Ford Falcon BA-BF Buyer's Guide

The birthplace of Australia’s greatest engine, and the modern equivalent of the herculean VL Turbo

Icon Buyer Falcon XR 6 Turbo Cover MAIN Jpg

To understand the significance of the BA-generation Australian Falcon, you must first step back one generation to the infamous AU.

Despite gaining more recent notoriety as a facetiously enthused ‘meme’ car, the AU Falcon was criticised harshly from new. The obvious looks drew plenty of vocal detractors and, mechanically, it was all too familiar with a persisting live rear axle and the power output of the XR6’s single-cam 4.0-litre inline-six remained unchanged since the EF Falcon of 1996.

The BA Falcon arrived late in 2002 with a far more conventional exterior, and a body structure that was 60 per cent more rigid, beneath which sat the new locally development ‘control blade’ independent rear suspension.

Aside from the generational leap of the chassis, the big news was to be found under the bonnet and etched the BA Falcon into history as the birthplace of the Barra.

The ‘Barracuda’ motor was Australia’s most sophisticated engine yet with an alloy twin overhead cam head with four valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, inline coil packs, and fly-by-wire throttle.

Ford finally had an inline-six for the 21st century, and a true point of differentiation which could put it ahead of rival Holden in the six-cylinder space.

In naturally aspirated configuration, the Barra motor was good for a respectable 182kW and 380Nm and could operate on all grades of unleaded fuel as well as LPG. By dropping the compression from 9.7:1 to 8.7:1, and adding a Garrett GT40 turbo at just 0.4 bar of boost, power swelled to 240kW with peak torque of 450Nm arriving as low as 2000rpm.

Beyond the affable powertrain, the XR6 Turbo is remembered as being remarkably athletic for its size, weight and class.

Initially available with a five-speed manual, the BA XR6 Turbo wore a list price of $44,640 when new, with the four-speed automatic gearbox adding $920.
A high attrition rate has seen surviving manuals dwindle, although there are doubtless many carefully preserved examples hiding. Given the car and engine’s proclivity for modification, original examples are growing increasingly scarce, not to mention valuable.

IN THE MARKET

Years of apathy and use as cheap performance weapons means most XR6 Turbos on the market are automatic examples displaying high-kilometres and a below-collector grade condition.

Prices range from $10,000 to $20,000 depending on mileage, condition and transmission, which is almost double what you’d have paid two years ago.

Significant collector interest isn’t there yet, although your money should be safe as prices are already firming up in the wake of local manufacturing. With eyes cast long into the future, the XR6 Turbo is best thought of as the 21st century VL Turbo, and their collectible trajectory will likely follow suit. By the time these things are considered ‘valuable’, it will already be too late.

BODY & CHASSIS

Late-production examples have likely been treated more sympathetically as the shutdown of local manufacture loomed and shouldn’t display significant rust or deterioration, although early used examples are beginning to show their age.

Early cars that have lived outside for much of their lives may be beginning to exhibit clear coat fading. Even if the vehicle appears clean, examine for accident damage by inspecting consistency of panel gaps, and bumper attachment points for broken clips.

Boot seals are known to leak, so check the rain channels and boot floor for any signs of water and rust.

ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

Besides earning its place in Australian modifying lore, the 4.0-litre Barra engine earned its keep in the fleet and taxi market for 15 years and is a reliable design known to spin the odometer well past 300,000kms with normal servicing.

Early engines were prone to camshaft wear, although any problem units should likely have been long fixed under warranty. Avoid cars that blow smoke under load and practice caution with patchy service history.

T5 manual gearboxes are notoriously noisy but the T56 six-speed of the BAII onward is a much-improved unit if you can find one. The four-speed auto is a durable unit although check it does not hesitate to switch from a forward gear to reverse, or for any shuddering under load.

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Brakes are a weak point and warped brake rotors are a known fault. Aftermarket replacements are a worthy upgrade for frequent performance-oriented drivers, if not already carried out. Creaks and knocks from the front-end can signify worn out ball joints and bushings.

INTERIOR & ELECTRONICS

Vehicles built early in production are getting to the age where interiors are beginning to noticeably deteriorate. Headliners may be beginning to sag, and seat materials of cars that have lived many summers outside may be beginning to exhibit sun fading.

Inspect for visible deterioration and ensure air-conditioning and all electronics are functioning as intended.

Beware: faults with Ford’s ‘Smart Lock’ central locking system are endemic to this era of Falcon, compounded by Ford’s integral Body Control Module which can render the car immobile by restricting fuel and spark for a range of errors.

THREE OTHER OPTIONS YOU MAY CONSIDER

1. Mercedes-Benz C32 AMG

The C32 straddled the line between ‘old-school’ AMGs and the contemporary Daimler-owned subsidiary era. While it was out gunned by BMW’s M3, the supercharged high-comp V6 makes for a neat footnote of AMG history. Between 60-100 were allocated to Australia.

2. BMW E39 540i

While the XR6 traded the ubiquitous Aussie V8 for an inline-six, this German saloon did the opposite. Sharing the M5’s engine architecture, the 540i’s M62 V8 boasted a single VANOS system and a slightly smaller displacement. A true bang-for-your-buck collectible proposition.

3. HSV WL Grange

Locally made limo’s all-American 6.0-litre V8 offers the duality of effortless highway cruising and V8 mumbo. The LS2 was identical to that found in the Clubsport, Senator, GTO coupe and Maloo, but was blended with comfort, space and luxury in spades.

%MCEPASTEBIN%HSV WL GrangeLocally made limo’s all-American 6.0-litre V8 offers the duality of effortless highway cruising and V8 mumbo. The LS2 was identical to that found in the Clubsport, Senator, GTO coupe and Maloo, but was blended with comfort, space and luxury in spades.

 

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