front, iron at the rear), with four-piston calipers. They’re the biggest Harrop assembly that would fit inside Autotek’s Speedline Corse modular wheels. While the pedal feels soft, stopping power is extreme.

Interior trim – Autotek’s department – is understated. Bob Roman wanted the OE look, with just a touch of custom showing through. ‘Race-proven, street-legal’ is the theme. The centre rear seat was axed, and replaced by two bucket-style fully bolstered bumrests. New all-up seating capacity: four. 

The whole rear seat was rebuilt from the metal frame up. Up front, race-style modular Recaro bits were integrated into the OE Ford seat sub-frame assembly; a complex job that meant key occupant restraint points were unaltered, ensuring ADR69 compliance. The seats are trimmed in upmarket rolled and textured Canadian leather, and the seat bases incorporate non-slip anti-submarining pads. There’s just enough contrasting trim to let you know it’s not a production-line job.

The Arrow: you want one, just a little bit. Admit it. Arrow production maxes out at around six units per annum. The first two slots are taken – one by a Ford dealer and this car by a well-heeled entrepreneur who probably has a blue oval plastered on his bedroom ceiling. 

FAST FACTS 
2002 Ford Arrow Coupe

BODY: 2-door coupe
DRIVE: rear-wheel
ENGINE: 6.4-litre 16-valve pushrod V8
POWER: 370kW @ 6000rpm
TORQUE: 610 Nm @ 4000rpm (approx.)
WEIGHT: 1700kg (approx.)
POWER-TO-WEIGHT: 218kW/tonne
TRANSMISSION: six-speed manual
SUSPENSION: Double wishbone, coil springs, anti-roll bar (f & r)
L/W/h: 4910/1892/1400mm
WHEELBASE: 2793mm
TRACK: 1566mm (f); 1547mm (r)
BRAKES: 330 mm Harrop ventilated and slotted discs, four-piston Harrop calipers (f & r)
WHEELS: 18 x 8.5-inch (f); 19 x 10-inch (r), Speedline alloy
TYRES: Pirelli P-Zero Asymetrico 245/40 ZR18 (f), 285/35 ZR19 (r)
FUEL: 68 litres, PULP
PRICE: $165,000 (est)

 

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