In mid 1967 the first XR Falcon
GT was released on the Australian market. Ford had
begun kicking around the idea of a big V8 sporting
sedan in 1965, when the "Bathurst
Special” Cortina GT500 was the king of road and
Ford's then assistant managing director, Bill
Bourke, enthusiastically pushed the general concept
of the car until it was decided that it would be based
on the forthcoming XR Falcon.
The car was designed to
be not only a high-performance road car, but also a
race-winner, with the Bathurst 500 being the specific
target, as this race was becoming bigger business for
the manufacturers and sponsors of it every year.
the go-ahead given, development proceeded under the
supervision of Don Dunoon, the manager of Ford's You
Yang proving grounds, and Harry Firth, who had won
the 500 mile race three times (twice at Phillip Island;
once at Bathurst).
Firth was not only a top driver, but
also one of the best race car preparers in the country.
Among his projects before the Falcon GT was the Cortina
GT500 of 1965, which did exactly what it was designed
to do - win the Bathurst 500. The XR Falcon GT was available
only in one colour "GT Gold”, and dressing
up was kept to a minimum, with only a single sidewinder
stripe on each side.
The engine was modified over the
standard 289 V8 and featured a four-barrel carburettor,
an improved head, which increased the compression ratio
from 9.3 to 9.8 to 1; a low restriction exhaust system
and a better camshaft, giving 225 bhp at 4800 rpm and
305 lb.ft of torque at 3200 rpm.
The gearbox featured
an all synchromesh four-on-the-floor system, with internal
ratios of 2.78 to 1, 1.93 to 1, 1.36 to 1 and a direct
top, getting to the ground via a 2.93 to 1 final drive
ratio. The suspension used the same front end and rear
semi-elliptic leaf springs and live axle of all the Falcons,
but the whole system was re-rated to improve handling-and
Braking was provided by servo-assisted 11
in discs on the front and 10 in drums on the rear, and
185 section radial tyres were standard equipment mounted
on 5½ inch
by 14 inch steel wheels. The car was offered to the
Australian public at a price of $3,890, including sales
Motoring enthusiasts were not the only people
interested in this 120 mph gold flyer, as the police
forces of New South Wales and Victoria selected it
as their high speed pursuit vehicle - all of which
added to the already extensive publicity and general
acceptance the car was getting.
The first appearance at
Bathurst by the Falcon GT’s
was eagerly awaited ... and didn't disappoint. Mastermind
of the first-up win was competitor/director Harry Firth.
Seven of the new Falcon GT’s fronted the starter
for the 1967 Bathurst 500, including three works-entered
cars driven by Harry Firth and Fred Gibson, lan and Leo Geoghegan and Bob Jane and Spencer Martin.
130 taps and 500 miles the winner was declared to be
the Falcon GT of the Geoghegan brothers, with the Firth/Gibson
car in second place on the same lap, which must have
been a trifle upsetting for Fred Gibson, as he quite
rightly thought he had won by six seconds from the
Geoghegan’s car. But lan Geoghegan got the chequered
flag, the hapless Gibson forced to do another lap.
error was corrected but the initial glory went to the
Geoghegans. It was Harry Firth's fourth "500” win
and Fred Gibson's first, but more importantly it was
also the Falcon GT's first ever win in competition.
Significantly, all seven Falcons finished the race,
although the Bob Beasley/Des West car was later excluded
for having oversize valves.
The winning car put in
a fastest lap of 3 min. 3 sec. around the 3.875-mile
Mount Panorama circuit, which is an average speed of
just under 79 mph. In addition, the car was clocked
at 125.69 mph on Conrod Straight, at that time the
fastest ever achieved by a series production car on
the Bathurst circuit.