1978 Ford XC Cobra Option 97

By: Mark Higgins, Photography by: Brad Miskiewicz

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In 1978 Ford built just 30 Option 97 or 'Bathurst Special' Cobras. This is the last one made

 

1978 Ford XC Cobra

If you drove for a factory backed race team, won the year’s biggest event, and the championship that was watched by millions, you’d reckon your job for the following year would be pretty safe right?

Wrong.

For Allan Moffat 1977 was a year of highs and lows. The highs included winning his fourth Bathurst in the legendary 1-2 finish crossing the line with teammate Colin Bond, plus a third of four touring car titles. The low was being told by Ford at the end of the year, they were ceasing to fund his racing, effective immediately.

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While that left Moffat in the wilderness after years of faithful service, the Broady boys grudgingly agreed to let him drum up financial support from dealers to keep a Ford Dealer Team going.

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The XC Falcon entered its final production year in 1978, marking the end of the road for the hardtop Falcon. The last examples rolled off the production line in March leaving Ford with a headache. What to do with 400 body shells?

Around this time Edsel Ford II arrived in Australia taking up the role of Assistant Managing Director, and it is he who is credited for the limited-edition Falcon Cobra, which was primarily a metal-moving marketing exercise, albeit a very successful one.

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Riding the wave of the 1977 Bathurst legendary 1-2 Falcon finish, Edsel commissioned the 400 body shells to be painted Sno White, creating two large stripes running from front to back and large Cobra decals, for a Shelby Mustang look. The first prototype Falcon Cobra was completed April 1978 with production getting underway in July.

While no longer financially supporting any team, Ford remained in racing.

| Reader Resto: Ford Falcon XC Cobra

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Road going racer

In December 1977 it built 13 special order, modified XC Falcon GS Bathurst evolution hardtops with VINs beginning JG65TE to comply with CAMS approved upgrades so race customers could compete in the 1978 Australian Touring Car Championship.

The modifications fitted to the 13 GS hardtops formed the foundation of the 30 very special and extremely rare Option 97, nicknamed ‘Bathurst Cobra’ hardtops, with build plates 002 to 031. Basically an evolution of an evolution.

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For homologation racing approval the Bathurst Cobras featured a larger radiator, driver switchable twin thermo fans, a gearbox oil cooler, additional suspension bracing and reworked wheels housings to accept the huge racing rubber.

Distinguishing the 30 Bathurst Cobras from the other 370 is the large functional rear-opening bonnet scoop.

Of all the Falcons to line up on the grid at Bathurst in 1978 only the two Moffat Ford Dealers XC Cobras of Allan Moffat and Colin Bond wore the white and blue stripe Shelbyesque hues. They were actually the repainted 1977 cars from that famous 1-2 finish.

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The distinctive and functional scoop

Sadly that wasn’t repeated in 1978 and while the Cobras led off the line they succumbed to a series of gremlins, including a pitlane fire and the race was won in convincing fashion by Peter Brock and Jim Richards in an A9X Torana.

The car you are looking at here is Car 031, the very last homologation Option 97 or Bathurst Cobra.

The present enthusiast owner is putting the Cobra up for sale having run out of shed space and isn’t prepared to leave any car out in the elements.

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The biggest engine in Henry's Australia

Speaking of the Cobra with affection he said, "Having the last homologation special is a pretty big thing when you stop to think about it.

"I’ve always liked them. I like a lot of cars and I’m not biased towards Ford or Holden or anything like that, but I always wanted one and my wife loves the colours and that sort of thing and that’s probably why I grabbed it."

The current owner had previously owned a Cobra, a 351 auto with all the bells and whistles but was keen on getting his hands on one of the 30 Bathurst specials.

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Twin fans and a bigger radiator

"I’d been looking for about six months and I put a call out to Mike Selby of Australian Muscle Car Sales to let him know if he came across one to give me a yell.

"I actually found one and went and had a look at it but it was a bit rough so I let it go.

"Then I was at the footy one night in Adelaide with my daughter and Mike rang and told me that number 31 had come up. I went straight out on the weekend to have a look at it and bought it. From what I can see it’s completely original but been touched up a little bit underneath but done correctly and the patina is fantastic.

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"Frankly it’s the tidiest car I have ever seen underneath it is incredible. I was as happy as Larry and grabbed it."

Cobra #31 has only done about 57,000 km and according to its current owner he hasn’t touched it apart from regularly washing and putting fuel down its throat.

"Since I’ve had it I have only driven it around 1500 kilometres and while I don’t get to drive it much, it is like brand-new.

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"It’s so comfortable, like driving a lounge chair down the road watching TV. For its age it has plenty of power but that’s not a lot in todays terms.

"But she still goes alright and drives so well which is pretty incredible when you consider how old it is."

Mike Selby added that demand for ‘Bathurst’ specials like the Cobra and E49 Charger featured recently in Unique Cars are always strong and right now Bathurst Cobras are proving more sought than Phase III GT-HOs.

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Black seats were in Option 97 pack

"This Cobra carries the same Bathurst provenance as the Toranas A9X hatchback and E49 Chargers," said Selby.

"We sold three Bathurst Cobras a couple of years ago, said Selby. "Two of them went for $400,000 and one for $462,000 and I believe the market for these cars has increased by at least 30 per cent since then."

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Selby adds it’s an original unrestored car that at some point someone has gone through, to make sure everything is working. It has a documented history and all the numbers match and it certainly doesn’t require any restoration work. That is why the vendor is seeking offers in excess of $550,000.

For further details on the last Falcon homologation special Falcon Cobra built contact Mike Selby on 0414 278 604 or log on to australianmusclecarsales.com.au.

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1978 Ford xc Cobra Option 97

Number produced 30
Engine 5760cc 8cyl, OHV, 16v
Power 162kW @ 4700rpm
Torque 429Nm @ 2700rpm
Weight 1490kg
Gearbox 4-speed manual
Wheels 15 x 7.0-inch
Tyres ER70H15
Brakes discs (f), discs (r)
0-100km/h 8.9sec
0-400m 16.0sec
Top Speed 211km/h est
Price when new $10,333

 

From Unique Cars #449, February 2021

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