1976 - 1978 Ford Falcon XC Hardtop - Buyer's Guide

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Squint just a little and you could be forgiven for thinking there’s a bit of Ford Torino DNA hiding in the lines of the Falcon XC hardtop.

 

Ford XC Hardtop

However the similarities between the XC and Torino were visual only, as this was very much a local product, albeit with the V8s largely sourced across the ocean.

The series certainly looked dramatic and produced all sorts of interesting offspring, including the short-lived Landau.

Ask anyone about the most memorable moment for Ford Australia’s second-gen Falcon coupe (the first was closely drawn from the USA Falcon), and most will nominate the dramatic one-two finish at Bathurst in 1977, with Allan Moffat and Colin Bond steering the two lead cars. It was somewhat ironic, then, that this was more of a send-off than a launch for the big coupe.

ford-falcon-xc-2b.jpgThe big Ford coupe has physicality and presence

In fact the big coupe won the race in 1973 (with Moffat and Ian Geoghegan) and 1974 (John Goss and Kevin Bartlett). With Moffat at the helm, it also took out the 1973 and 1976 Touring Car Championships – so you’d have to say it was a resounding success on the track, despite some very serious challenges, particularly from Holden.

While this was unquestionably good for the Ford Australia and Falcon brands, it didn’t necessarily translate into overwhelming sales. While we all loved watching them race, the criteria when it came to handing over actual money meant four doors, thanks. Not two. XA sales numbered near 9000 in a year, a promising start, but XBs were closer to 10k over nearly three years and the delayed XC version dropped closer to 1100 in around 16 months.

| Read next: Ford Falcon XC 500 reviewford-falcon-xc-front-b.jpg

Typically for the period, there was a wealth of variants on offer. At the most basic level you could still score drum brakes all round in an XA – a mildly alarming thought.

Ford responded to below-target early sales by offering special package deals, such as the Superbird. This packaged the 5.0lt V8 with a four-speed manual and special paint, priced at a very competitive $3795. That compared to the initial price of $3925 for the Fairmont with 4.1lt six and auto. Some 700 birds sold – a significant number, but perhaps not as many as the factory might have hoped for.

Specials models like that continued right through the history of the hardtop, finishing with the outstanding-looking 1978 XC Cobra. With its ‘traditional’ white and blue race livery, they came with either 4.9lt or 5.8lt bent eights, four-speed trans and a price tag nudging $10k. Why the massive hike? Car prices in general had doubled or more over this period, thanks to inflation.

| 2019 Market Review: Ford Falcon GT-HO Phase 1-3/XC Cobra

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The soft new sales translated into relatively soft used values for many years – pushing a couple of decades. There was a time when they were fodder for young up-and-comers who wanted a cheap first car with a bit of style (does the name Eric Bana ring a bell?), but were studiously ignored by collectors. Of course that has now completely turned around.

Owner Con Tangalakis is a died-in-the-wool Ford fan who is fortunate enough to have owned many of the desirable local models over the years and still has several stashed away in his toybox. This car breaks the mould just a little.

"I always try to buy something with a bit of a difference or a limited edition," he says. "I’ve never owned a coupe.

ford-falcon-xc-4.jpg"Normally I’m a V8 man, but when this came up for sale I was the first person to call. I drove 150km to a country town to see it."

Evidently it was a one-owner car, and the seller happened to have been a Ford dealership employee all his life. And he bought the car new. Yep, it’s that car we all dream about finding: the unmolested country car that has been religiously serviced, by the book, over its entire life.

Con couldn’t believe his luck and didn’t hesitate in buying it. Okay, it’s a 250 six and not the V8, but he reckoned it was such a find in its original state he simply couldn’t pass on it. And in case you wondering, yes the colour scheme is a little different, but that’s what the bloke ordered.

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VALUE RANGE: Falcon XC hardtop

FAIR: $20,000
GOOD: $35,000
EXCELLENT: $65,000+ (Fairmont 351)

(Note: concours cars will demand more)

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BUYER'S CHECKLIST


BODY & CHASSIS

XC Hardtops have only begun growing in value during the past 15 years. A lot succumbed quickly to rust and only very rare versions were deemed worth saving. Some rust repair sections are available but the cost of restoring a badly rusted XC can exceed its finished value. Check wheel arches and inner mudguards, the panel between the rear window and boot-lid, door bottoms, sills and front mudguard attachment points. Hardtop doors were shared with vans and utilities and knowing that can be of benefit when scouring wrecking yards for replacements. Being long and heavy they can stress their hinges and be hard to close. Hinge repair kits are available.

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ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

Ford engines from the 1970s remain easy to rebuild with available parts. If the engine isn’t the original, replacing it with a ready-made reconditioned unit is viable. Oil leaks around the cylinder heads on six and eight cylinder engines are standard fare however main bearing seal failure is more serious and costly to fix. Be wary of four-speed manuals that beat the synchromesh and make crunching noises when downshifting, or an automatic that takes more than a couple of seconds to select reverse. Reconditioned C4 autos and three-speed manuals are available from around $1000. The ‘top-loader’ four-speed was fitted to Valiants and Leyland V8s as well but can still be difficult to find.

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SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Falcons of this age typically creak and groan when the wheel is turned at low speeds due to worn ball-joints and tired tie-rods. Parts for a complete front-end rebuild are available; the whole kit should cost around $1600. Rear leaf springs crack and in extreme cases the axle housing can bend. A soft brake pedal, pulsing through the pedal, dirty or leaking fluid signal the need for a major brake overhaul. Again, parts including uprated disc rotors and parts to convert rear drum cars to disc are easily found. If the car has been fitted with larger than standard wheels, ensure the tyres aren’t being damaged by contact with steering components or the rear bodywork.

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INTERIOR & ELECTRICS

Worn cloth or vinyl seat trim, carpets and headlining can still be replaced at a reasonable cost. Deduct at least $1000 from the price of a car with a seriously cracked dash. New replacements aren’t available and a damaged one is fiddly to repair. New gauge lenses and surrounds are being reproduced and some switchgear is available. When switching on prior to a test-drive ensure all the warning lights glow. Those that don’t might have been disconnected. Power windows that are slow to move, noisy or shudder also demand a price discount because parts are scarce and repairs fiddly.

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1976 - 1978 Falcon XC Hardtop

NUMBER BUILT: 1048 (including Cobras)
BODY STYLE: all-steel integrated body/chassis two-door hardtop
ENGINES: 4089cc in-line six-cylinder, 4942cc & 5766cc V8 with overhead valves and single downdraft carburettor
POWER & TORQUE: 179kW @ 5000rpm, 412Nm @ 2600rpm (5.8-litre V8)
PERFORMANCE: 0-96km/h – 9.7 seconds 0-400 metres – 17.2 seconds (5.0-litre V8 automatic)
TRANSMISSION: three or four-speed manual, three-speed automatic
SUSPENSION: Independent with coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers & anti-roll bar (f) Live axle with semi-elliptic springs and telescopic shock absorbers (r)
BRAKES: disc (f) drum (r) or disc (f) disc (r) power assisted
TYRES: ER70H14 radial

 

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