76 Tru-Blu like new
The famed Tru-Blu XD Falcon is now itself true-blue – as in back in the exact livery it wore when it completed Dick Johnson’s fairytale. Getting it right was no simple task. Theme song: John Williamson’s ‘True Blue’. Is there any other choice?
Chicago-born Bill Bourke joined Ford Canada in 1956, before heading to Australia to become the assistant managing director in 1965. He became Ford Australia MD in 1967, with his fouryear stint here changing the face of performance motoring forever.
Today we know Bourke as the father of the Falcon GT. The XR GT was born out of the Cortina and Mustang GT’s success and was pitched at cashed up Baby Boomers.
The Mustang was such a hit, its styling cues and key marketing traits soon filtered to our shores and into other Ford production models around the world.
This influence was no more apparent than in the XR Falcon range, launched in 1966. With the new Mustang V8 engine available across the XR range, it soon found favour as a powerful police pursuit vehicle, with its four doors and ability to outrun the average sedan, which could manage about 90mph. In a stroke of marketing genius, this soon morphed into the Falcon GT.
Forty-seven years later, ‘blue bloods’ still engage in pub arguments about the first GT. So here are, we hope, some argument settlers.
When it was released in May of 1967 the XR GT came resplendent in its own exclusive colour – GT Gold. Unofficially though, there were a few more hues available to those in the know, or those with corporate connections such as Avis Rent-A-Car, the Gallaher cigarette brand and those wanting a stand-out car for the track. In total, 13 XR GTs are known to be built in colours other than GT Gold.
There were eight (paint code Y166) Gallaher Silver promotional cars, one (paint code Y131) Avis White, one (paint code F) Sultan Maroon, one (paint code X) Ivy Green, one (paint code E) Polar White. Some of these raced at Bathurst in the 1967 Gallaher 500.
There was also one (paint code Z782) Russet Bronze XR GT which was Bourke’s company car from April 1967. Whispers have it this car still survives and has been in the same ownership since the early 1970s.
The GT started life as a true limited edition with around 250 built to the end of June 1967. Demand was unprecedented and a second batch was quickly put into production. There are two opposing tallies of how many XR GTs were built in total. One is 684 and the other 596. Both are official.
So why the difference? The Ford Motor Company production summary states a total of 596 were built. However, when adding the monthly tallies up, the final figure is that 684 GTs were built. The latter total may have included the fleet order police specials added into the monthly totals. We can’t be sure though, as detailed records were only kept from January 1, 1968 onwards. This was when CAMS got serious about enforcing minimum build requirements that were the basis for homologation cars for racing. Prior to this, records are non-existent. There were 41 XR GTs built in 1968, five of these were anomalies prefixed with JG34 rather than JG33. They could have been Friday-built cars. We
all know the Falcon GT was the first fullsize Australian family car variation to offer a total performance and appearance package. This included the Mustang-bred 289 cubic inch V8 with Australia's first four-barrel carburetor, 4-speed ‘Hurst’ shift manual and sports suspension with radial 5.5-inch rims, greenglowing Stewart Warner gauges, steering wheel impact pad, all as standard.
There was no mistaking this car meant business from the get-go with its GT stripes down the sides and across the boot, distinctive Mustang-sourced GT badges and grille blackouts which caused quite a sensation when it was released.
In October 1967, the real reason for its creation became apparent as the new GT Falcon
took the ‘King of the Mountain’ title at Bathurst, thereby establishing the legend. The winning car, driven by legends Harry Firth and Fred Gibson, was painted in Ivy Green.
Front lap/sash style seatbelts were mandatory on all XR GTs built, however a few were optioned with laminated windscreens, and some had vinyl roofs which could have been dealer fitted.
Engine number sequence for the XR GT began with LD51001C. Power steering wasn’t available officially on the GT model, however the engine number range from LD52001C was applied for in Ford’s specification records as a 289 4V manual with power steering. None are known to have been registered though.
There is also a rumour that at least one special order XR GT was made with an automatic transmission, but this too has never been confirmed. Often these special orders were done post-production and still carry the LD51001C manual designations, with automatic transmissions retro-fitted in Ford’s garage workshop.
The initial batch of XR GTs was supplied to buyers with a standard Falcon owner’s manual. It wasn’t until October 1967, that a dedicated GT Falcon owner’s manual became available.
A lucky few owners have been surprised over the years to find a 302ci in their pride and joy, instead of the 289ci V8. These were Windsor engines prefixed by LD515_ _C, built around October 1967. The upgraded 302 was available in Mustangs by this stage, and Ford Australia had access to these for their future development plans, with the first 302-powered XT GT off the line just some three months away.
The Ford Motor Company de Mexico also manufactured a limited run of around 100 two-door Falcon GTs in 1967. Fitted with the early Mustang-sourced 195bhp 260ci V8, four-barrel carburetor, a 3.54:1 rear end ratio and dual exhausts, the Mexican GT packed the goods. They too were factory fitted with a sports inspired interior comprising bucket seats, console and factory tachometer. The sidewinder stripes were broken up with a GT badge on the front guards, and the grille was unique to the GT. Dual band red-wall tyres similar to a K-code Hi-Po Mustang were also available.
Unlike the Aussie version, the Mexican GT came standard with a 3-speed manual;
“There is also a rumour that at least one special order XR GT was made with
an automatic transmission.”
the 4-speed manual floorshift, or automatic transmission available as an option. Other options were power-assisted front disc brakes, power steering and vinyl tops. All of these GTs were manufactured just for the left-hand drive domestic Mexican market.
Let’s back track a step, to when the Ford Mustang was first badged as a GT in 1965. Introduced as the ‘GT Equipment Package’ it included a 289ci 4-barrel V8 engine, quicker steering ratio, grille mounted fog lamps, rocker panel stripes, dual exhausts and disc brakes as standard equipment. In the interior, the GT option added sports instrumentation, but a columnmounted tachometer was an optional extra which was called the ‘Rally-Pac’.
Most early Mustang GTs were the A-code 289ci 4-barrel version, but a K-code 289cid Hi-Po V8 version was also available. The Mustang GT was available as a hardtop, fastback and convertible. 1969 was the last year for the Mustang GT option, until it was reintroduced in 1994 with the fourth generation Mustangs.
Our own XT GT Falcon would be further influenced by the Mustang on many scales, and would go on to become a worldly success in its own right. But the XT GT however is a topic – sorry, argument settler – for R-Rated for another day.