Ford Falcon XT GT
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 5
Evolution of the Revolution
When the XT GT arrived in May, 1968
, it was obviously a continuation of the theme - although it was available in a greater range of colours, and introduced driving lights to the grille, a feature that was to become a trademark for all subsequent GTs.
Speculation had been rife as to what shape or form the 1968
XT Falcon GT would take after the release of the XT Falcon
models earlier that year. There was talk of Ford introducing the massive 390 cu. in. engine, but this was dismissed by most people on the grounds of understeer.
Others believed the existing 4.7 litre V8 was far from fully developed and that the new XT would feature this engine in a higher rate of tune; Racing Car News, for example, predicted twin four-barrel carburettors and 300 bhp. Indeed the engine size was increased, to 302ci (4.9litres), raising power output to 230hp - only 5 bhp more than the XR GT
The compression ratio was increased to 10.0:1, and a limited slip axle was available to put the power to the ground. There was an increase in the rim width to 6 inches, although 185 x 14 tyres
were still fitted. These changes, along with some minor revisions to the suspension
(including a front anti-roll bar
), made the XT a taughter, but more comfortable drive than its predecessor.
The brake setup from the XR GT
was carried over, which meant 11-inch front discs and drum rear brakes, although the XT used a dual hydraulic system. For the first time an automatic transmission
was available as an optional extra. With a top gear giving 24.25 miles per hour per 1000 rpm the theoretical maximum speed attainable worked out to be 126 mph at 5,200 rpm, and drivers believed 130 mph would be within reach on the long Conrod Straight at Bathurst
1968 London - Sydney Marathon
In competition the XT GT was not a resounding success. Suprisingly enough, the car's biggest success came in the field of rallying, specifically the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon, where a three car works entered team led by Harry Firth won the team's prize and the Vaughan/Forsyth/Ellis car finished third.
The great strength of the body and the reliability of the engine and transmission
had been convincingly demonstrated.
The first major track outing of the XT GT was at the Datsun 3 Hour Trophy at Sandown Park, where an XT GT in the hands of Don Toffolon and Tom Roddy scored fourth place. The big test awaited at the 1968 Hardie Ferodo 500
. But after only 35 minutes of racing the
M.Savva/R.Wilkinson Falcon showed signs of overheating, which did not auger well for the others. In fact, things went very badly for the Fords, with brake troubles, tyre
troubles and overheating troubles.
Despite all this, the Gibson/Seton Falcon was in the lead with only 15 laps to go. But overheating struck this car as well, and finally the car blew a piston
and the Monaro of Bruce McPhee and Barry Mulholland swept to victory.
The first Falcon home was, ironically, the 1967 XR GT
of Stacey and McIntyre, which came in seventh, one place in front of the Brauer/Harrod XT GT. The first works car was that of the Geoghegan brothers, who finished 10th.
With a fastest lap of 2 min. 58 sec., the winning Monaro was five seconds per lap quicker than the Falcons were in the 1967 Hardie Ferodo 500
, and three seconds faster than the Gibson/Seton car in 1968. Also, the Monaros were achieving 125-128 mph on Conrod Straight, whereas the Falcons could only manage around 121 mph, 4 mph slower than 1967
Falcon GT vs. Mustang GT
The Mustang GT was not the fire-breathing, rubber-burning beast that many thought it was. In the looks department, yes. Then again, it was not exactly slow - but the exploits of sundry drivers on the circuits had endowed the Mustang, any Mustang with an aura of out and out competition. One of the popular options was the High-Performance 302 cubic inch unit, identical to that used in the Falcon GT, and the most optioned gearbox was the four speed (all synchro) manual with floor mounted control lever.
Externally the appearance of the Mustang was pure GO, broad, black GT stripes running atop the bonnet and pin-striped white lines emphasizing the fake air scoops ahead of the rear wheels. And the interior matched the external air perfectly. The all black trim, comfortable bucket seats, map reading lights recessed into the roof, a battery of flashing red warning indicators, instruments and gauges all combined to thrust the driver into the world of personalized transport for two. And by two, we mean 2. The rear seat compartment was very close to non-existent, leg room was nil, and head room was even less. But, it was still very nice.
Grouped directly ahead of the driver were fuel gauge, clock and water temp, gauge with large diameter speedo and matching tacho easily read through the two spoke steering wheel. In the center of the panel were the warning lights for safety belts, dwindling fuel supply, open door and parking brake. Leg room for the driver was surprisingly limited and it was impossible to obtain anything resembling a 'long arm' Italian type position. Creature comforts however were magnificent; stereo radio, inertia safety belts which vanished into the reel when not in use (not very common for 1968), and a remote control outside mirror (which lost most of its practicality by remaining on the left hand door while the driver was transferred to the other side).
All foibles aside – most were interested in how it went. And even today, if you are reading this, you most likely want to know how it compared to our very own Falcon GT. It's generally conceded that the Falcon GT of 1968 was no slouch - and the Mustang GT was equal in everything but outright speed, and, more importantly - handling. In line-ahead acceleration the two cars were almost identical with only tenths of seconds separating them but the Falcon came out on top with a maximum speed of 125 mph against the Mustang's 116.
Handling was a different thing again and the Falcon GT would literally run rings around the Mutang. Instant understeer, and a lot of it, was the car's feature under hard cornering yet strangely, when tested through a slalom, the Mustang showed up quite well with an average speed of 48 mph - and for the time that was not too bad. Ford Australia played with the original rubber quite a lot before comprising with Goodrich radial FR70 x 14 tyres up front and Goodyear D70 x 14 at the rear - apparently, with the tyres fitted when imported from the States, the car was something of a dog.
Braking was a strongpoint and the Mutang achieved a best minimum distance (without locked wheels) of 164 feet from 60 mph - and there was little fade in the eight brakes runs we carried out. Despite the car's shortcoming to the fast growing sophisticated Australian buyer, the Mustang had a lot going for it. It was a hard accelerating car with brakes to match, steering was good and road-holding at speed was considerably better than prior models. Creature comforts were excellent if the car was considered as an essential two seat sporty vehicle - boot space was ridiculous.
So, the Falcon GT was a better car in just about every way, except perhaps for pose value. Street cred back in 1968? We think the Mustang may have just pipped the local contender. But maybe you should decide if the fastback looks overcame handling, practicality, performance and rear passenger space.