Ford Falcon XW GT - Buyer's Guide

By: Cliff Chambers, Unique Cars magazine, Photography by: Christian Brunelli, Unque Cars magazine

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Aussie legend is a solid buy but finding the right car can be a challenge

Ford Falcon XW GT - Buyer's Guide
Square-rigged profile still looks good today.

The Gran Turismo, or GT, concept began in Europe in the 50s and referred to 2+2 coupes with a serious turn of speed and handling. In the following decades, GT would become the generic descriptor for almost any performance car, but Down Under it really belonged to Ford, which released its first GT based on the four-door XR Falcon in 1967.

So much for the two-door 2+2 Gran Turismo idea. The XR began a proud lineage of GTs, that will end when Ford ceases production of Falcons in October this year. Ironically, the line will shut down on the Friday before the Bathurst 1000, the race that cemented high-performance Falcons in Australian automotive folklore.

While the XW GT is less sought after than an XY, an XW is well worth considering, with just 2287 built. Released in June 1969, the Australian-designed XW was a more modern version of its XR/XT forebears and while its square-rigged shape didnít change much, most exterior panels were different and new horizontal taillights and a chunkier recessed grille with wraparound indicators gave it a more purposeful muscular look.

There was a raft of changes inside too, with a modern instrument console featuring elegant switchgear, big gauges set deep under a thicker dash pad and sports console, GT steering wheel and bucket seats.

But the big news for potential owners (and race teams) was the technical specification, starting with a new engine, the mighty 351ci Windsor V8. Breathing through a 450cfm Autolite four-barrel carburettor and dual exhaust, Ford claimed the stroked version of the 302ci made 216kW and 522Nm, but that figure is regarded as conservative.

The speedo read to 140mph and the tacho to 6000rpm, and the big 1500kg GT could storm from 0-100km/h in 6.4sec and cover the quarter mile in 14.8sec. The GTs technical spec was aimed as much at winning Bathurst as it was at knocking off Holdens Monaro in the sales race.

Included was heavy-duty gear like the tough close-ratio, four-speed Top Loader gearbox, twin-plate clutch, nine-inch Traction-Lok limited-slip diff, lowered competition-spec suspension with Super Duty shock absorbers, power 286mm ventilated Kelsey-Hayes front discs and 254mm rear drums, and a 164-litre fuel tank.

The only options were the T-Bar Cruise-O-Matic floor-shift auto, power steering, vinyl roof, SelectAire air-con, laminated tinted windscreen and a push-button radio. If all this wasn't enough, Ford rammed home its intention to rule the domestic muscle car roost by releasing the even hotter HO (Handling Option) version soon after.

Powered by the Cleveland 351 with a bigger 600cfm Holley carburettor, hydraulic lifters, new camshaft and alloy inlet manifold, Ford quoted 225kW. Handling Option components included a stiffer front anti-roll bar and new rear anti-roll bar, heavy-duty coil springs and shocks and small front spoiler.

Our feature car is owned by Cameron Smart and he bought it in 1993 for $10,400, drove it for a couple of years, and then gave it a full restoration. While its engine is now a higher-spec, more-powerful version of the 351 Windsor, the exterior of the car remains faithful to 1969. Interestingly, his GT is unique; there is no other XW GT with the same combination of trim and options. And if you're wondering why the famous Super-Roo cartoon decal is missing from the front quarter panels, Cameron researched his car and found out that it had been a Ford executive or press evaluation vehicle, and the decal was a ëdeleteí option on executive cars. 

MARKET GUIDE

UP UNTIL 2006 when the Aussie muscle car market decided that elderly steel was gold, XW-XY Falcon GTs values provided a reliable measure of local collector car fortunes. Values had been rising steadily but significantly, encouraging confidence even among buyers who had no interest at all in Falcon GTs.

Today the XW GT remains a bloody good choice for anyone with $100K to invest in a piece of their countryís motoring heritage. Authenticity is vital when paying top money for a GT Falcon. If the engine has been replaced, the colour changed or the body shell isn't completely original then any thought of buying or selling for a premium price evaporates. A manual XW GT in outstanding order might reach $130,000, however the majority will cost $30-50,000 less. Good three-speed autos with the T-Bar shift sell at $55-85,000.

CHECKLIST

BODY & CHASSIS

A lot of GT restorations took place when these cars weren't especially valuable and corners were cut. With buyers now looking at six-digit sale prices you need to check cars thoroughly and inspection by a body specialist is worth the fee. Look for filler where metal should be and rust around wheel arches, in the sills, floorpans and between the boot aperture and rear window. Good reproduction parts are available to rectify bodgy work. Kinked chassis rails or structural rust in the firewall and rear spring hangers are serious. Brightwork is still being remanufactured but quality rechroming is expensive.

ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

High GT prices need to be underpinned by authenticity and that means a car must have its original engine. Some experts are even able to identify authentic ancillary components but having the right engine is enough for most buyers. Bearing rumble at start-up, a ticking noise from worn cam lobes, oil smoke and leaks indicate an engine that needs work. Thatís expensive but if it is the original engine and can be saved the cost is worthwhile.  Cars that are rarely driven can be hard to start and suffer the effects of stale fuel. Clogged radiator and perished hoses cause even pristine cars to overheat.

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

GT suspension is very basic and keeping it in top condition is not expensive. Rear spring leaves crush and crack but a pair of new semi-elliptics costs around $1000, with matching front coils at $200-300 each. A brake pedal that feels mushy or goes to the floor after a few stops can be scary but not expensive to remedy. Less than $1500 should buy all the new components you need. Wobbly or binding steering can be remedied by spending $350 on a recoed steering box. Be cautious of cars with ultra-low profile tyres that will transmit shock loads that were originally damped by tall 70-profile rubber.

INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

GT trim is hard wearing and some cars may still be running around with original seats and door panels. If not there are suppliers offering exchange door cards and reproduction seat material for a total outlay of $3500 or less. New vinyl headlining costs around $250 plus installation, with carpet sets below $300. Manual window winders that are hard to move or or have broken handles can be  repaired and remember to test the floor-mounted dip-switch to make sure you have high-beam lights. Fully replacing the seat belts and mounting bolts is a wise move and costs around $800.

VITAL STATS

ENGINE 5763cc Windsor V8, OHV, 16v, 4-barrel carburettor

POWER & TORQUE 216kW @ 4800rpm 522Nm @ 3200rpm

PERFORMANCE 0-100km/h 6.4s 0-400m 14.8sec

TRANSMISSION Close-ratio 4-speed Top Loader manual

SUSPENSION Independent, wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers, anti-roll bar (f); live axle, semi-elliptic leaf springs, telescopic dampers (r)

BRAKES 286mm ventilated discs (f); 254mm drums (r)

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