1967 Ford XR Falcon GT

Ford kicked off the Aussie muscle car with the '67 Falcon GT

The XR GT is the starting point of the indigenous Aussie muscle car – and what a launching pad it was too. Its success in the marketplace spawned a series of fast Ford offspring that led to the ultimate GT within four years. Meantime, its parallel success on the racetrack focused Holden's energies and created the great rivalry that continued all the way until the demise of Holden.

The XR GT was the first V8 to conquer the Mountain, kickstarting a short-lived arms race of homologation specials. Not bad for a mildish workover of the standard XR Falcon – the first to be offered with a V8 engine – and a car that used the police pursuit spec XR as a base.

The first GT used a more powerful version of the standard 4.7-litre pushrod V8. Modifications included a boosted compression ratio, sports camshaft, four-barrel Holley carburettor, special intake manifold and exhaust system. Suspension mods ran to heavier springs, bigger shock absorber and a large front anti-roll bar.

All except a handful (13) of the special build cars were painted 'GT Gold' with black GT stripes down each sill and across the bootlid. The grille was also blacked out for dramatic effect.

Inside the cabin was a Mustang-style wood-rim steering wheel, extra dials and a Hurst shifter for the 4-speed. XR GT values soared last year when Ford released the GT F, with many enthusiasts keen to own the first and last GTs. It was a fitting salute to the car that started it all.

Key stats

Number Produced: 600 (approx)

Power Output: 225bhp (168kW)

Top Speed: 201km/h

0-100km/h: 9.9 seconds

Standing 400m: 16.2 seconds

Price New: $3890

Did you know?

Harry Firth and Fred Gibson's 1967 Gallaher 500 victory is well known. Ditto the controversy over whether this car or the Geoghegan brothers' example took the chequered flag first. What's not widely known was Ford chief Bill Bourke's anger over the delay in sorting out the winner that robbed the blue oval of going to press to advertise the win until it was sorted.  

1968 Ford XT Falcon GT

The '68 XT Falcon GT was a winner on track and rally stage

You'll have to forgive the XT GT for not winning Bathurst in 1968, but the Fred Gibson/Barry Seton Falcon was heading for what looked a certain victory in the closing stages when the radiator was holed by a rock. And Bill Gates (not that Bill Gates) and Jim Bertram's win in the 12-Hour race at Surfers Paradise in January 1969 included outlasting the Bathurst '68-winning Monaro of Bruce McPhee in the Queensland summer sun. Why the latter is not more widely celebrated is a mystery.

In any case, the XT GT was developed as much a rally car as a circuit racer, where it proved highly effective. It's extra agility gave it an edge over the Monaro in rallies, with several notable victories, including the three-day 1969 BP Rally and taking the team prize in the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon.

The heart of the XT GT was the 302 Windsor engine, 13 cubic inches larger than the XR GT's 289. Other changes to the XT GT included a 3.00:1 limited slip diff, revised suspension, driving lights and wider six-inch rims. Buyers could choose between the standard four-speed manual or a new three-speed auto transmission, indicating a shift towards the executive market by Ford.

Further broadening its appeal, the XT GT was available in a range of colours, unlike the standard gold of its predecessor. The XT GT's blacked-out tail established a Falcon GT tradition.

Key stats

Number Produced: 1415

Power Output: 172kW (230bhp)

Top Speed: 201km/h

0-100km/h: 8.5 seconds

Standing 400m: 15.9 seconds

Price New: $4050

Did you know?

The first XT GT was built in February 1968, a pre-production model allocated to the Ford Motor Company. The last XT GT rolled off the production line in May 1969. It was a Polar White example delivered to Frank Delandro Ford in NSW.

1969 Ford XW Falcon GT-HO

The XW Falcon GT-HO introduced the famous 'HO' lineage

Launched in June 1969, the Ford XW GT ushered in the era of the real muscle car GTs, introducing the famed 'Super Roo' with unmatched performance. Big and bold, the XW GT was the first with the big four-barrel 351ci engines, with powerful, aggressive styling to match.

It was the first Australian muscle car to feature standard locking pins, racing exterior mirror, anti-glare bonnet rally panels, styled fuel cap, separate dual exhausts, styled 12-slot sports wheels, baggy 70-series radial tyres, long distance fuel tank and large ventilated front disc brakes.

The standard GT was joined in August 1969 by the high-output GT-HO. These were out and out homologation specials built to win the only motor race in the nation that really mattered, the Bathurst 500. Engine power jumped dramatically, braking and handling were also greatly improved and racing fans soon had heroes like Allan Moffat to cheer for.

Victory at Bathurst that year evaded Ford, but that hasn't detracted from the earliest GT-HOs' mystique. The loss only strengthened Ford's resolve to finish the job that it started. The 1969 GT-HOs are muscle cars that, almost five decades on, command respect and ooze all the excitement, emotion, colour and raw power of its era.

That first XW GT-HO has become known as the 'Phase I' purely for ease of identification. However, when new the car was only referred to as the 'Falcon GT-HO' and today is more correctly named the 'Windsor GT-HO'. Regardless, they became instant classics for being thinly disguised race cars for the road.

Key stats

Number Produced: 260

Power Output: 300bhp (225kW) 

Top Speed: 130mph (208km/h)

0-100km/h: 6.7 seconds

Standing 400m: 14.4 seconds

Price New: $4495

Did you know?

The 'HO' originally stood for 'High-Output' but a nervous Ford changed its official line to 'Handling Options' before the vehicle's release. The only major difference between the suspension on a 1969 XW GT and XW GT-HO 'Phase I' was a rear anti-sway bar – hardly a 'Handling Option' worth two famous letters.

1970 Ford XW Falcon GT-HO Phase II

The Phase II elevated the GT-HO concept

Despite some early reliability issues with its new 'Cleveland' 351 V8 engine, the faster, tougher GT-HO Phase II released in August 1970 delivered Ford Australia the Bathurst revenge it had waited a year for, with an emphatic one-two result in the 1970 Hardie-Ferodo 500 for Allan Moffat and Bruce McPhee.

From the outside the new Phase II seemed little changed from its predecessor, but it was under the skin where the real changes took place to increase the car's speed up the Mountain and eliminate the problems that led to it's Bathurst failure in '69.

The Cleveland 351 was imported from Ford US as a complete 'crate' motor and featured a rafter of differences over the Windsor it replaced, most notably a big 780cfm Holley four-barrel carburettor (off a 1969 Boss Mustang) on a cast-iron Ford intake manifold. Upgraded was the gearbox, tailshaft, rear axle, suspension, brakes and wheels.

The improvements added up to a more reliable package that did the job at Mount Panorama.

Surprisingly, both Moffat's pole time and race time (six hours 33 minutes) were slower than those achieved by the fastest qualifier and race winner 12 months earlier, but that mattered not one zot. The Phase II etched the GT-HO's place in local motoring folklore with the works Falcons finishing a lap up on the rest of the field.

Key stats

Number Produced: 285

Power Output: 300bhp (officially), 345bhp (in reality) 

Top Speed: 144mph (232km/h)

0-100km/h: 6.4 seconds

Standing 400m: 14.4 seconds

Price New: $4790

Did you know?

The GT-HO Phase IIs had F-A-L-C-O-N badging on the bootlid when they left the factory but the double-sided tape securing the letters often became unstuck.

1970 Ford XY Falcon GT

The "Shaker" on the XY GT is an Aussie icon 

It's important that we pay tribute to the non GT-HO version of the XY GT. It was, after all, the car that gave the motoring public the “Shaker”. Mere mention of the word and there is an instant association with the Australian muscle car.

The release of the XY GT brought with it the most revered of high-performance icons – a device for ensuring that the engine was able to produce maximum horsepower under all operating conditions. The attention-grabbing induction system was bolted to the carburettor and poked out through a hole in the bonnet.

The basis of the system was that at higher speeds, the shaker would provide a type of ram-air induction effect, allowing fresh, colder air to be forced into the carburettor and provide more power. Not that this was really important for most buyers; it looked good and provided the car with a greater sense of presence.

While this system was functional, the visual appeal was something else. It “shook” from side to side with the pulse of the engine and would rise and fall with the acceleration of the vehicle. The driving experience, from behind the big GT wheel, went to a whole new level.

“Shaker” would ensure that the XY is recognised as the all-time great of Falcon GTs. It is also the vehicle that most people associate with the term Falcon GT. Changes from the previous model were mainly cosmetic, with revisions to the front grille, front and rear indicator assemblies, interior trim and seats, dash panel, mirrors, boot mouldings, stripes and bonnet blackouts.

If the XY GT was the model that has most captured the imagination of the masses, it is also the one that is most often copied. Countless replicas and just plain fakes have been produced over the ensuing 44 years. 

Key stats

Number Produced: 1525

Power Output: 300bhp (224kW)

Top Speed: 126mph

0-100km/h: 8.3 seconds

Standing 400m: 15.5 seconds

Price New: $5133

Did you know?

Fred Gibson’s Road & Track Automotive Services maintained Ford’s Sydney press fleet – and was the pick-up point – during the XY Falcon GT era.

1971 Ford XY Falcon GT-HO Phase III

Is this the greatest Aussie muscle car ever made?

It's the king of kings – the definitive Australian muscle car. The GT-HO Phase III's lofty status stems from its on-road presence, shattering performance figures and its prolific motorsport achievements, especially at Mount Panorama.

The Phase III won the 1971 Hardie-Ferodo 500 and the 1972 Manufacturers Championship for Series Production cars. Moffat's #9 Falcon also won the 1973 Australian Touring Car Championship.

However, any tribute to the Phase III must address its desirability as a road car to accurately communicate its legendary status. This is a car that has struck a chord deep in the Australian motoring psyche, deeper than many better pedigreed and more exotic cars. For a long time the GT-HO sprinkled gold dust on every local Ford. It earned a reputation as the fastest production four-door sedan in the world at the time and the ultimate expression of 'race on Sunday, win on Monday'.

It's iconic position also stems from the fact that the XY model's successor, the XA, had softer lines and a less aggressive stance. Of course, the Phase III never really had a successor. Once the XA GT-HO was killed off (before production could get into full swing) the Phase III's place in history as the last of the breed was assured.

Improvements over the Phase II were many and too extensive to list in this piece. But they were worth 10 seconds per lap around Bathurst. Moffat's pole time in 1971 was two minutes 38.9 seconds, compared to his 49.3 as fastest qualifier 12 months earlier. On race day he clipped 24 minutes off the time it took to complete 130 laps in 1970!  

Key stats

Number Produced: Between 302 and 311

Power Output: 300bhp (official), 

Top Speed: 141.5mph (226km/h)

0-100km/h: 6.4 seconds

Standing 400m: 14.7 seconds

Price New: $5250

Did you know?

A special build of blueprinted engines were sent to those dealers who had Phase III buyers ready to race or were entering their own cars in the 1971 Hardie-Ferodo 500. 

The first Phase III rolled off the production line on May 14, 1971 and was assigned to Lot 6 Mahoneys Road for testing racecar powerplants. This Ultra White-coloured car was later painted Vermillion Fire and pressed into service after the Bathurst-winning #65E racecar was crashed at Adelaide International Raceway in 1972. 

1972 Ford XA Falcon GT hardtop RPO83

The RPO83 gave Ford an outlet for its Phase IV parts

The story behind Regular Production Option code 83 is the stuff of legend: A media fuelled supercar scare creates public and political furore and the 'big three' abandon their ever-escalating racetrack war.

For Ford Australia, this meant axing its most ambitious project, the XA Falcon GT-HO Phase IV, after three race cars and one road car had been built. But what to do with the surplus homologation parts, at least 250 sets required to ensure the Phase IV's Bathurst eligibility. History now shows that these parts were quickly and quietly dispersed through the Ford dealer network, though it is the existence of the 250 Ford Falcon XA GT RPO 83 (120 hardtops and 130 sedans) built between April and August 1973 that tells the story best.

Essentially a performance pack that included the 780cfm Holley carburettor, 2.25-inch HM-designed headers and associated heat shield for the clutch slave master cylinder from the Phase IV parts bin, it added no cost to the standard price of an XA GT four-door or two-door.

Unpublicised, it was Ford's way of shifting such parts through the production line to gain homologation for the 1973 Manufacturers Championship. The factory XA hardtop of Allan Moffat and Ian 'Pete' Geoghegan would go on to win the Bathurst 1000 that year, the first time the legendary enduro ran to 1000 kilometres.

With the RPO 83 being an exercise in Ford shifting homologation parts through the road car network as quickly as possible, some RPO 83 received components earmarked for Lot 6, such as the Phase IV's winged-sump and solid camshaft. To all intents and purposes such engines were 'QC Phase IV' donks. The RPO 83s – Ford's secret GT – were very much a lucky dip.   

Key stats

Due to the lucky dip nature of the RPO 83s we’ve refrained from including performance info for this model.

Did you know?

The four-door examples were $5087 when new, while two-door versions went for $5203.

1973 Ford XB Falcon GT hardtop

The XB Falcon GT coupe is one of the best-looking Aussie cars ever made

If this was a list of the top 10 fastest Ford muscle cars, the XB Falcon GT would struggle to get on the grid. It's another matter entirely when it comes to desirability. The Falcon coupe is just so sexy in a modern context that XB hardtops are commanding big dollars today.

The XB GT, produced between 1973 and 1976, was the end of line for the original GT breed. It was milder, more refined than its forebears, lacking the ferocity of the XW and XY models. And while a Bathurst win eluded the model, Allan Moffat's 1976 and 1977 Australian Touring Car Championship crowns have given the XB plenty of motorsport credibility.

In the looks department it had a sharper-edged and more aggressive looking front-end design, particularly around the grille, than the XA it replaced. The late great Ford stylist Wayne Draper told AMC that the XB GT styling was heavily influenced by the 1971 Mustang Mach 1, as requested by then Ford Australia boss Bill Bourke. The Mustang detailing is obvious, from the chiselled front, bonnet scoops and painted bumpers to the honeycomb grille detailing.

Its appeal has been boosted by its starring role in the ever-popular Mad Max franchise – well, three of the four post-apocalyptic flicks at least – which also created a market for the XB overseas. In fact, it's fair to say that the XB GT is far more famous outside of its homeland than the local legend, the XY GT-HO Phase III. Such is the fickle world of celebrity. 

Key stats

Number Produced: 940 approx

Power Output: 300bhp (officially), 260bhp (realistically)

Top Speed: 

0-100km/h: 8.1 seconds

Standing 400m: 21 seconds

Price New: $5316

Did you know?

The XB had the longest racing career of any of the classic Falcon GTs – from the start of the 1974 season to mid 1977.

1975 Ford XB John Goss Special

John Goss helped add some youth appeal to the Falcon range

The John Goss Special can't hold a candle performance-wise to the GTs that came before it, but, then, it was never intended to be a rocketship. The JGS was an exercise in breathing new life into the hardtop model that, by 1975, was struggling to find buyers.

It was an eye-catching cut-price limited edition model that proved to be the single most successful Falcon coupe model over a given year. Ford's sales and marketing gurus successfully aligned the youthful image of 1974 Hardie-Ferodo 1000 winner Goss with a model that borrowed – and tweaked – striking Ford racing liveries.

The new paint scheme also served to cleverly mask the big coupe's styling shortcomings, while accentuating its good points. Two 'top side' colours were offered: Emerald Green and Apollo Blue. Interestingly, each JGS started as one of these two hues with the white sections added later, hence green or blue engine bays and boots. Orange stripes were applied to mask the upper paint line.

The JGS was badged and listed as a Falcon 500 with 302 option, sports console, sports suspension, steel-belted radials and GS Rally pack, which included the GT's dash, steering wheel and bonnet pins. GT side scoops completed the exterior package.

The interior featured box-pleated white vinyl trim on doors and seats with contrasting black carpet. The engine was the 1975 “emissions” version of the Aussie 302 Cleveland.

Who said a car had to go like the stink to sell like hot cakes (if you can excuse the mixed metaphor).

Key stats

Number Produced: 700+

Power Output: 240bhp (179kW)

Top Speed: 172km/h

0-100km/h: 9.8 seconds

Standing 400m: 16.8 seconds

Price New: $5537 (first batch), $6217 (second batch)

Did you know?

Conspicuous by absence is Goss's name. This backs up theories that this 'LE' was supposed to be an Allan Moffat Special until late in the piece, but Ford and Moffat couldn't get the deal done. 

1978 Ford XC Falcon 'Bathurst' Cobra

The Cobra is one of the most famous paint schemes in muscle car history

Arguably the most distinctive paint scheme of any muscle car of the classic era adorned the Falcon Cobra. The limited edition build of 400 cleared Broadmeadows of the hardtop bodyshells that were soon to be obsolete with the all-new European-look XD Falcon due for public release in early 1979.

Half of the 400 were powered by the 4.9-litre V8 and half with the 5.8-litre V8. But the most sought after of the XC Cobras are the so-called 'Bathurst' versions. These 30 specially built cars had the 5.8-litre Cleveland V8 and manual transmission.

Known as the Option 97 Cobras, they were built for the purposes of homologating racing parts for Ford's Bathurst 1978 challengers.

The 370 other XC Cobras are, technically, at Option 96 spec. Thirty was simply the minimum number Ford believed it needed to build to meet the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport's race requirements in an era when eligibility was not etched in stone.

The 'Bathurst' Cobras received a number of upgrades to suspension and the cooling system intended to provide more reliability for the rigours of racing. They also had reshaped rear-wheel inner housings (to accommodate the wider racing wheels and tyres), a hood scoop and a front spoiler of a different construction. These cars were fitted with a 128-litre long-range fuel tank. The 30 Option 97 cars had Scheel all-black front seats.

Examples are rarely offered for sale today. One restored example sold in 2013 for $140,000.

Key stats

Number Produced: 30

Power Output: 162kW (217bhp)

Top Speed: 204km/h

0-100km/h: 8.9 seconds

Standing 400m: 16.0 seconds 

Price New: $10,333 (Bathurst edition)

Did you know?

The XC Cobra was actually painted Bold Blue first, with the Sno White colour applied over the top.

This article appeared in Australia MUSCLE CAR Magazine Issue 83
Tags:  falconford