EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO BUY YOUR NEXT CLASSIC CAR
They may have spent a little time out in the market wilderness where no-one wanted to hunt them down, but CL/CM Valiants (1976-1981) are becoming cool.
Next issue, we reveal what to look for in Chrysler Australia's last hurrah car.
Europe during the 1950s built the worldís first GTs and it was those Lancias and Maseratis that defined the concept of ĎGran Turismoí as a two-door, enclosed car with 2+2 accommodation and enticing performance.
A decade later in Australia, almost any kind of car could be turned into a GT by adding some stripes, different wheels and maybe a handful of extra horses.
It might only be marginally faster than a standard version but the GT Ė from Hillman Hunter to Ford Falcon Ė was still seen by officialdom as a far greater risk of being crashed or stolen and therefore far more expensive to insure than the standard models.
People who didnít need the cachet of GTíbadging quickly discovered that they could obtain pretty much the same performance plus civilised packaging by choosing a standard Ford and going gangbusters on the options sheet. Under the guise of a smart XW or XY Fairmont, you could have a car with GT-like features and performance while avoiding the insurance slug and social stigma.
XW Fairmont V8s were officially available with 4.9 litres and 164kW but more than a few circumvented Fordís official ordering system and found their way into the market as special orders with the 351ci (5.8-litre) engine and three-speed autos.
WITH it's original paint, this car is Geoff's toy. "Iím supposedly the third owner. It came from Alexandra Ford, so itís been a Victorian country car.
"I think the first owner had it for 30 years. Then a policeman up at Wangaratta had it for 10 years, but didnít drive it very much.
He was a GT Falcon man from way back and he had to shift a few cars and it was actually in Unique Cars when it was advertised.
"I would have loved a GT Falcon but this was the closest thing to it that I could afford. (No doubt, this has been a good investment, too.)
"When I got it, it had a 302 Cleveland V8 in it which obviously wasnít the original engine Ė the original owner put that in.
It started life with a 221ci (3.6-litre) six but it was a fourspeed diamond white with black interior when it was new.
"I've got some resources and some friends in the trade. (Geoff is a career mechanic Ė Ed.) We decided to build up a warm Cleveland for it, so itís got a 393 thatís got about 300 horsepower at the rear wheels.
"Because of that I took out the old Borg Warner diff, which was getting a bit clunky and we just put a in a nine-inch.
Itís got 3:1 gears for the highway because Iím not that much of a hoon. I just go to the club runs and the historic meetings."
When buyers specified any V8, Ford Australia very sensibly insisted that disc front brakes were a mandatory inclusion.
Seats could be bench or bucket; the latter separated by a stylish centre console that housed the T-bar shifter or stubby manual gear-lever.
Helping move the car even closer in concept to a GT, the GS Pack (Gran Sport) cost $145 and included a tachometer framed by a stylish but irritating steering wheel that honked the horn when gripped too firmly, hence the rim-blow nickname. Outside were stripes (of course), grille-mounted driving lights and chromed wheel trims that dated to the XR GT.
Once the 351ci motor became available across Fordís entire XY range, a Fairmont could have its 4.1-litre six replaced for $209 by a 186kW 2V V8. GTs had a 221kW 4V version. That hopefully left money available for a set of dual exhausts, limited-slip diff and red-wall ER70 rubber.
Those on money-no-object budgets could go even further and add frills like remote-control mirrors, air-conditioning and a $163 wind-back sunroof.
In addition to their proliferation of options and extras, these Fairmonts offered an extensive and striking colour range. A few years earlier, Holden featured just two shades of metallic paint finish in its EJ Premier range but by 1970 Ford had about 10 available. By the time the XY series arrived, paint choice became even more extensive, with shades including Raw Orange, Wild Violet and Yellow Ochre.
No matter how bright they might have been on the outside, these cars with their coil front
suspension and leaf rear springs were conventional in the extreme.
However they were still preferred on rough rural roads to the all-coil HQ Holden that arrived mid-way through the XYís tenure.
Power steering reduced turns of the Ford wheel from 5.4 to a more manageable 3.5.
Fairmonts with the split-bench front seat and column-mounted gear selector would carry six people in reasonable comfort.
The boot was long but fairly shallow, however for truly cavernous load space there was always the station wagon, panel van and ute.
If you ever wondered just how brave the likes of racing drivers Allan Moffat and Bruce McPhee were when hammering down Bathurst's Conrod Straight at 240km/h and expecting to stop at the end, try driving one of these at pace down a winding road. If your Fairmont is an auto and you didnít select the lowest feasible gear when setting off you are likely well before reaching the bottom to have a rock-like pedal, wafting smoke and a nasty smell.
Modern pads and replacement rotors help but rear drums are
still vulnerable to overheating.
More in keeping with modern expectations is the performance.
Both V8s deliver good acceleration, with the 302 cuber (4.9-litre) cracking 11 seconds for the 0-100km/h sprint. Not many magazines managed to lay hands on a 351ci Fairmont manual but Wheels did and clocked 0-100km/h in 8.6 seconds with a top speed of 200km/h.
As with most cars from the era, the vinyl-clad seats in these classic Fords are better for comfy cruising than weekend motorsport. They came standard with lap-sash front belts (without inertia reels) and nothing at all in the back. Retro-fitting of rear belts isnít (yet) required by law but it's more than likely a sensible previous owner will have already fitted rear belts to the factoryinstalled seat belt anchor points under the upholstery.
Even at cruising pace on a road with some moderate twists, shoulders start to ache, as do hips when bracing through bends.
Cars without power steering will give you a good upper body work-out while forearms benefit from death-gripping the slippery plastic steering wheel.
Never shake hands with anyone who raced these cars for a living because those blokes can crush roller bearings without blinking.
Despite being the better part of a half century old, XW-XYs can serve as regular transport as well as cruising. If intending to use a Fairmont for more than weekend wandering then cars with airconditioners and power steering are preferable. Just make sure the old under-dash units with their clunky controls do actually deliver cold air and that the carís cooling system has been recently flushed and pressure tested.
Viewed objectively against a brand-new G6E Turbo selling at similar money, a top-notch Fairmont 351 with plastic seats and basic fittings would hardly represent value. However logic turns to dust whenever the rumble
Tired paint and returning rust are significant issues with older XW-XY restorations. Fake Fairmonts arenít common but to be sure look for ĎJG34í as the build number prefix. Places to check for emerging rust are wheel arches, lower door skins, floor-pans, front mudguards, between the rear window and boot-lid and under vinyl roofs on sedans. Also boot gutters and station wagon tailgates.
Beware cars with bent chassis rails or structural rust in the firewall or spring hangers. Repro panels and brightwork are being made but join a Falcon club and find out which suppliers to consider and those to avoid.
The most important things under the bonnet to check are the Build Plate and engine number. ĎYí denotes a 302 V8 and ĎKí the 351 2V. Bearing rumble accompanied by smoke at startup, a ticking sound signifying worn cam lobes and oil leaks indicate an engine that needs work. If it is the original motor, save to have it properly stripped, cleaned and rebuilt using quality parts. and your outlay will be generously repaid when resale time comes. Auto boxes can travel huge distances before rebuilds are required however the Top Loader four-speed can get notchy with age.
The diff should survive atomic attack.
NUMBER MADE 105,785 (all XW), 118,666 (all XY) ENGINE 4950cc or 5750cc V8 with OHV and single downdraft carburettor POWER & TORQUE 186kW @ 4600rpm, 480Nm @ 2600rpm PERFORMANCE 0-100km/h 8.6 seconds, 0-400 metres 16.4 seconds (351 manual) TRANSMISSION three or four-speed manual or three-speed automatic BRAKES disc front/drum rear with power assistance TYRES 7.35x14 cross-ply, ER70H14 radial PRICE RANGE $10,000 - 60,000 CONTACT www.falconfairlaneclub. org.au
Rear spring leaves crush and crack but new springs and shocks are easily acquired. Fords of this age donít have especially accurate or sensitive steering but be cautious where the wheel-rim displays more than 50mm of free play. Likewise a brake pedal that feels mushy before the brakes have even been used, or a hard pedal once components have some heat in them. Make sure the hand-brake isnít seized. None of this is impossible to fix but the money needed for a full brake job or for a reconditioned steering box will influence the amount you should pay for a car.
Long-term XY Fairmont owner Bruce Purvis is happy his car isnít equipped with modern seat trim. ďAfter more than 40 years itís got a minor section of split stitching that you canít even see,Ē he revealed.
If the Fairmont you choose hasnít fared as well, ready-to-fit seat trim kits cost less than $1600-2000, with new vinyl hood-lining around $250. Manual window winders that bind or have broken handles can be cheaply repaired but be cautious of nonfunctioning electrics.
Test the floormounted dip-switch to make sure you have high-beam lights.
of a twin-pipe V8 assaults the senses. Especially if itís painted Wild Violet or similar.
Bright colours are a bonus when buying these cars, as are original-equipment accessories such as the GS Pack, power windows and wind-back sunroof.
Standard steel wheels were often replaced from new with alloys by ROH or Aunger.
Many Fairmonts have been cobbled into replica GTs. Some are high quality and do truly look the part; only an ID check will reveal their origins. A lot, though, are tattily modified and with interest in unmolested, unrestored, original-paint classic cars rising, these are now worth less than the more mundane models on which they are based.
GS Pack Fairmont wagons were very scarce when new and rarely appear in the used market. If you happen to find one in authentic condition you have a very rare vehicle, even though it may not be any more valuable than a similar-spec sedan.
Among the least-expensive eight-cylinder Fairmonts is the three-speed automatic 302. XWs are slightly cheaper than XYs but harder to find and $12-15,000 should buy a car needing some paint and trim work.
Automatic XYs with originalequipment 351 engines jump to more than $25,000 and in excellent order can manage $40,000. Average-quality GT replicas sit within this price bracket as well, although many are priced far more ambitiously.
Topping the tree are the factory-correct 351 V8 cars with four-speed transmission.
These are rare and need to be verified with degrees of diligence otherwise reserved for a GTHO.
If you do find a car that is correct and in outstanding condition Ė or an exceptional replica Ė be prepared to pay good money. Originality is prized and generates big money but good-quality restorations are okay too and should still appreciate given time.
NOT many people can claim this about the car they own: "The Missus thinks itís okay! It took me to school in Melbourne (Iím not as old as I look!) it took me to my wedding, went to my motherís funeral and it will probably go to mine. Iíve got three sons and it will probably go to them.
ďMy father bought it in 1972 from a Doctor Hill in East Malvern and weíve had it in the family ever since.
"It got handed down to me when Dad passed away and I restored the body back to what it should be.
"It has the original colour, I changed the wheels but the interior is the way it was when it left the factory. Iíve had the motor done so it will run on unleaded.
"It's got the Windsor 302 with a C4 auto.
"It's beautiful to drive. Thereís not a lot to do on them, just a basic service Ė not like the newer cars with computers and all that business.
Youíve just got a straight-forward motor thatís very simple to work on and keep clean."
What's Bruce's advice for someone looking for an XY Falcon? "It costs a lot of money to restore one from the ground up Ė Iíd look for one that someone already spent a lot of money on. If you buy one already fixed up, try and get the photos of the preparation to see whatís underneath the paint. You need to check itís been done properly."