Ford Falcon XR GT
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5
In 1968 the XR model began the legend that was to be the GT. This family car muscled out 225HP thanks to the 289 Windsor V8. The start of the Falcon GT's was only sold in one colour - Gold. 596 of these made it into production. The GT versions of the Falcon are probably the most famous of the breed, and certainly the most desirable and collectable today.
What inspired Ford of Australia to produce such a car can be reduced to a single word: Bathurst. In its early years, the annual 500 mile race at the mountain road course of Mount Panorama, Bathurst attracted many entrants driving a wide variety of foreign and domestic cars, including the first purpose built local Ford 'race' car, the Cortina GT500
In 1967, however, Ford were keen to showcase their current image car, the Falcon, and with the arrival of the XR model, which for the first time in the Australian Falcon was available with a V8 engine, they set about planning something different. In many respects, the development of the XR GT benefitted from the gathering of several happy coincidences.
First was having the right men at the right place. Bill Bourke was the then Assistant General Manager of Ford Australia and he was passionate about racing, and, inspired by the success of racing V8s, both in Australia and in his native U.S. he felt sure that a sporting XR Falcon could be a winner. He passed the idea over to Harry Firth
, who was Ford's tuner and race car preparer and had been so successful in developing the GT500 Cortina
and who had been working on beefing up the XR after arequest from the Victorian police for a heavy duty pursuitvehicle.
Firth saw that, taking the best bits from the police package and introducing some more horsepower in the engine, a sporting Falcon GT could be developed. At the same time, the news and media, especially live television, were focussing on the annual Bathurst event and creating a valuable and unique advertising opportunity for any manufacturer willing and able to win the race by lasting the 500 miles.
And finally, Henry Ford II, had set Ford on its 'Total Performance' track. Motor sport dominance was his aim. If in the U.S. that meant Nascar and the dragstrips, and in Europe it meant forest rallying and Le Mans, in Australia it meant touring cars and conquering the Mountain.
Sports Car World Road Test
...This is the car that fooled the critics, and won Australia's classic long-distance race for series production cars. The finest high-powered machine this country has produced. If Kev Bartlett was serious when he said the Falcon GT was the twitchiest car he's ever driven over 100 mhp, then I wouldn't like to hear his candid opinion of one of his sponsor's own standard Alfa Romeos at that speed. The Falcon GT turned a best speed of nearly 122 mph on our top speed test strip. At that speed — some 12 and 7 mph above the Alfa Spyder and GT Veloce cars we tested recently from the Mildren equipe - the GT was substantially more stable. Both the Alfas "walked" through the downhill sweeper on the run in to the test strip, while the Falcon didn't even require steering
correction, despite a slight crosswind.
The big Ford has some pretty large problems to overcome before it will look like a Gallaher winner but none of them are high speed stability ones. There are fairly significant obstacles to be overcome in the directions of braking, tyre
wear and fuel consumption and Ford knows it. That's why the company is getting cold feet now Gallaher time is near. It's been said before and it bears repeating — anyone who takes Ford on its word in regard to Gallaher cars needs his head examined. We gave the company a chance once. You'll remember a certain GT500 — definitely not a 500 special, said Ford. We took their word.
A day after the required number of cars had been sold you couldn't buy a GT500 if you had Ferrari-type money in your hands and there are still lots of unhappy owners running around trying to dig up handbooks and proper parts which don't exist. So much for a much-protested "regular production run model." This year up pops the Falcon GT after one year's intermission for various reasons. There will be regular batches of 300, depending on the car's success," we were told. What does success mean - success in the Gallaher? The batches of 300 is a nice scapegoat for immediate cessation after the initial production. Ford can simply say the car didn't sell. After the Gallaher, of course. And the company execs are still denying it heatedly. Perhaps they can explain why, coincidentally, the first GTs sold didn't have a handbook; certain parts are still unobtainable and the special bronze paint is very hard to match? The boot is on the other foot Mr Ford. This time we'll believe it when you prove it to be otherwise.
But the Broadmeadows people have other worries and they start with a capital A. Someone down there only found out after the car was released that Alec Mildren Pty Ltd Melbourne, and MW Motors would be running two Alfa GTVs because enough have been sold under the minimum 100 for the fully imported car clause. Ford also found out only after release that braking was not all it should be and the car chewed out tyres
even quicker than on the infamous 70,000-mile durability run. Mild panic; there may be no Gallaher entries under the name of Ford Motor Co as planned, although the usual support for the team top dogs would be given under the pit counter. fact that the GT Falcon is a damn fine motor car.
We've always admired Ford for its straightforward attack on the youth image market and that's why these unbecoming lapses into evasive publicity are even more unacceptable. Since the company is obviously building cars to win the 500 classic then it would be much better to come right out and say it. After all, there's nothing dishonest about it, Ford is acting entirely within the rules and any other company could just as simply do the same. But we would like to see the Falcon GT stay on as the flagship of the Falcon fleet. It is--a great road car and with careful attention could be a great track car. If 1000 are sold, look out for Series Production record re-writes (if CAMS retains the class). The Falcon GT has been around at Ford Product Engineering longer than you might like to believe. It was in the back of Ford's mind from about halfway through the current XR's program planning - which makes it around three years old in concept.
The car was really developed alongside the XR as a branch plan through Jack Prendergast's Product Planning Department at Geelong. Chief man on the car was Don Dunoon who can take most credit for the integration and presentation of the car but there were others who played an important part men like Malcolm Inglis, Tack Telnack, the chief stylist who did the bodywork
, and others. It was Telnack who dreamed up the simple but effective exterior treatment. The all-bronze paintwork with black striping, blacked out grille, contoured form-fitting hub caps and GT badge-work is all his.
On the Inside
The interior treatment is undoubtedly the best-ever (and by a long way) on an Australian-produced sedan. Trimmed in the current American all-black vogue the Falcon gets the proper treatment from perforated PVC hood lining to heavy duty vinyl seats, dash board padding, door linings oven under dash side panel trimmings. The car has been set up as a luxurious four-place fast touring sedan, with a special view to pleasing the driver. Really the pilot couldn't ask for more.
To start with he gets a huggy bucket seat, that's completely comfortable when combined with a seat belt as it should be. Then there's a deep dished alloy spoked wheel with studded fake-wood rim, horn trim tabs, and long projecting padded cone centre that looks like it has a stitched leather finish, but is really moulded vinyl. In some American cars (Cougar and Mustang) this cone is the horn, and there are no trimtabs. We like the local system better.
Instrumentation is perfect. Stewart-Warner dials are used right through - huge evenly matched tacho
dials in the centre and smaller auxiliary dials grouped handily to cover oil pressure, temperature and fuel level. The tachometer
runs to 6000 with a 5500 red line that we observed for the performance figures. The speedo
runs to 140 mph, and don't laugh because it'll probably do 130 mph down Conrod. The instruments were worth reading. Temperature never ran above 190 deg and oil pressure stayed right up on 60-80 psi even during our circuit workout. The pedals are perfectly set up. Labelled with the usual Ford power-boosted imprint, the brake pedal looks rather low but it has been cleverly arranged so that a foot can cover both brake and accelerator under full depression.
The handbrake has a flashing warning light, and a powerful heater and fan is standard equipment. The passengers also are well provided for. There are armrests front and rear and individual tailoring for four, although a fifth person won't be uncomfortable in the rear seat. Any door opened immediately operates a battery
of four foot-level courtesy lights front and rear, while the interior overhead lights (three) have to be switched on at the light switch. Access to the car through the wide-opening doors is good and every other manufacturer should take note of Ford's two-way key system.
Perhaps the best road-going feature of the car is the steering
. It's among the best we've tried, irrespective of price, due to a slightly higher gearing (four turns instead of 5.5) and power assistance. The wheel is beautiful to handle and suits all drivers. One of the reasons the car is so enjoyable in fast, twisty road motoring is because you can steer it on the throttle. In tight going the car's size and length and weight show up with very pronounced understeer, but this lessens as the corners get faster. Corners you can take above 60 mph assume a simple balance of power on for initial direction, off through the apex and back on again for exit.
At Amaroo Park during our initial test day we couldn't get the car to understeer heavily with even uniform tyre
pressures so we went to our usual test circuit — Oran Park. Both the tightest corners, CC and Energol, on this circuit are approached at near maximum speed so we anticipated heavy understeer. We got it. One lap at 50 psi all round was enough and we quickly dropped the rear pressures to 45. Even this wasn't adequate as the tail became a little twitchy without reducing the understeer enough so we settled for 52-45, the most we could read accurately with the tyre
gauge we had borrowed.
We took out Formula Vee fast pedaller Demon Beck because he'd shown a deep interest in buying a GT. I went out for five fast laps, all at around 61 seconds and came back with a best of 60.2 with frequent 60.6 second laps. The brake pedal faded dead away when we started again and the tyres
were already showing signs of scrubbing so we cooled it off and put in 10 laps each in the 62 second margin. At each stop the brake pedal squished to the floor. Reason? Boiling fluid and some fade. It was rather a curious sensation, because the only signs of brake failure on the move was a more rapid approach to lock up point and total loss of pedal pressure only occurred after a brief stop, indicating the build-up of heat which was evidently normally carried away with air cooling while on the move.
The 30-odd total laps completely chunked out one of the Olympic GTs fitted (offside front), digging great holes in the tread, leaving hot spots and peeling one side of the tyre
tread completely. One fault we did pick up during this track workout showed up when we changed a wheel. The normal standard equipment wheel nut brace isn't adequate for tightening the high-crowned fancy studs on the GT version. If use of the standard brace were compulsory in the Gallaher, there'd be a few wheel-less Falcons running around the circuit. At the end of our track workout we had that bad steering
feedback we first noticed at the Amaroo press day, due mainly to the tyres
chunking and throwing the wheel balance out, but since it also happened under brakes, probably also due in part to disc spotting.
But one thing the workout did show was the good handling
of the car as a basic production line unit. Apart from the braking areas at CC and Energol corners, the momentary falters into the first Esses right-hander and Robin Orlando the Falcon would go everywhere full throttle — even over Skyline in third. And it went round in 60.2s without a lot of fuss either, despite fuel surge which cut the engine on the fast lefthanders. This, we're told can be cured with the right jets.