1973 Ford Falcon XA GT Hardtop Review

By: Phil Tilley, Photography by: Mark Bean

Presented by

Ford Falcon XA GT front 9 Ford Falcon XA GT front 9
Ford Falcon XA GT studio 3 Ford Falcon XA GT studio 3
Ford Falcon XA GT bonnet 10 Ford Falcon XA GT bonnet 10
Ford Falcon XA GT studio 4 Ford Falcon XA GT studio 4
Ford Falcon XA GT left side 16 Ford Falcon XA GT left side 16
Ford Falcon XA GT front 8 Ford Falcon XA GT front 8
Ford Falcon XA GT grill 23 Ford Falcon XA GT grill 23
Ford Falcon XA GT left front edge 22 Ford Falcon XA GT left front edge 22
Ford Falcon XA GT left rear 13 Ford Falcon XA GT left rear 13
Ford Falcon XA GT rear14 Ford Falcon XA GT rear14
Ford Falcon XA GT rear louvre 21 Ford Falcon XA GT rear louvre 21
Ford Falcon XA GT rear spoiler 18 Ford Falcon XA GT rear spoiler 18
Ford Falcon XA GT 351 GT badge19 Ford Falcon XA GT 351 GT badge19
Ford Falcon XA GT boot 24 Ford Falcon XA GT boot 24
Ford Falcon XA GT engine bay29 Ford Falcon XA GT engine bay29
Ford Falcon XA GT interior front passenger26 Ford Falcon XA GT interior front passenger26
Ford Falcon XA GT interior front steering wheel27 Ford Falcon XA GT interior front steering wheel27
Ford Falcon XA GT interior front console28 Ford Falcon XA GT interior front console28

We look back at a one-off XA GT Hardtop that was a special dealer order and a racetrack giveaway in '73 and now remains a prized possession

From Unique Cars issue #310, April 2010 

Ford Falcon XA GT Hardtop

UNIQUE PRIZE

One could argue that all Falcon GTs are special in some way or another. Not only has each model been built in limited numbers, but some are truly special due either to their remarkable history, their unique specification and options, or the reasons they came into being in the first place.

The magnificent car you see here is not only striking to look at, it also ticks all these boxes to make it one of these special GTs. It’s the only ‘Readymix Orange’ – the corporate colour (code Y345) of the Readymix concrete company – Falcon GT ever made and has a fascinating history, from burnout big gun to show stopping cruiser.

Ford -Falcon -XA-GT-studio -1-658 

SPECIAL GT

Unlike the majority of GTs, which were ordered through Ford’s vast dealer network, this Readymix Orange XA GT Hardtop was built for a Mr NG Politis, of Ford Motor Company’s Queensland office, as a special-order promotional vehicle; one of those cars designed to show off just about every conceivable option available and look spectacular doing it.

Apart from the special paint, automatic transmission, 351ci 4V V8, and black cloth trim, the car was also fitted with factory options including seatbelts, a black vinyl roof, wind-back sunroof, power steering, air-conditioning, power windows, 8-track stereo, laminated windscreen with tinted band, tinted side and rear glass, ‘styled’ side mirrors, sports road wheels and back window louvers.

Adding a full complement of these big-dollar options at the factory obviously takes time, which is why it took over three months for the car to be completed.

It was eventually delivered to Ford’s Brisbane Motor Garage on April 26, 1973, for pre-delivery and the installation of a few other minor options including the Protection group pack, Quartz halogen headlights, front and rear spoilers, and electric aerial.

Ford -Falcon -XA-GT-side -air -intakes --65820

Two of the more unusual features are the fake air intakes on the rear guards – standard on the XB GT coupes – and the black hood lining, which is usually white on air-conditioned cars. According to all previous owners, the car has always had these, but it just adds to the mystery of this big coupe.

HARDTOP PRIZE

Although the car’s early life is not known – the Ford dealer may have even used it as his company car from time to time – what is known is that the Hardtop was offered as a prize at the Chesterfield 300 race meeting at Surfers Paradise International Raceway in November 1973.

Although giving away cars has become more and more popular over the years (even Unique Cars does it on a regular basis), back in the early-’70s this was a pretty big deal, especially when you consider how striking the car was.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot known about the competition details or the winning first owner, except for the fact that over the years he added a few performance-oriented upgrades typical of the era like American Racing wheels, a Hooker Headers extractor system and various other performance upgrades, and that he parked the car in a carport, causing the paint to fade down one side.

Ford -Falcon -XA-GT-left -rear -65815

Eventually, in the mid-’80s, the car was offered for sale and although not looking its best, second owner Arend Buitenhuis, who still lives on the Gold Coast, could see that the coupe was something special and could easily be returned to its former glory.

FRESHENED UP

Over the years, Arend had the car repainted, replaced the standard fuel tank with a larger 28-gallon long-range tank from the XB range, freshened up the engine, replaced the extractor system, converted the car from auto to Top Loader manual gearbox and changed the diff ratio from 2.75:1 to 3.25:1, to make getting off the line easier. It was during the car’s first repaint, though, that one of the car’s unusual options was lost.

Unfortunately, when preparing the car for painting, a hole in the rear guard was welded up by the panel beater and so a standard square-base aerial ended up being installed on the front guard instead of the electric aerial originally mounted on one of the rear guards.

Ford -Falcon -XA-GT-7-658

By the latter half of 1989, Arend decided it was time to pass custodianship of the XA on to fellow Queensland GT Club member Jack Beedham, who had always admired the car. One of the first things Jack did after buying it was to convert the transmission back to auto and replace the exhaust system with one of standard design. As Jack owned one of the largest exhaust shops in the Brisbane area, this wasn’t a hard task.

SMOKIN' ORANGE XA

At the time, burnout competitions were the rage and Jack was well known for lighting up the rear tyres, when the occasion called for it. Those around at the time remember him sitting in the driver’s seat with a big grin on his face, as huge plumes of white smoke poured out from the guards of the orange XA.

Ford -Falcon -XA-GT-burnout -658Former owner Jack Beedham bags 'em up

Of course, it’s all good fun until something goes wrong and it wasn’t long after that Jack found out there’s often a cost to this type of shenanigans. At the Valla Park Combined GT Club run in October 1989, the clubs decided to use Raleigh Raceway (a go-kart track) for speed sprints and the usual burnout competition.

Jack easily won the burnout comp by smoking the tyres for the full circuit of the track. Eventually he blew both tyres and as well as overheating the engine a little, he also caused some damage to the rear quarter panels.

As some panel work and repainting was now necessary, Jack decided to go the whole hog and give the car a full restoration; repainting the car and engine bay, replacing the vinyl roof and freshening up the engine at the same time.

Ford -Falcon -XA-GT-engine -bay -658-29

Although he continued to have fun with the car, it was slightly more subdued; no more burnouts!

ANOTHER NEW OWNER

In late 1999, Jack and his wife Judy moved house and finding a spot for the big XA in the new place was problematic. We’re not sure if the stress of shifting house influenced his decision, but Jack succumbed to gentle but persistent prodding from Di and Keith Clarris, to sell them the car. As Di tells it:

"I first saw it in 1995 when another member of our club brought the car along to a car show my husband and I were participating. I remember thinking it was the most beautiful car I’d ever seen and at that time decided I just had to own it.

"We worked on Jack for about four years without ever discussing price and I only saw it once more in this time. One day in late 1999, I got the call asking if I was still interested in buying the car.

Ford -Falcon -XA-GT-interior -front -drivers -658-25

"We jumped into our car and raced to his home before he changed his mind. ‘How much do we make the cheque out for?’ I asked. The deal was done and the car was mine at what seemed like a premium price at the time, but I’d have paid more to secure this particular car. Now, over 10 years later, the price was certainly a bargain."

As everything was in pretty good order when they bought it, Di and Keith have had to do very little to the GT, apart from some minor cosmetic work, where things had perished or just died from old age.

WHICH WHEELS ?

The car was sold with two sets of wheels, and it generally sits on the classic B45 Simmons alloy wheels – 8x15-inch on the front and 10x15-inch rears.

The second set are the original 6x14-inch Sports wheels like the car left the factory with, which are used sparingly for events like the Falcon GT Nationals.

Ford -Falcon -XA-GT-WHEEL-658

Di reckons they’re just too skinny to use all the time. "Hardtops really need big wheels and tyres to fill out those big rear guards," she says adamantly.

With Di and Keith involved in the GT movement (Keith is president of the Queensland club) the car has been to a few Falcon GT Nationals, picking up a first in restored category for XA GT Hardtops in Brisbane in 2001 and Perth in ’07.

Although it’s classified as restored, due to being repainted, it’s definitely no trailer queen and gets driven often, with 16,000km added over the past 10 years. The one concession to this was for the GT Nationals in Perth, for which the car was freighted over and back, to avoid adding a further 9700km.

Although they’ve won numerous awards at various events over the years, Di and Keith place little value on trophies.

"The marque is our passion, with or without trophies," explains Di. "My main love is just cruising in the car. It’s such an awesome car to drive and attracts lots of attention everywhere I go. However, with a couple of other GTs in the shed at home, this one has to wait its turn."

 

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