The Fab Four
It’s May 1967. The Beatles’ ‘All You Need Is Love’ was top of the charts and this amazing photo shows four brand new XR GT Falcons displayed in front of C.T.G. Smith Motors, the Ford dealership in Shepparton, Victoria. It was taken only a few weeks after the official release date on May 1.
The photo was sent in by Max Keys who now owns the Falcon on the right, the one with salesman Peter Mitchell leaning on the roof.
The other gent shown is the dealership’s sales manager John Mann standing proudly on the left. The car on the extreme left was the company demonstrator which he was driving at the time. Yes, that’s the same John Mann who raced all manner of tin-tops back in the day and also historic Mustangs for many years.
The car second from the right, registered with number plates, belonged to the dealer principal.
As Max says, not many dealerships would have received more than one GT from the factory, let alone four. There were only around 250 produced in that first release.
He’s since spoken to John Mann about this who explained that they had arranged with other dealers in the region to swap their allocated GTs for other cars in their showroom. He knew that they would sell quickly in Shepparton and he was right.
The car on the right – without number plates or aerial – was soon passed on to the E. Coxon & Sons dealership in nearby Numurkah. C.T.G. Smith and Ted Coxon were close friends and Ted wanted one for a good customer of his, Neil Nelson.
Neil kept it in good original condition until 1994 when it was listed for sale as part of his estate. This means that Max is only the second owner. It’s still in remarkable condition, down to the Coxon dealership sticker on the rear window and all the original books and keys. It hasn’t been modified in any way and still hasn’t even been fitted with a radio. The factory gold duco is still on the car, even on the fuel cap, and that’s a rarity. Despite its long life it has only done 130,000 miles. The photo was given to Max by Shepparton motorsport identity, Tino Leo, known for building and driving some impressive sports sedans. He helped pre-deliver the car.
“I always wondered where it went to,” said Tino when he spotted it at the 2006 XR GT Round-up in Wagga. What happened to the other three GTs in the photo is a mystery.
A real treasure handed over when Max Keys bought the Falcon, was a copy of the rare XR GT supplement booklet. These were supplied many months after delivery and not many found their way to the original owners.
Max Keys’ copy of the supplement is extra special. He’s had it signed by Harry Firth at Wakefield Park and by Leo Geoghegan at the 2013 Bathurst GT Nationals. These are the drivers who came first and second in works Falcons at the 1967 Gallaher 500 (or, according to some, second and first). Leo was amazed to see the supplement. “You know, I’ve never seen one of them, ever!” he told Max. It’s fascinating to study this classic photo. Note that the cars in the used car lot are still priced in the old pounds sterling, despite the introduction of decimal currency more than a year before. In May 1967 you could have bought one of those GT Falcons for $3890.