In April 1967 the world as it existed for performance car buyers in Australia changed and would remain that way for 50 years.
No longer did they need to look to the USA for their fix of V8 exhaust rumble, or to Europe and Britain for a woodrim steering wheel, disc brakes or radial-ply tyres.
The XR Falcon GT certainly wasn’t perfect, and with fewer than 600 sold, it was never likely to wipe out the market for imported performance models. It did show the world though that the wide brown land of Australia could build cars attuned to our travelling needs.
Apart from a couple of race cars and a few promo models the XR GT came in just one colour. When the XT upgrade arrived the choice of colours expanded but having spent massively on developing the XR model, Ford could not be blamed for keeping the lid on model-change expenses.
Big news from an otherwise subdued launch was Ford’s announcement that an enlarged V8 would be available to every model in the XT range and the ZB Fairlane as well. Basic versions of the ‘302’ (4.9-litre) engine came with 157kW but the ‘High Output’ GT version was good for 172kW.
Nothing was done to alter the Falcon’s very simplistic chassis design but the GT did come with disc front brakes as standard, wider wheels and radial-ply tyres. The chromed full wheel covers that characterised the XR GT carried over to the XT and then became a feature of XW-XY GS Pack cars.
The GT interior was finished to Fairmont standard with separate front seats and a console, special door trims and extra instruments. GTs used a Mustang-style steering wheel and the XR went completely over the top with a massive, chromed gear-shift lever. That reverted to a miserable looking Borg-Warner item in the XT.
Handling was good for a big sedan and even with a hefty V8 over their front wheels and stiff springs, GTs would absorb bumps with remarkable resilience. On corrugations the leaf-sprung rear would wobble around but experienced owners were adept at keeping their cars straight with delicate servings of throttle and steering input.
Ford’s GT won the Bathurst 500 at its first attempt but couldn’t repeat the dose in 1968 with the XT. That model’s greatest competition triumph came not on a circuit but over 12,000 kilometres of inter-continental torture during the inaugural London-Sydney Marathon. Three GTs started and all finished within the Top Ten, with the best-placed car finishing third. Others filled fifth and eighth places to give Ford the Teams Prize.
Finding an XR GT in the open market today can prove very difficult. Five years ago when values were less than half of the amounts currently being asked, the market would turn up at least one car per month. Today we are lucky to see five XRs on offer each year.
The XT is more common and less expensive. Rarely will an XT GT make six figures and that has been especially the case recently when almost all in the market were automatic and priced at $80-95,000. Colour can have an influence on XT values too, with silver, yellow and green worth a little more than other shades.
A lot of GT restorations took place at a time when these cars weren’t especially valuable and corners were cut. Buyers now looking at six-digit asking prices want to feel they are getting the best available car and inspection by a restoration specialist is an absolute must. Before spending that money though, look for body filler or rust re-appearing around wheel-arches. in the sills, lower front mudguards or between the boot aperture and rear window. Reproduction parts are available but you don’t want to pay top money for a car and then have to spend more. Equally serious are kinked chassis rails, rust in the firewall and around rear spring hangers. Full sets of body rubbers cost around $2000. Replacement lenses are available and reproduction XR-XT bumpers have been seen at $1500 per pair
If your GT has managed for half a century to retain its original engine then new owners need to do everything possible to preserve the car’s ‘matching number’ status. Documents confirming the engine is original if ever it has been rebuilt are useful. Age and neglect result in leaks, rattles and exhaust smoke, none of which are particularly costly or difficult to rectify. New, genuine pistons cost $500 a set and water pumps have been seen in original packaging at $250. The original Ford differential wasn’t especially reliable and may have already been replaced by a nine-inch limited slip diff. Both the Fordomatic auto (optional in XTs) and the four-speed manual transmission are durable.
NUMBER BUILT: 559 (XR) 1415 (XT)
BODY STYLE: all steel, integrated body/chassis four-door sedan
ENGINE: 4724cc or 4942cc V8 with overhead valves and single four-barrel carburettor
POWER & TORQUE: 172kW @ 4800rpm, 418Nm @ 3200rpm (XT)
PERFORMANCE: 0-96km/h 8.5 seconds 0-400 metres 16.3 seconds (XT manual)
TRANSMISSION: four-speed manual, three-speed automatic
SUSPENSION: Independent with wishbones, coil springs, telescopic shock absorbers and anti-roll bar (f) Live axle with semi-elliptic springs and telescopic shock absorbers (r)
BRAKES: disc (f) drum (r) power assisted
TYRES: 185SR14 radial
If the front suspension has been lowered or sagged far enough for tyres to foul the wheel-arches, the GT you’re considering will need suspension work. Factory spec springs are still available and with correct shock absorbers will return the car’s ride/handling balance. Creaking at low speeds is typical of worn balljoints and/or worn bushings but neither are expensive. Rear spring leaves flatten and suffer cracking so be wary of cars that droop at the rear. Brake parts are available and easily replaced, with new rotors costing $300 a pair and reconditioned power boosters below $500.
Components including carpets, door trims and seat vinyl needed to renovate a worn GT aren’t easy to source but some items are available from repro suppliers. Larger trim items including new centre consoles at $500 are available, with door-trims $300 each and armrests (sold separately) at around $100 each. Correct knobs and gauges can be tricky to find and replacing the GT steering wheel will be costly. Noisy starter motors, failed heater fans and indicators that won’t work are common electrical faults but easy to rectify. New starters cost less than $200, new alternators around $350.