52 Harry’s last Falcon
Genuine works GTs with a Bathurst 500 race history aren’t exactly thick on the ground. Which makes this XT Falcon from the 1968 Great Race one very rare bird – more precisely a phoenix that’s risen from the ashes.
Genuine works GTs with a Bathurst 500 history aren’t exactly thick on the ground. Which makes this ’68 XT Falcon one very rare bird – a phoenix risen from the ashes. Theme song: Old Blue Eyes’ ‘Come fly with me’.
The 1968 Hardie-Ferodo 500 was a milestone in so many ways – a famous new title sponsor, the arrival of commercial sponsorship and the first time that the might of General Motors-Holden went head-to-head with its arch nemesis, the Ford Motor Company.
Having won the 1967 Gallaher 500 with its brand new XR Falcon GT, the pressure was on Ford to repeat the feat in 1968 with the new XT Falcon. The XT GT, with the 302ci (5.0-litre) Windsor V8 engine, faced far stiffer opposition with the arrival on the scene of the works-supported Holden Dealer Racing Team (HDRT) and the dazzling new HK Monaro GTS 327.
In Ford’s favour was a well-proven package, while Holden had a quicker but unproven and potentially more fragile car, courtesy of the Chevrolet 327ci engine.
Ford hedged its bets; with two of the three cars prepared and entered by last year’s winner Harry Firth and a third (white) car entered by the famous racing brothers Leo and Ian Geoghegan under the Castrol banner. Firth had a red automatitc GT for Shell-backed drivers, Jim McKeown and Spencer Martin, and a green GT for the previous year’s winner Fred Gibson and Barry Seton, another former Bathurst winner.
In the race the Geoghegan’s succumbed to brake issues and the McKeown/Martin automatic GT broke a rear axle, leaving the Gibson/Seton the last remaining works entry and in the lead. Alas, with less than 20 laps remaining, it was forced to retire from the lead with head gasket failure following a stone holing its radiator. The race was won by the privateer-entered HK Monaro GTS 327 of Bruce McPhee and Barry Mulholland. For Ford it really was a case of the one that got away.
The full story of Bathurst 1968 was told in AMC #17 (and subsequently reprinted in the Monaro one-shot), but one story that hasn’t been told is the post-Bathurst 1968 story of the Fred Gibson/Barry Seton XT Falcon GT.
This is the GT owned today by Sydneysider Rob Macedon that graced the pages of AMC back in 2005.
Here for the first time is the real story of this works GT’s colourful life as a sports sedan. Incredibly, the guys who raced it after Fred Gibson didn’t twig to its Bathurst 500 heritage!
It may have been lightened and adorned with scoops, flares and spoilers, but it remained essentially an XT GT. The engine position was never moved, the firewall never cut and it always ran Ford componentry.
This GT was twice sold as a rusty and rough rolling shell! That it has literally risen from the ashes is such an improbable tale of survival that we just had to tell it.