FORD ENTHUSIAST Phil Grant is organising an XR and XR GT round-up at the Shepparton Motor Museum (Vic) on September 10 at midday.
This iconic series set Ford down the performance road that arguably hit its pinnacle with the GT-HO Phase III – or at least that’s what the auction prices say!
In any case, it marked the start of locally-built V8 performance Fords, and we’re now half a century down that road. It’s near-impossible to overstate the importance of this car, and it’s generated more than its fair share of stories over the years. Here’s our favourite, from a feature we published a couple of years ago… Back in 1967, when the XR Falcon GT made its first appearance at Mount Panorama, production car racing really was just that.
The modified Group C Improved Production Touring Cars that were battling for the Australian Touring Car Championship at the time had no place on the Bathurst grid.
Bathurst cars ran under the much more tightly-controlled Group E Series Production regulations. Modifications were extremely limited and homologation requirements for 1967 required 5000 cars to have been produced internationally or 500 to have been produced locally.
Ford’s new XR Falcon GT cleared that hurdle and seven examples of Australia’s first hero car lined up on the grid.
Leading the charge were the three cars entered by Ford Australia, driven by Leo and Ian ‘Pete’ Geoghegan, Harry Firth/Fred Gibson and Bob Jane/Spencer Martin.
“I didn’t meet Harry until the Friday night before Bathurst,” recalls Gibson. “I met him at his hotel room and we discussed what we were going to do. One of the things I said was, ‘Harry, how are we going to go? Will we be competitive?’ He said, ‘We’ll win the race’ and I thought, ‘Hmmm, that’s pretty confident!’”
“Harry had done a lot of brake pad development,” recalls Gibson. “I think the brake pads and shoes were pretty special. Even though the shock absorbers had to look stock, I’m sure Harry got shocks made by Monroe- Wylie at a lot heavier rate than anyone else would’ve had and I think the engines were blueprinted. They were very well-prepared.”
Firth/Gibson were the winners from the Geoghegans, with the Alfa GTV of Chivas/ Stewart completing the podium.
So began a new era in Australian motoring. The XR GT’s success created a template for Australian performance cars that continues to the present day.
Unique Cars will be at the event – will we see you there?