Falcon GT By The Years: 1971

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The GT Falcon Story - 1971

Ford Falcon XY GTHO
Ford introduced a new range of Falcons early in 1971, but we doubt they would have predicted just what a cult car the XY would become.

The XY GT version featured some more external changes over the previous XW model, one of the most obvious being the addition of a ram-air duct, called a 'shaker", which protruded through a hole in the bonnet and force-fed the 600 cfm four-barrel carburettor with air.

Also, the Cleveland engine was by now standard equipment on all GT’s, although Ford still gave figures of 300 bhp at 5400 rpm and 380 lb.ft. of torque at 3400 rpm. The standard fuel capacity was 16.4 gallons and the larger 36.4 gallon capacity was available if required.

The XY GT turned out to be the most desirable of the whole series, excluding the GTHO models, because as a road car, it had very few peers - if any - certainly none among Australian produced cars.

The XY GT featured a 3.0 to 1 final drive ratio instead of the previous 3.25 to 1, which meant that open-road cruising was that much easier, while the penalty in acceleration was so miniscule as to be virtually nil with 300 healthy horses coming from the more efficient Cleveland power plant.

Meanwhile, on the racetrack, the GTHO Phase 2 was winning races, although engine reliability was still proving to be a problem, but through a painstaking program of development, during which almost every major component in the Cleveland engine was modified, the engine eventually achieved reliability as good as could be expected from any racing engine.

During 1971, a new Falcon star driver was beginning to emerge. John Goss, who drove his McLeod Ford-sponsored car to be the first non-works car home at Bathurst in 1970, was cleaning up in New South Wales, particularly in the Grace Brothers-Toby Lee series at Oran Park, where he won the first two rounds and came in second in the third, also winning the Bars Leaks Marathon and numerous other events.

His exuberant driving style made him a crowd-pleaser and his results must have kept his sponsors happy. As it turned out, bad results in the final two rounds of the Grace Brothers-Toby Lee series put him back to third overall, but the winner turned out to be Fred Gibson in his GTHO Falcon with two wins, two seconds and a third place over the five race series, this victory being his second in two years. The year 1971 also saw the championship for series production cars, which was contested over five rounds at various venues around Australia.

The first round at Bathurst at Easter was a good start for the Falcon’s with the works cars of Moffat and French coming in first and second respectively. Round 2 at Warwick Farm was not so successful, as the first Falcon home was Moffat, in third place and the best anyone else could manage was Barry Sharp in his Jack Brabham Ford-sponsored XY GT, the first of the new Falcons to appear on the race track. During 1971, a couple of interesting "improved" Falcons appeared on the tracks, the first being Allan Moffat's full-house car which had actually appeared in practice for the last round of the 1970 Australian touring car championship but had not started.

However, the car (now modified to look like an XY Falcon) was raced in the fourth round of the 1971 touring car championship in the hands of John French who finished fourth. French also raced Ian Geoghegan's newly completed “Super Falcon” in the sixth round of the championship and finished fifth in that particular event.

Meanwhile, the time of the year when people start thinking about Bathurst was rapidly approaching - and the manufacturers didn't disappoint too many. From Chrysler there was a brand new car - the storming Charger two-door coupe. Smaller than the previous Pacers and a whopping five inches shorter than the Falcon’s, the Charger had a couple of hundredweight advantage over the heavier Falcon’s. It was powered by a bigger version of the Pacer's engine, still a straight six; but now with a 4.3 litres 265ci.

A series of options could make the Charger into a racing car, and in E38 form it came complete with triple side-draught Weber carburettors, the car had 280 bhp and over 300 lb.ft. torque on tap, which could push it to a shade under 130 mph in top speed and to a standing quarter mile figure of about 14.9 seconds. Unfortunately a three-speed gearbox was fitted, so again, as in the Pacer, first gear was, through necessity, a little on the high side. With a year of active development behind them, Holden had a much better chance for honours at Bathurst with their Torana XU-1 in 1971.

Various engine modifications had produced more power from the 3048ec engine (up from 160 to 180 bhp), and in particular the power increase at the rear wheels from 112-140 bhp was going to make the cars a real threat to the Falcons. In fact, during 1971, while Ford were sorting out the Cleveland engine, the Torana’s were getting faster and more reliable all the time and the two cars were overall very even.

There was some doubt during 1971 that Ford would introduce a new GTHO at all, as rumours about a Capri with the 5 litre 302ci V8 engine were abundant at one stage. But they did, and the Phase 3 arrived with everybody's interest focused on it. Externally, it was just like the XY GT, complete with "shaker", but in addition to the normal GTHO front spoiler, it now had one on the rear deck as well. The car featured the Cleveland engine, plus the 780 cfm Holley four-barrel carburettor and a reworked head.

New head gaskets from the "Boss" Mustang engine were fitted and changes were made to the bearings and lubrication system. The engine also featured a larger crankshaft harmonic balancer, a new radiator with better cooling characteristics, a modified valve train mechanism, a baffled sump and a full extractor system.

Also in the engine department was a vacuum bottle to assist braking when the engine was cold or immediately after full rpm. As on previous GTH0s, 6150 rpm was the red-line. All this and Ford still only claimed 300 bhp and 380 lb.ft. of torque! However, according to John Goss, a healthy Phase 3 would have around 350 bhp available and estimates by motoring journals at the time of the car's release went as high as 380 bhp.

In the suspension department, the only changes were heavier front and rear roll bars and in the brakes the rear drums were increased to 21/2 inches in width. Four final drive ratios-were offered with the Phase 3; 3.00 to 1, 3.25 to 1, 3.50 to 1 and 3.90 to 1, which gave 24.25. 22.5, 20.9 and 18.7 mph per 1000 rpm in top gear respectively.

The Phase 3 went on sale at $5250 and was immediately recognised as a classic car. Sports Car World called it “…simply one of the best cars in the world, a true GT that could take on Ferraris and Astons on their own terms…a classic car worth buying to keep a lifetime".

Many now wish they had heeded those words. As well as the choice of four final drive ratios. buyers had a choice of a wide or close ratio gearbox. The wide ratio box had internal ratios of 2.7811.93/1.3011.00, while the close ratio box was 2.3211.6911-29/1.00, these being the standard ratios in the Phase 2 cars.

The designers of the Phase 3 realized that outright speed on Bathurst's Conrod Straight was no longer a worry, as the Phase 2 cars were backing off anyway, so they concentrated on getting the Falcons up the mountain more quickly. The resultant gear and final drive ratio’s gave better acceleration in the short bursts between the corners, rather than raising speeds at which the ratio’s peaked out.

The Phase 3 GTH0’s made their first appearance in the Sandown 250, which was also round three of three of the manufacturers' championship. It was a far from successful debut, as only two of the five starters managed to make the finish. The first Falcon home was Murray Carter's, in second place, albeit five laps down on the winning Torana XU- 1 driven by Peter Brock. The only other Falcon to finish was Doug Grimson's Phase 2 which collected 16th place, 17 laps behind the winner.

The Phase 3 shared by Bob Skelton and Phil Barnes was leading the race for a long time before it succumbed to a broken axle and retired. After yet another disappointing Sandown race, 13 Falcon GTHO Phase 3’s started in the 1971 Hardie-Ferodo, led by the works' cars of Allan Moffat and John French. Once again Moffat gained pole position, with a best lap practice of 2:38.9, 10 seconds faster than 1970, which did not encourage the Torana and Charger crews, who then had to hope on a series of mechanical failures from the big Ford’s to stand a chance.

As it happened, although five of the Falcons did fail to finish, only one of these was due to mechanical problems, this being the car of Trevor Meehan, who suffered brake problems. Of the four retirements, the Gibson/Seton car had its differential fail after someone had accidentally put odd tyres on the rear, the Beck/Rush car crashed, Bob Morris’s car overheated after a sheet of newspaper stuck over the grille.

It seemed lightning could strike twice for unlucky Bill Brown...
And Bill Brown suffered yet another dreadful rollover, when his Falcon blew a tyre at McPhillamy Park and rolled along the top of the fence, the car being virtually cut in two (see: Bathurst Memorable Moments).

It was a terrifying crash and TV viewers were treated to it’s replay time and time again during the afternoon. Allan Moffat led the race all the way and never looked like losing it, but to add to Ford’s triumph, Falcon’s also came in second and third (Barnes/Skelton and McKay), fifth (French) and seventh (Goss).

The good result must have been very pleasing to Ford, not only for their sales figures, but also for Howard Marsden, who took over the leadership of Ford's racing activities just before Bathurst and was confronted with the fact that the reliability of the modified Cleveland engines was still fairly unknown.

The engines did hold together, and very well too, so the months of time and effort put into them were not wasted. It must have been very pleasing for everyone concerned with the racing Falcon’s, especially considering the high proportion of failures in the 1970 race.

The 1971 season was rounded off with the last two rounds of the manufacturers championship; the Phillip Island 500 , in which the first Falcon home was that of Allan Moffat (fifth), while Murray Carter blew his engine; and the Rothman’s 250 at Surfer’s Paradise, which Moffat won. Despite the stellar performance, the series went to Holden.

Also see:
GT Falcon Race Results 1971
Bathurst Race Results 1971
Bathurst Race Program 1971
Bathurst Memorable Moments
Latest Classic Car Classifieds

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