Falcon GT By The Years: 1967

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The GT Falcon Story - 1967

Ford Falcon XR GT
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 track.

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.

With 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 road-holding.

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 tax.

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.

After 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.

The 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.

Also see:
GT Falcon Race Results 1967
Bathurst Race Results 1967
Bathurst Memorable Moments

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