From the GT-HO to the XC Cobra, Ford’s decade of race-ready Falcons part of Aussie muscle car history.
THE 1970s marked a golden era for Australian motoring, and it gave life to one of our most iconic muscle cars — the Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III.
Beloved the second it rolled off the production line at Ford Australia’s Broadmeadows plant in 1970, the Phase III is instantly recognisable and a testament to Australian ingenuity.
The story of Ford’s much loved Falcon series goes back to the early 60s, but it’s peak started with the first ever Phase I GT-HO released in 1969.
Those halcyon days have been brought to life in a new book called Ford: The Muscle Car Classics 1969-79.
From the early design stage to selling them at the caryard, the book details Ford’s decade of muscle car excellence and how it had a lasting impact on Australian motorsport.
The first of its kind, the original GT-HO was built with one goal in mind; to conquer The Mountain.
Although it fell short of winning at its first Bathurst outing in 1969, Ford knew it had hit on a winner. With four doors and a 351ci Windsor V8 churning out 217kW, the Phase I was more than a match for its Holden counterpart.
That first GT-HO culminated in the Bill Bourke Special, which featured a monstrous 428ci big-block engine out of the American Cobra, with the much-loved ‘shaker’ intake on top.
In 1970 the GT-HO’s follow-up was released, called the Phase II. In essence it was a beefed up version of the original using a range of new parts to bolster the overall package.
The new model resulted in a famous 1-2 finish for Ford at Bathurst, with legendary racers Alan Moffat and Bruce McPhee coming in first and second respectively.
This was the last of Ford’s XW series and the end of the Falcon’s second generation altogether.
When you talk about the granddaddy of them all, it’s hard to go past the Falcon GT-HO Phase III.
Even red-blooded Holden fans can admit the Phase III helped define a generation of Australian motoring, at a time when the likes of the smaller Torana were becoming more common.
Moffat single-handedly piloted the Phase III to victory at Bathurst in 1971, but he failed to back it up the following year (thanks in no small part to a young man named Peter Brock).
Just as the United States stopped production of its own Falcon, Ford’s Australian arm moved into a new generation with the release of the XA-GT in 1972.
The new era for the Falcon paid dividends on the tarmac, with the XA the only GT iteration to win back-to-back races at Bathurst in 1973 and 1974.
Sadly there was no HO version in his model. Ford built four Phase IV vehicles but the project was killed off by the infamous ‘Supercar scare’. The government hit out at car manufacturers for making race cars available to the public, and it signalled the end of HO.
The release of the XB in 1973 marked the end of Ford’s original GT era. Sold as “The Great Australian Road Car” the XB was considered to be a disappointment for Blue Oval fans who had enjoyed fantastic cars in the HO years.
According to former Ford stylist Wayne Draper, the XB took style cues from the 1971 Mustang Mach 1, which were easily identifiable in the front bumper and grille.
Despite general disappointment in the XB, Alan Moffat managed his second touring car championship victory in a GT hardtop in 1976.
The XC rounds out the Falcon’s third generation, before it moved to a more sedan-like shape in the XD onwards.
However the XC Cobra continues to be one of the most iconic cars in Australia, helped by the fact Moffat drove an XC to victory at Bathurst in 1977.
For more information on the book visit www.rockpoolpublishing.com.au/ford.
The Daily Telegraph – 24 August, 2015