1967 Ford Falcon XRGT

The Museum’s green 1967 XR Falcon marks a milestone in the history of racing on Mt Panorama and in the whole history of Australian touring car racing. Introduced in May 1967, the XR GT was the first of all the Falcon GTs which were to become a legendary series of Australian built high performance sedans. In October 1967 XR GTs raced at Bathurst for the first time and the performance V8 tradition of Australian racing was launched. While the XR GTs were mild mannered machines compared to later GT Falcons, in 1967 their performance on the road was sensational. A 4.7 litre 168 kW V8 with four barrel Holley carburettor was coupled to a four speed all synchro gearbox. Maximum speed was claimed to be 190 km/h, time over a standing start 400m less than 17 secs. Never before had there been an Australian production car like this. For the 500 mile Gallaher sponsored race at Bathurst in October 1967, the Falcon GTs were five seconds a lap faster than the previous dominant BMC Cooper Ss. So there was never any doubt about the speed of the Falcon GTs only about their reliability. While some of the seven GTs entered had trouble all of them finished the race. The GTs so dominated the event the only question was, not whether a Falcon GT would win but merely which one. Precisely which one was indeed a serious question. At the end of the 500 miles the chequered flag was given to the GT entered by Ford Australia and driven by Leo and Ian Geoghegan. However some three hours later it was agreed this car had been credited with one extra lap and that the real winner was another Ford factory entry, a green painted GT shared by Melbourne veteran Harry Firth and young Sydney driver Fred Gibson. Firth had been in charge of the preparation of Ford’s three entries and had gone to his usual lengths to obtain maximum performance within the “as produced” rules which applied to the Bathurst race at that time.

Rear axle shafts and their brake drums were balanced as units, differentials and gearboxes were carefully assembled to reduce friction and special low drag oils were used. The cars remained entirely tractable and in fact the three works GTs were driven up to Bathurst from Melbourne. This was entirely in keeping with the concept of the race as an event for “over the counter” cars, and as a perfect demonstration the winning GT had been used as a support vehicle for Ford’s rally team before becoming a Bathurst car. After the race it was driven to Sydney and put on display and then driven back to Melbourne. The car’s subsequent history is not entirely clear. One source suggests it was used as daily transport by John Gowland, Ford’s racing manager. Another source says the car was bought from Ford by Harry Firth’s brother Norm, again for road use. Whatever the case the car thereafter dropped out of sight until the early 1990s. A vital link however, is the number on the museum car’s identity plate. Factory records show this number was that of a Falcon GT which uniquely was painted green. While a small batch were painted in the silver and red colours of sponsor Gallaher, almost all XR GTs were painted bronze. As Harry Firth himself has recently stated, only one car was ever painted green.

National Motor Racing Museum collection