We tend to forget the impact these cars had at the time. It was while driving through the city to pick up Kev that RCN journalist Graham Howard – who sadly passed away in 2013 – first noticed the public reaction to Ford’s new muscle car.
“The policemen out there watches me,” he writes. “He knows this is no ordinary Falcon. So does a crocodile of high-school boys at St Leonards Station. Second Form opinion considers it ‘a hotted Mustang’. They are on their way to sport; and when I at last let Kevin Bartlett take over the driving at [Alec] Mildren’s [dealership], so am I.”
They headed out to Amaroo but it was closed, so on they went to Oran Park instead.
It was on the way there, taking some of the back roads not subject to speed restrictions in the swinging sixties that Bartlett started to get serious. Howard, sweating in the passenger seat, took notes.
“There’ll be some people get into strife in these,” says KB. “One of these milk-bar cowboys, you know? You can pass anything anywhere with this! (we were doing just that, notes Howard). Just like a good sports car.”
Bartlett was slightly critical of the seating position.
“You want your bum down further, that’s what,” he says. “Are there springs in the seat or foam? You could probably take out a few springs, that would fix it”.
“I like the pedals; only the clutch is awkward – that’s not a natural movement. You’d get bloody tired in long races. It’s not heavy, no. And they’ve done the right thing with the steering. This is good. It’s just right.”
Howard noted that Bartlett deliberately drove off the road to test the handling but the car was impressively steady even with two wheels on the dirt, and quiet as well.
“Thereafter the roads were all tar,” he writes, “mostly straight and de-restricted, and we settled into a cruising speed about 3500rpm in top, roughly 90mph. On a downhill run we topped a crest (fair amount of wind noise now) at 4000 in top, about 102-103mph on the unchecked speedo.”
“It says here that it will do ‘well over 100mph’ in third gear,” Howard tells KB. Bartlett immediately changes down to test this out.
“See that? See that? It runs out of puff at four-eight… right out of puff at five-one, five two. I’d say it was the hydraulic lifters.”
Howard saw that this was happening under the predicted ‘100 in third’, but Bartlett suggested that a race-prepared car would achieve the target easily.
He tackled a tight left-hand corner at an effortless 50-60mph.
“You notice that fuel surge? I had my foot flat and it just went urrrgh. I don’t think it can be in the tank. You don’t know what they might have done to this before they let it out; it’s probably not intended for mad blokes to drive.”
Once at Oran Park, Bartlett gave the Falcon a tough workout then after 10 very hot laps he pulled into the pits. Smoke was coming from the front wheel wells. Bartlett’s opinion was that the brake pads or the discs had cracked.
“It’s got no brakes; it’s got no oil pressure; and coming out of corners it won’t go,” he says. Still, once things cooled down he was happy to drive the Falcon back to Sydney, a bit slower than on the way out.
Overall, Bartlett was very impressed.
“As it is, it’s a beaut road car,” he says. “It’s comfortable, and it’s all right to drive. The steering is beautiful. Best bloody steering I’ve ever felt in a road car.”
“Imagine going to Surfers in one of these! What a ball!”