BILL’S BEAST

BILL BOURKE CRE­ATED THE FAL­CON GT. WE CHECK OUT HIS PER­SONAL ROCKET SHIP

Street Machine - - Contents - STORY DAVE CAREY PHO­TOS CRAIG WAT­SON & SM AR­CHIVES

We re­visit for­mer Ford Oz boss Bill Bourke’s one-of-akind Co­bra Jet-pow­ered XW

PIC­TURE this: You’re the head of the lo­cal arm of a multi­na­tional au­to­mo­tive cor­po­ra­tion in the he­do­nis­tic late 1960s. You’ve in­vented a mus­cle-car sub-genre that is go­ing to pre­vail for decades. You need a daily driver. What do you do?

Chicago-born Bill Bourke was de­ployed like a cruise mis­sile to Ford Aus­tralia from 1965 to 1971, and dur­ing that time he not only be­came man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Ford’s lo­cal arm, but also in­vented the Ford Fal­con GT. Not in that or­der.

The story has en­tered lo­cal au­to­mo­tive folk­lore: In 1966, while watch­ing Ford engi­neers test a high-per­for­mance po­lice-spec ver­sion of the brand-new-shape 289ci V8-pow­ered XR Fal­con, Bill fig­ured it wouldn’t hurt to sell an up-spec ver­sion to cashed-up baby boomers. He badged them as GTS, and the rest is his­tory.

Float­ing such an idea in the US would have been met with de­ri­sion at the time; the at­ti­tude was that four-door sedans were def­i­nitely not mus­cle cars. How­ever, with Aus­tralia’s small econ­omy of scale, stick­ing some power in the four-door was the only op­tion. De­spite Holden’s twodoor Monaro be­ing in the works for re­lease in 1967, Ford would not re-in­tro­duce a coupe un­til the XA hard­top of 1971.

The dude could not abide. He wanted mus­cle and he wanted it be­fore Holden.

The 1967 XR Fal­con GT was an in­stant suc­cess, with lux­ury items and driv­e­lines bor­rowed from the Ford Mus­tang and only avail­able in a lu­mi­nes­cent gold duco (er, un­less you count the eight that were Gal­la­her Sil­ver, and the five that were Rus­set Bronze, Sul­tan Ma­roon, Po­lar White, Avis White and Ivy Green re­spec­tively).

Bill must have tired of his one-off, spe­cial-build, right-hand­drive Ford Galaxie Squire big-block (Gal­ax­ies were only

BILL’S ONE-OFF FAL­CON WAS SENT BACK WITH SOME EX­CEL­LENT UP­GRADES, IN­CLUD­ING 428CI OF BIG-BLOCK CO­BRA JET V8 POWER!

avail­able in sedan in Aus­tralia), be­cause af­ter in­vent­ing the XR Fal­con GT of 1967 and the Aus­tralian mus­cle car genre as we know it, he longed for an­other drive car. Ever the in­tro­vert, he did make do with a cus­tom-coloured, bright red­dish-pink Fal­con GT, un­til 1969, when his mate Bunkie Knud­sen, then Boss of Ev­ery­thing at Ford Mo­tor Com­pany, sug­gested that Ford USA could build Bill a suit­able daily driver.

If you’re the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of a large lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ing con­cern with a par­ent com­pany that not only has the abil­ity to pimp the blazes out of your choice of car, but has a boss who has pretty much just ad­vised you to do it, what are you gonna do?

Well, what Bill did was have a fully loaded Onyx Black 351ci XW Fal­con GT re­moved from the line and flown off to Detroit. It al­ready had all the exec stuff fit­ted, in­clud­ing air con, power steer­ing and – of course – an eight-track tape player. Bunkie then had a look at it, pre­sum­ably waved a magic wand or com­mis­sioned the Oompa Loom­pas, and shit got done.

Three months later, the one-off Fal­con was sent back with some ex­cel­lent up­grades: a wind-back sun­roof, flush-lock­ing bon­net pins and the newly re­leased cold-air ‘shaker’ in­take, items that would only be made pub­licly avail­able in 1970 with the XY.

The rub­ber was wrapped around 14x7 Amer­i­can Racer al­loy wheels, while up top there was a vinyl roof. The black duco was a trick (and al­legedly ac­tual) gold-fleck metal­lic, with the door frames, rear boot area and B-pil­lars painted in sil­ver-grey, rather than the black used on reg­u­lar GTS. In­side there was a re­mote driver’s mir­ror, Mach 1 high-back bucket seats and a Fair­lane rear bench.

Up front, the car fea­tured a yet-to-be-re­leased GTHO Fal­con-spec front spoiler. Oh wait, and 428-cu­bic-freaking­inches of big-block Co­bra Jet V8 power! That’s the ver­sion with the 390 cam, 427 ‘low-riser’ heads and a four-bar­rel Hol­ley. Ford USA up­graded the auto to a Co­bra Jet-spe­cific C6 trans and fit­ted Mus­tang Ho-spec dif­fer­en­tial, axles and brakes – prob­a­bly just to stop the thing fling­ing it­self into space when Bill un­leashed the thun­der, some­thing he re­port­edly did with great gusto and alarm­ing reg­u­lar­ity. And keep in mind that the car was orig­i­nally fit­ted with three-inch side­pipes – it would have made quite a splash on the streets.

Re­porters at the time re­call sto­ries – con­firmed by Bill – that he could eas­ily hit 140mph with four journos on board, with ‘hail Marys’ and gen­eral shit­ting of pants fairly com­mon­place.

The 428ci Co­bra Jet V8 had a stated out­put of around 335hp, but the ac­tual power was ru­moured to be closer to 410hp, with the low-balling at­trib­uted to ris­ing safety con­cerns and in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums in the USA. That’s like HSV or FPV lev­els of power now – 300kw and count­ing. On skinny tyres, no grip and with not much to hold on to but a high-backed bucket seat and your faith in the Lord eter­nal, that’s some se­ri­ous awe­some.

THE 428CI CO­BRA JET HAD A STATED OUT­PUT OF AROUND 335HP, BUT POWER WAS RU­MOURED TO BE CLOSER TO 410HP

BILL’S XW COULD EAS­ILY HIT 140MPH WITH FOUR JOURNOS ON BOARD, WITH ‘HAIL MARYS’ AND GEN­ERAL SHIT­TING OF PANTS FAIRLY COM­MON­PLACE

Bill even­tu­ally be­came ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent of Ford North Amer­ica. We can only as­sume he or­dered a Ford F250 with a Boe­ing 747 mo­tor in it to cel­e­brate.

And the XW? Ac­cord­ing to folk­lore, when Bourke was trans­ferred to Ford Asia Pa­cific, the 428-pow­ered mon­ster was given away as a Ford Ap­pren­tice of the Year award! The mind bog­gles, but the car sur­vived and has been through sev­eral sets of hands, in es­sen­tially un­re­stored con­di­tion – a price­less piece of Aus­tralian mo­tor­ing his­tory. If more of Bill’s spirit had flowed through Ford Aus­tralia in the decades af­ter his reign, per­haps things may have turned out dif­fer­ently.

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