1972-1973 Ford Falcon XA GT - Buyer's Guide

By: Guy Allen, Photography by: Nathan Jacobs, Ben Galli

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Sal Maccora's stunning XA GT is one of a batch of just three promo cars from the seventies

1972-1973 Ford Falcon XA GT

It’s long been a mystery why the XA series Ford Falcons for years struggled to get anything like the market traction of the preceding XYs, given the later car’s significance in local manufacturing history. From the point of view of a Ford historian it was, after all, the first Falcon to have a complete clean-sheet body design done specifically for this market.

Sure, the XY and its predecessors had features unique to Australia, but they nevertheless were derived from the XR, which itself was largely borrowed from the American mothership.

| Watch the video: Sal's Rothmans XA GT

ford-falcon-xa-gt-8.jpgThe XA was the first Aussie penned Falcon

Back in 1968, a trio of Ford Australia staffers went to Dearborn in the USA to begin work on the new XA series. They were Jack Telnack, Brian Rossi and Alan Jackson – an American and two Brits! That may not sound like a promising start to an ‘Australian’ design. However the car was penned specifically for our market – albeit using the XY platform – and it was the catalyst for the funding of a complete local design centre employing local staff. As Gavin Farmer points out in his book, Falcon GT & GT-HO – The Total Performance Years, this was a milestone in the brand’s history.

| Read next: Ford Phase history

ford-falcon-xa-gt-10.jpgSimply stunning from every angle

Initially, the plan was for a sedan, ute, wagon and variants. However the hardtop was not initially part of the program, which started in earnest in 1968, but Holden’s success with the Monaro soon changed that. It turned out to be a good decision, giving the range a flagship glamour car that added a little spice.

| Read next: Ford Falcon XA GT-HO Phase IV

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Sister magazine Wheels dissected the new range as a cover story in April 1972, pointing out the cars overall were good ‘middle of the road’ fare that were slightly larger than the XY equivalents, despite the identical wheelbase. Of the GT, the magazine said it "continues its role as the high performance touring car with lowered suspension, wide sports wheels, 300hp, 351 cid engine with four-speed gearbox and quartz iodine driving lights.

"A complete range of instruments, including a clock, is standard and the interior is finished to the same standard as the Fairmont."

ford-falcon-xa-gt-bonnet.jpgNACA-style intakes are subtler than the XY’s shaker

The story went on to point out the Fairlane had been delayed a month, while the Cortina sixes would buffer the lower and of the market and might even steal a few sales from Falcon. As for the Hardtop, that was to feature six months later on the October cover of Wheels.

Over recent years, there is no question XAs and their successors have picked up more interest particularly since XYs reached stratospheric prices. The hardtops have proven to be a particularly good investment for those owners who got in before interest reignited in a big way around five years ago.

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While the production history of these things is reasonably well-known and researched, there is always room for the odd special that pops up over the horizon, very often built as a promotional vehicle, a give-away prize or some sort of dealer special. And that’s the case with the car you see here. It’s one of three XAs – two sedans and one hardtop – painted in a special colour (with the unusual code Y113) for the Rothmans tobacco company. It’s believed the other sedan is still in existence in Melbourne, while the Hardtop has long since ceased to exist.

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For owner and mechanic Salvatore ‘Sal’ Maccora, it was a combination of his first collectible performance car and perhaps his apprentice piece. For him, there was some inevitability that he would end up with a Ford. His father, Leo, had a 351 GS of the same era and he ended up lusting after one of his own. Of course, if there was the opportunity to one-up Dad by getting a GT instead of a GS, why not take it?

However getting his hands on this example was anything but an instant decision. "That was in 1992 when I was 19," he explains. "I purchased that car after looking for two years. I preferred a Wild Violet with white trim and looked at a few – went all over the country looking at them. But I couldn’t find the right one. So I mellowed down a little and didn’t concentrate on it as much.

ford-falcon-xa-gt-wheel.jpgGlobe Bathurst mags still look the part today

"One came up in the paper and it was this one – an XA GT in blue, one owner, and it was local. It was only a couple of streets away. We went and had a look at it. It was in a panel beater’s shop and had been stored there for 14 years. The guy had bought it new, drove it for a while, and then put it under cover… I think in 1978."

Yes, it seemed like a hell of a waste, but it meant that Sal ended up with a car that was a very solid basis for a freshen-up. Even the original blue shockers were on board, while the brakes looked like they were units that first rolled out of the dealership.

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"Then we started restoring it in 1994," says Sal, explaining the overall plan was to keep the car looking original, but giving it bit of a boost in the power department. "That was a labour of love for a year and a half. It was a good experience, building it up with Dad. As a kid, you learn a lot – you learn much better. The crank internally was balanced, which made it a good revving engine. That makes a big difference on an engine when it has a free-spinning crank.

"It’s running about 11:1 compression. It had a little more than that, but Leo (Dad) being a machinist and engineer, spun the pistons up and took a few thou off to relieve it so it wouldn’t ping as it was getting up around 12.5:1. It’s running closed chamber big port heads.

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"Most of the changes are internal, so you don’t see them from the outside – it looks pretty much original.

"We built a healthy motor for it – it gets up and goes." The package includes a Barry Grant 810 carburettor, MSD ignition, Crow cam, altered stall converter and a shorter gear set in the 9-inch diff. "That makes it get up and go off the mark, which is what I like."

ford-falcon-xa-gt-engine-bay-3.jpgFaster now than when it left the factory

Clearly it works, as the car got a few runs at Calder and got into the high elevens across the quarter. It also did pretty well in muscle car shows and the now 27-year-old Glasurit paint has lasted very well.

These days it very much lives the life of the semi-retired weekend toy. "Getting the car was a big decision when I was 19, but I’ve stuck with it. I’m 47 now," says Sal. "A lot of people get rid of things. My son Luke enjoys it now – he’s the one who makes me take it out. He naturally thinks it’s his car, so I can’t get rid of it!"

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FORD XA GT SEDAN MARKET

Australia in 1972 finally saw a Falcon that could be described as ‘Home Grown’. The new XA owed little to the USA and a lot to local buyer expectations. The body was complex and distinctive with a higher waistline and smaller windows than the XW-XY. Bulging wheel-arches provided room for oversized race rubber if required and subtle bonnet ducts replaced its predecessor’s ‘shaker’.

inside was a dash that looked interesting to the observer but was criticised by people who owned XAs as less practical than previous designs.

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The XA GT sedan remained a winner in practical terms and even today these cars deal easily with traffic or long trips. Those looking for a reason why the XA will in general cost more than the XB model which follows only need to walk around and then drive factory-stock examples of both cars.

Visually the XA is more striking; defined by its chrome-plated bumpers and more intensive use of matt black paint. However under the bonnet is where the big difference lies.

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Plant the foot and the XA’s version of the 351 cubic inch (5.8-litre) Cleveland V8 will unleash all of its claimed 300 horsepower (224kW) and disappear in a cloud of rubber smoke. The XB arrived in the market with those numbers on the specification sheet but something obviously different under the bonnet. The effects of new emission controls translated into sluggish response and extended acceleration times..

More than 1800 four-door XA GTs were built during a relatively brief life-span. Today they appear regularly in a market where prices are stable and at levels close to the best the XA has ever achieved.

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Prices in the $120-150,000 range are sustainable, but only for cars with verifiable history and in excellent condition.

VALUE RANGE Falcon XA GT (Auto Sedan)

Fair: $35,000
Good: $95,000
Excellent: $140,000+

(Note: exceptional cars will demand more)ford-falcon-xa-gt-side.jpg

BUYER'S CHECKLIST

BODY & CHASSIS

XA Falcons came with lots of in-built rust traps and GTs received no special treatment against corrosion. Repair sections are being made but early in the XA’s life when the cost of repairing a damaged car often wasn’t justifiable, a lot just disappeared. Even today, well-presented XAs that were restored 20+ years ago may be suffering recurrent rust, so look carefully at rear quarter panels, the rear pillars, boot floor, wheel-arches, inner mudguards and plenum area between the bonnet and windscreen. Reproduction GT grilles have been advertised at $1250 but exchange rechromed bumpers only cost $665 each. Sedan doors don’t sag like those on hardtops and hinge repair kits are available.

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ENGINE & TRANSMISSION

V8 Ford engines are tough, simple and cheap to rebuild. Looking back 25-40 years they were also cheaper to replace than repair and a lot of owners went down the ‘exchange engine’ route in order to avoid having the car off the road for weeks. Check that the engine number matches the car ID and any documentation supplied by the vendor. Oil leaks around from cylinder heads and the timing cover can be overlooked however main bearing seal failure is going to cost money. Make sure the car starts easily and idles at sensible RPM when warm. Be wary of a gearbox that crunches as the synchromesh will be worn. Expect even a newish clutch might need replacement. Lots of XA GTs had automatic transmission and these are generally reliable.

SUSPENSION & BRAKES

Creaks from worn-out ball-joints and bushings typify a car that should be priced towards the bottom of our value range. However they aren’t expensive to rectify, with parts for a complete front-end rebuild costing less than $1500. Rear springs rust and crack with age and violent acceleration can bend the axle housing. If the rear tyres are edge-worn be suspicious. A soft brake pedal, pulsing through the pedal, dirty or leaking fluid are all signs that a brake overhaul is due.  Uprated disc rotors and replacement boosters are easily found. Some cars have been converted to all-disc which makes a big difference to brake performance.

ford-falcon-xa-gt-interior.jpgInterior was a quantum leap forward

INTERIOR & ELECTRICAL

XAs at the high end of the market will have an interior that is excellent and reasonably authentic. However it is good to know if you do find a car showing the effects of neglect that replacement vinyl, carpets and headlining are all available. Remoulded dash surrounds and refurbished fascias are available too but expensive. New gauge lenses and surrounds are being reproduced and some switchgear is also available. Fuel gauges are unreliable so don’t assume the car has fuel. It is also important to ensure before test-driving that all the warning lights are connected. The correct GT starter motor is difficult to find.

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1972-1975 Ford Falcon XA GT sedan

Number built: 1868 (XA GT 4 door)
Body style: All-steel integrated body/chassis four-door sedan ENGINES: 5766cc V8 with overhead valves and 600cfm 4BBL carburettor
PowerR & torque: 224kW @ 5400rpm, 513Nm @ 3400rpm
Performance: 0-96km/h –  8.0 seconds 0-400 metres – 15.8 seconds (auto sedan)
Transmission: Four-speed manual, three-speed automatic
Suspension: Independent with coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers & anti-roll bar (f) Live axle with semi-elliptic springs, telescopic shock absorbers and anti-roll bar (r)
Brakes: Disc (f) drum (r) power assisted
Tyres: ER70H14 radial

From Unique Cars #435, January 2020

 

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