If there’s one thing in this world that I consider myself a genuine expert on, it’s Jeep engineering and history. I may not know the early stuff like my friend Brandon does, but if it’s a Jeep built after about 1963, you can ask me pretty much anything and I bet I’ll know it; or at the very least, I know how to get the answer in minutes. Well, that’s what I thought until I spotted what looks like an ordinary Jeep CJ-5 at first glance, but what’s actually something much, much more obscure and interesting. Behold the Ford-powered Jeep “Combat 6,” which may have been involved in the creation of the greatest ute of all time: the Ford Falcon XY 4×4.
I recently attended a huge car show in Dubbo, New South Wales in Australia, where you could make the reasonable argument I should be fixing a rusted-out 1969 Chrysler Valiant ute instead of looking at a bunch of cars. After that show, which I’ll write about soon, I drove to another car show (again, I know I’m on a time-crunch, but car culture here is just too good!), where I spotted a Jeep CJ-5 that’s not like any CJ-5 I’ve ever seen:
I stood there for minutes in awe as my friend and host Laurence wondered where the hell I’d gone after stepping away from an active lunch conversation to take a “quick” photo. He eventually found me and understood the delay; this was the first old Jeep I had seen in my week in Australia, and something about it was a bit off. The local hot-rodder who has been helping us fix my ute, Hud (the man is a legend; you’ll get to know him soon), saw me and said something to the effect of: “Oh, that’s Macca’s Jeep. He’s over there; want me to introduce you?” A few minutes later I was chatting with Macca (whose actual name could be Mark, McKenzie, McDonald — hell, damn near anything. Everyone’s “Macca” around here) and asked him how the F-head motor was running. “Oh, that’s got a Ford six in it,” he told me. “It came from the factory with the straight six from the early Ford Mustangs.”
“What?” I replied, reaching for the nearest object to try to regain my balance after that bombshell. “From the factory?”
“Oh yeah,” Macca responded. “This is actually a Jeep ‘Combat 6.’ It came with a Ford engine. Jeep traded its 4×4 system to Ford for the motor.” At this point Macca could see in my eyes that he had to be very careful, for my delicate Jeep-mind was actively being blown. He walked me over towards his vehicle and popped the hood.
Holy crap. Sure enough, that’s a 170 cubic-inch “Thriftpower” straight-six pretty much straight out of a 1965 Ford Mustang. This surprised me, because early Jeep CJ-5s didn’t really have enough space under the hood for an inline-six; in fact, when Jeep decided to offer the AMC straight-six in the CJ-5 in the early 1970s, the company actually had to extend the CJ’s cowl by three inches. This is one of the main reasons why people tend to refer to Jeep CJ-5s by era: There’s the “early” short-nosed CJ-5, which came with the F-head Hurricane four-cylinder engine or a Buick V6, and which is mechanically quite similar to early flatfender Jeeps like the WWII Jeep; there’s the “intermediate” 1972 to 1975 CJ-5, which got the longer nose to handle a straight six (an AMC 304 V8 was optional); and there’s the later ’75 to ’84 CJ-5, which saw changes to the body, frame, rear axle, transfer case, and more.
In fact, the only pre-1972 Jeep CJ that ever had a straight six was actually not technically a CJ, but rather a DJ — the DJ-5A dispatcher, which did have a CJ-5-based body, but managed to squeeze the straight six up front by extending the grille out ahead of the short hood. This is part of the reason why the DJ looks so bizarre. Here’s me with my old DJ-5D (RIP):
Anyway, Willys Motors Australia shoved that Ford straight-six into the short-nosed Jeep by simply modifying the firewall with a strange-looking squared-off indent. You can see that just behind the engine in the image above the Postal Jeep, and you can see an indentation on the inside of the firewall as well:
You may be wondering why the hell Willys Jeep of Australia decided it needed Ford’s straight-six engine. If I had to guess, the answer has something to do with Australian regulations dictating that vehicles consist largely of Australia-made parts; you can see in the Willys CJ-3B ad below just how important that issue was in the Australian auto industry in the mid 1900s. If I have this right, the straight-six engine used in these Jeeps was built in Brisbane for the Ford Falcon, so it counted as locally-sourced.
The thirsty six-cylinder engine, and the need to offer good range in a country as spread-out as Australia, meant the CJ-5 “Combat 6” came with a modified fuel tank that hung below the body under the driver’s seat (not unlike a World War II Jeep’s tank). This increased capacity from 10.5 gallons to 15 gallons:
The vehicle has, of course, been converted to right-hand drive, and the turn signals and taillights are totally different than those of the American-spec CJ-5, with front indicator lenses moving from the grille to the fenders, and the rear lights being square and partially amber:
Compare the lights above to those of the U.S.-spec CJ-5 shown below, and you’ll see the differences.
Another change you’ll notice from the U.S.-spec CJ is that the Combat 6’s hood has been reinforced underneath:
The four bolts going through those horizontal hat-channels pierce the hood, and if you look closely in the picture below, you can see the round outline of a tire — yes, this Jeep had its spare tire on the hood, just like the Land Rover Series 1.
Interestingly, the literature I’ve found on the Brisbane-built Jeep (technically “Combat 6” was a series that included both a CJ-5 and CJ-6) shows only a rear fender-mounted spare:
What’s more, provisions for the tub-mounted spare are still present (see the four bolts below), and I have doubts about how well the CJ’s spring-loaded hood latches would have held up under the stresses of a heavy tire pulling it up over bumps; still, that hood stiffener does look like it’s a factory job, so maybe some of these Australian Jeeps did get that rubber cylinder on the nose. That must have looked awesome.
Underneath, the driveline looks like standard U.S.-spec CJ-5 stuff, though I did notice a hydraulic clutch slave cylinder, which may have been a modification done by a previous owner, since these early CJs and most vehicles from that era only ever came with cable-actuated clutches. I also learned via an Australian online forum that the transmission covers for these Combat 6 Jeeps were made of fiberglass, though I’m not entirely sure I know what part that’s referring to. If it’s the part of the body tub that the shifter goes through, that appears to be metal in the Jeep I saw.
Realizing how keen I was to learn more about this bizarre CJ-5, Macca produced this little sign from the Jeep’s glovebox:
The paper says Jeep only built 401 “Combat 6” CJ-5s, and that the full vehicle was shipped from Toledo to Australia with motor and radiator missing. Ford of Australia provided those parts in exchange for Jeep’s four-wheel drive system, which The Blue Oval used in its “XY” ute, of which the company only built about 400. I’m not entirely sure about the production numbers, or about whether this was truly a trade between the two companies, since the XY didn’t come out until the early 1970s. What I do know is that Ford did supply the motors for the Jeep Combat 6, and Jeep did supply the four-wheel drive system for the legendary XY, which was built in extremely low quantities.
Before I get into the incredibly XY, I’ll finish off the Combat 6 part of the story: Per CJ3b.info — a great website about Jeep history — the “Combat 6” name was replaced in the late 1960s with “Universal Series” right around the time Willys Motors Australia became Kaiser Jeep of Australia. The photos above show a brochure from this era, and the picture below shows Jeep’s range of offerings around this time:
Anyway, this deal with Ford helped Jeep get its vehicles into the Australian market, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Ford asked for a favor in response — that favor being a 4×4 system for a Falcon ute called the XY.
How Jeep Helped Ford Build The Most Epic 4×4 Ute Ever
Again, I’m not entirely sure that this was a simple “you give me engine, I give you drivetrain” exchange, but suffice it to say that Ford and Jeep were collaborating, much like they were in Brazil. As such, it wasn’t strange when Ford looked to Jeep for a drivetrain for its Falcon Ute; per the Falcon Club website XRClub.com, Ford was looking to compete for a military contract, which precipitated this whole concept. From the site:
The catalyst for the short-lived Ford XY Falcon 4×4 ute was the Australian Army, according to the late Howard Marsden, who was head of Ford Special Vehicles at the time.
In an interview conducted in 2001, Marsden said that the four cylinder-powered Land Rovers being used by the Army at the time were proving to be too underpowered, given that they often had to lug heavy payloads of troops and equipment and cover huge distances.
So in the late 1960s, the Army put out a tender to local manufacturers for expressions of interest in building a new 4×4 light truck with a more powerful six cylinder engine that could out-perform their Land Rovers.
Given the potential for large volume government fleet sales for the successful tenderer, Ford decided it was a challenge worthy of tackling.
Per the article, Ford’s Brisbane plant hadn’t just been giving Jeep its inline-six engines, but also pedal assemblies and clutches “required for local assembly of CJ5/CJ6 Jeeps” (so it’s safe to say that government regs brought about the Ford-Jeep agreement). Ford’s team determined that leveraging Jeep’s four-wheel drive parts on a Falcon XY would be the company’s best option to compete for a military contract. The problem was: Swapping a solid axle onto a unibody designed for an independent front suspension wasn’t easy. Per the article:
The greatest engineering challenge Ford faced was to install a complete leaf-sprung live axle assembly under the front of a Falcon ute that was never designed for such things.
Marsden recalled with some dismay how difficult this task proved to be, as the Falcon ute featured the same unibody construction (body and chassis combined as one unit) as its sedan sibling rather than the traditional and much stronger body-on-ladder-frame design employed by Land Rover and other 4×4 manufacturers.
As a result, new mounting points for the front leaf springs fabricated from steel plate had to be welded directly to the bodyshell’s underfloor. High-lift leaf springs and shocks raised the rear end of the utility to match the newly raised front end.
Another challenge was providing enough clearance between the front axle and the engine’s sump and exhaust system to allow for adequate suspension travel. The simple solution was to make new engine mounts that slanted the engine over to the right by several degrees.
This tilt was large enough to provide adequate sump-to-axle clearance, but it also required a wedge-shaped spacer to be fitted between the carburettor base and inlet manifold to compensate for this angle change and maintain the correct static float bowl levels.
Don’t worry how it looks, just make it work. The in-line six had to be slanted to the right to allow clearance between the sump and front diff. Note the extra bracing that tied the firewall to the shock absorber towers for extra chassis strength.
Ford slanted the engine so that the axle (and especially the diff, presumably) wouldn’t hit it! What a hilarious engineering solution.
Unfortunately, Ford’s vehicle didn’t win any military contract, allegedly because the military wanted the proven durability of a traditional ladder frame. What the vehicle did win, though, were hearts and minds, and those are the main purchasers of cars. Ford realized this, and decided to put the XY 4×4 into production, saving 432 of the old XY bodies (which were being phased out for the new XA model) as the company waited for parts from Jeep. Eventually the parts showed up, and Ford sold every last one of the old-body-style Falcon 4x4s.
The Ford Falcon XY 4×4 is incredibly rare, and also possibly the coolest ute of all time. The Dana 20 transfer case and T15 three-speed manual come straight out of an intermediate-era CJ-5, the Dana front axle also traces its roots back to an old CJ. The rear axle is a Ford Falcon unit, as is the 155 horsepower 250 cubic inch (4.1-liter) inline-six. You can see in this video — shot by someone taking part in a Falcon XY 4WD Owner’s meetup in the city I’m writing this article from, Dubbo — some of the underbody components. Plus, you can see how ridiculously tilted that engine is:
I’ll be keeping my eye out for one of these bizarre 4×4 wonders. I’d almost rather have one than a Jeep CJ-5 “Combat 6.” Almost.
Here are a few more photos: