Brabham Ford Falcon XY special

By: Mark Higgins, Photography by: Will Horner

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An XY with the legendary Jack Brabham name? We've landed in Heaven, haven't we?

From racing midgets on sintered speedway tracks in Sydney to starring on a world stage with 14 Grand Prix wins, 13 pole positions and three World Championships; by any measure Sir Jack Brabham had an illustrious racing career.

Brabham walked away from Formula One age 44 at the conclusion of the 1970 season, remaining the only driver to win an F1 championship driving a car he designed and developed, that bore his name.

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He was responsible for introducing rear engine cars to the Indy 500, was the first F1 driver to receive a knighthood in 1979 and almost 600 race cars of various formulae wore the Brabham badge. 

His return to Australia was marked with the purchase of a home in Sydney, a farm in Victoria and the establishment of Jack Brabham Ford at 204 Hume Highway Bankstown, the birthplace of the little known and very rare Jack Brabham Falcon Special.

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Brabham’s purchase of the Ford franchise couldn’t have come at a better time with the Australian muscle car scene exploding. Camaros and Mustangs were competing in the Australian Touring Car Championship and the big three locals, Holden, Ford and Chrysler producing homologation specials to tackle Bathurst.

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Driving lights are part of the pack

Barry Sharp was a Sydney-based sports sedan racer and workshop owner specialising in high performance vehicles. Like Brabham, Sharp was equally adept at engineering creativity as well as behind the wheel, so it was no surprise the pair teamed up to create and build the Ford Fairmont based Brabham Falcons. 

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To get your hands on one it worked like this. Customers would buy a Ford Fairmont with a 351ci V8 with either a four-speed manual ($3639) or three-speed auto ($3939) and the options they wanted from Jack Brabham Ford. The car would be built to order by Ford Australia and shipped to Brabham.

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Special paint and badging

The Fairmont was chosen as the donor car as it didn’t raise the eyebrows of the police or insurance companies, being looked upon as a Fairmont with a bit of bling. In reality in its wildest form the Brabham Falcon was built to run as quickly as a GT-HO. A true mailed fist in a velvet glove.

Once the customer car arrived at Jack Brabham Ford the fun began. Customers could decide how mild or wild they wanted their Brabham special Falcon to be.

First stop was the paint shop for its unique two-tone treatment. That could be as little as a side stripe in a contrasting hue to as much the bonnet and roof painted as well.

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Quite subtle in its execution

From there it was off to Barry Sharp’s high performance division to install the host of engine and suspension parts ticked by the customer that transformed the humble Fairmont into anything up to to a thinly disguised production race car.

The variety of parts that could be ordered was extensive with front and rear stabiliser bars, front and rear spoilers, a carby tune, new camshaft and valve springs, a port and polish of the heads, replacement rocker covers, a dropped front end, wheel alignment and a set of mags coming in at $1100.

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Two-tone scheme was optional

Customers could have each part fitted individually but if they ordered ‘one with the lot’ the total price was $898, a saving of $200. That represented a saving of around seven per cent compared to a GT-HO for a rarer car with similar performance.

As most customers were keen to tailor their car, very few Brabham Falcons were built ‘off the rack’. What’s more each came with full factory warranty.

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In addition to building the Brabham Falcons, Sharp was also hired by Black Jack to build, prepare and race both a series production XY GT and a sports sedan based XY Falcon, which were both sponsored by the dealership. 

With no definitive records to refer to it’s believed that around 60 of the Jack Brabham Special XY Falcons were built. 

There is little doubt Jack saw an opportunity to cash in on his name and fame to sell a few more cars and like his F1 days, was a pioneer in the creation of low volume special-edition high performance cars almost a decade earlier than Peter Brock’s HDT operation.

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This Bronze Wine/Ultra White with saddle trim K-Code XY Brabham Special, built in March 1971 belongs to Muscle Car Warehouse Proprietor Parry Bitsikas. It features a Cleveland 351ci V8 with an FMX three-speed auto and is fitted with the optional factory sunroof.

Prior to Bitsikas acquiring it mid 2016, it had been in the hands of one family since new and came with a full-service history and documentation.

It still sports the original Jack Brabham Ford sticker on the rear window, the Brabham Ford badging on the front guards along with the Fairmont 351 chrome badges. Most special of all is Jack Brabham’s signature on the glovebox lid.

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The odometer is showing 01588.1 miles so it is believed to have been around the clock once already, but looking at its condition it’s hard to believe and a credit to its first owners.

When asked why he bought it Parry said, " I love buying unique cars and the Brabham Falcon is something I hadn’t heard of before but I fell in love with it when I saw it and now it is one of my favourite cars.

"When I looked at it and the guy told me that it was original and it had books and full history and was a one family owned a car. I said to myself there is no way I am letting this car go."

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Note the 8-track cartridge player

In the time he has owned it Parry claims he gets out an about in it around four times a year, most often to events and it always attracts a huge crowd.

In addition to the Barry Sharp-driven Falcon sports sedan and GT production car, Jack Brabham Ford also sponsored Bob Beasley in Formula Ford.

When invited to compete in a Race of Champions at Calder in 1971 in identical Formula Fords Brabham jumped at the chance, commandeering ‘his’ P4 Bowin. 

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Blowing off the cobwebs after almost a year showed Brabham had lost none of his speed and he went on to beat a field of local heroes including Kevin Bartlett, Bib Stillwell, Bob Jane, Alan Hamilton, Allan Moffat and Frank Match.

While it was all a bit of fun, when the flag dropped it was taken very seriously. 

Brabham divested himself of the Ford car and truck dealerships after owning them for several years.

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This car was signed by Jack

Our thanks to Parry at Muscle Car Warehouse in Sydney, tel (02) 9553 8965, or at musclecarwarehouse.com.au

MR SHARP

Barry Sharp was a larger than life character, a Sydney-based sports sedan racer and workshop owner with a dyno, specialising in high performance vehicles.

In the 1970s the Sports Sedan class rules were pretty relaxed, opening the door for some pretty wild machinery. Think Harry Firth’s HDT Beast, an XU-1 Torana with a Formula 5000 engine, sitting alongside the driver for better weight distribution, or Harry LeFoe’s V8 powered Hillman Imp; you get the picture.

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Barry Sharp revelled in this category with a penchant for inserting large powerful V8s into all manner of unsuspecting sedan bodies which were lightened within an inch of their lives. 

Sharp started his racing career in a Wolseley 60/80.

Along the way there were a fearsome V8 engined left-hand drive FE Holden, a Ford Mustang, 60s Falcon two-door – another left hooker, a Zephyr V8, and a Jaguar V8 to name a few. Many of Sharp’s cars were converted to left hand drive as that suited the original Oran Park circuit where most of Sharp’s racing was done in those days.

1971 Ford XY Falcon Brabham Edition

Engine 5.8lt V8
Power & TORQUE 223kw@ 4600rpm, 515Nm @ 2600rpm
Performance 0-100km/h 6.7 seconds
Transmission three-speed automatic
Suspension Front – independent coils, telescopic shocks; Rear - live axle,
leaf springs
Brakes disc front, drum rear power-assisted

 

From Unique Cars #449, February 2021

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