44 XY Falcon ‘K-Code’
Our second wolf in wool has GT-like performance, but its (now quirky) appearance also helps divert attention from just how potent it is. Sadly, very few 1970s K-Code Falcons survive, for reasons we outline. Theme song: Warren Zevon’s ‘Werewolves in London’.
An alternative to the GT was Falcon 500 with similar specifications, but almost invisible to the police
and insurance companies
TThe GT and GT-HO are the models in the XY Falcon range with obvious bite and growl. There is, however, another wolf lurking in the catalogue with fewer outward displays of aggression, a car that has slipped by relatively unnoticed – the ‘K’ code Falcon.
The ‘K’ code Falcon is a non-GT, fitted with a 351ci Cleveland V8 (with a two-barrel carburettor) identified by engine code ‘K’ on the tag. This engine could be paired with either automatic or manual transmissions.
The Falcon GT (and GT-HO) was the dream car of many young men in the 1970s. But the combination of brute performance and younger, inexperienced drivers meant the likelihood of an accident increased considerably. The GT’s desirability also extended to thieves.
Hence, the two letters ‘GT’ attracted a much higher insurance premium, so much so that many potential buyers could not afford to buy their dream car and also insure it.
Those same letters also attracted plenty of attention from the local constabulary who would keep a close eye on young drivers in fast cars.
An alternative to the GT was a Falcon 500 with similar specifications, but almost invisible to the police and the insurance companies.
The kind of buyer who would order a ‘K’ code Falcon was very aware of what it really was, and what its potential could be. Many of those who bought a ‘K’ code sourced larger carburettors, exhaust headers and extractors, and made simple performance upgrades to help unleash the beast within. After the upgrades, merely fitting a set of mag wheels made the car appealing to look at and enjoyable to drive, but ensured the car blended in with the other standard cars on the road.
For extra disguise a front sun visor could be fitted, guaranteeing to camouflage the car and turning it into a true 1970s sleeper.
Over the years ‘K’ code Falcons have become quite scarce due to a number of factors. The main contributor to the diminished numbers was natural attrition. As many of the original owners were young guys who wanted to drive them hard, plenty were crashed and wrecked. Add the considerable number of ‘K’ code Falcons turned into GT and GT-HO replicas and you account for the majority of cars built.
A brand new ‘K’ code Falcon 500 was much cheaper than a GT, to the tune of about $1500. This doesn’t sound like a huge price difference today, but in 1971 a brand new XY GT Falcon could be bought for under $5000!
Thus, the ‘K’ code was far more accessible
to those younger buyers who couldn’t quite afford something more adventurous.
Hiding under the more ordinary appearance of the Falcon 500, drivers could enjoy virtually everything that the GT had to offer without many of the negatives that came with owning the more eye-catching XYs. And creating GT replicas isn’t a relatively new phenomenon, with plenty of ‘K’ code Fords turned into GT lookalikes from new, simply by adding a shaker and stripes.
Unlike some other unique and desirable cars from the ’70s, you didn’t need to be a company insider or ‘in the know’ to order a ‘K’ code Falcon. They were listed in the sales brochure! Although over the years a handful of special-order cars for company executives left the factory fitted with all the fruit, any average bloke could put together enough cash to order and option a ‘K’ code Falcon for himself.
For the price, it was hard to match the performance of a ‘K’ code Falcon. The two-barrel 351ci V8 pumped out 250bhp (186kW) – plenty of go 40-odd years ago, especially from a car that looked similar to the car parked in next door’s garage. To buy an equally specified Monaro or Charger would cost considerably more, making the ‘K’ code a relative bargain. Whilst the values of these cars have climbed significantly today, they are still placed well below the cost of a genuine XY GT Falcon. This fact alone proves that even though more than four decades have passed, the ‘K’ code is still relevant to enthusiasts for the same reasons that sold the car new – a cut price performance car that didn’t scream ‘look at me’.
Unsurprisingly, we weren’t able to find ‘official’ performance figures. It appears they were so stealthy that magazines of the era overlooked them for features and tests.
There is some confusion about the relevance of the ‘K’ when discussing a factory V8 Falcon. Whilst the VIN number of any XY Falcon with a factory V8 finishes with the letter K (eg: JG32LY12345K), the correct reference to the ‘K’ represents the actual engine code of a factory-fitted 351ci Cleveland V8 that is found on the identification tag. The engine is not the same specification as the ‘T’ code 351ci Cleveland V8 (with a four-barrel carburettor) fitted to the Falcon GT, but it does share many of that engine’s characteristics.
The appeal of the ‘K’ code Falcon today is largely thanks to the huge desirability of the GT and GT-HO. Just like when it was new, the ‘K’ code offers a cheaper alternative to the more notorious nameplates, though mentioning ‘cheap’ in the same sentence as XY seems illogical. If you can actually find one in good condition you can expect to pay upwards of $25,000 for it, even more for GS optioned cars, and yet more again for a Fairmont model.
The ‘K’ code Falcon was also available across the XA and XB range, and in the eyes of buyers it was a perfect alternative to the GT for the budget conscious. The later model ‘K’ code Falcons sold for the same reason that the XY version did, though they did not sell as well. The new-look bonnet vents on the XA and XB saw many buyers order cars with the GS option.
The ‘K’ code Falcon never won Bathurst. It was never the ‘fastest four-door car in the world’. And it won’t be enough to prop up your superannuation indefinitely. But it is without doubt one of the first Aussie wolves that could hide amongst all the sheep in the traffic, with its understated looks and surprising performance.
Top: The ‘Hawaiian’ seat inserts (and sun-visor) help to divert attention away from just how potent this K-code Falcon really is. Also note the lack of a centre-console. But there are hints that this Falcon packs some serious punch.