Ford Falcon XR GT: Australia's Greatest Muscle Cars Series

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We all love an underdog and Ford's XR GT Falcon was in with a puncher's chance for our Australia's Greatest Muscle Car top ten

 

Ford Falcon XR GT

Back in 1967, when the XR Falcon GT made its first appearance at Mount Panorama, production car racing really was just that. The modified Group C Improved Production Touring Cars that were battling for the Australian Touring Car Championship at the time had no place on the Bathurst grid.

Bathurst cars ran under the much more tightly-controlled Group E Series Production regulations. Modifications were extremely limited and homologation requirements for 1967 required 5000 cars to have been produced internationally or 500 to have been produced locally.

Ford’s new XR Falcon GT cleared that hurdle and seven examples of Australia’s first hero car lined up on the grid. Leading the charge were the three cars entered by Ford Australia, driven by Leo and Ian ‘Pete’ Geoghegan, Harry Firth/Fred Gibson and Bob Jane/Spencer Martin.

"I didn’t meet Harry until the Friday night before Bathurst,’ recalls Gibson. "I met him at his hotel room and we discussed what we were going to do. One of the things I said was, ‘Harry, how are we going to go? Will we be competitive?’ He said, ‘We’ll win the race’ and I thought, ‘Hmmm, that’s pretty confident!’"

"Harry had done a lot of brake pad development," recalls Gibson. "I think the brake pads and shoes were pretty special. Even though the shock absorbers had to look stock, I’m sure Harry got shocks made by Monroe-Wylie at a lot heavier rate than anyone else would’ve had and I think the engines were blueprinted. They were very well-prepared."

Firth/Gibson were the winners from the Geoghegans, with the Alfa GTV of Chivas/Stewart completing the podium.

So began a new era in Australian motoring. The XR GT’s success created a template for Australian performance cars that continues to the present day. It also had a big effect on a young John Bowe. "The XR GT really moved the goal posts," opines JB, "No longer would four-cylinder Minis and Cortinas be in contention because then Holden built the 327 Monaro and it started that whole bigger engines and more power thing." A four-cylinder car would win Bathurst again, but we’ll come back to that in a couple of decades.

While the GT, with its Mustang derived engine, didn’t set the race track on fire, its real significance is as the ‘grandfather’ of all the GTS and GT-HOs that came after.
Cliff Chambers value guide: The GT that started it all should attract greater collector interest and better money. Maybe for its 50th Anniversary, due soon, it will. $40,000-95,000

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Ford Falcon XR GT

 

Production 1967 596
Engine 4.7-litre small-block Windsor V8, OHV, single four-bbl downdraught carburettor
Gearbox four-speed manual
Suspension coils/leafs (f/r)
Power 168kW @ 4800RPM
Torque 412Nm @ 3200RPM
0-100km/h 9.9secs; 0-400m: 16.2secs
Brakes Discs/drums (f/r), powered
Wheels 14x6.9-inches
Value range $40,000-95,000

 

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