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FORD EN­THU­SI­AST Phil Grant is or­gan­is­ing an XR and XR GT round-up at the Shepparton Motor Mu­seum ( Vic) on Septem­ber 10 at mid­day. This iconic se­ries set Ford down the per­for­mance road that ar­guably hit its pin­na­cle with the GT-HO Phase III – or at least that’s what the auc­tion prices say!

In any case, it marked the start of lo­cally-built V8 per­for­mance Fords, and we’re now half a cen­tury down that road. It’s near-im­pos­si­ble to over­state the im­por­tance of this car, and it’s gen­er­ated more than its fair share of sto­ries over the years. Here’s our favourite, from a fea­ture we pub­lished a cou­ple of years ago…

Back in 1967, when the XR Fal­con GT made its first ap­pear­ance at Mount Panorama, pro­duc­tion car rac­ing re­ally was just that. The mod­i­fied Group C Im­proved Pro­duc­tion Touring Cars that were bat­tling for the Aus­tralian Touring Car Cham­pi­onship at the time had no place on the Bathurst grid.

Bathurst cars ran un­der the much more tightly-con­trolled Group E Se­ries Pro­duc­tion reg­u­la­tions. Mod­i­fi­ca­tions were ex­tremely limited and ho­molo­ga­tion re­quire­ments for 1967 re­quired 5000 cars to have been pro­duced in­ter­na­tion­ally or 500 to have been pro­duced lo­cally.

Ford’s new XR Fal­con GT cleared that hur­dle and seven ex­am­ples of Aus­tralia’s first hero car lined up on the grid. Lead­ing the charge were the three cars en­tered by Ford Aus­tralia, driven by Leo and Ian ‘Pete’ Geoghe­gan, Harry Firth/Fred Gib­son and Bob Jane/Spencer Martin.

“I didn’t meet Harry un­til the Fri­day night be­fore Bathurst,” re­calls Gib­son. “I met him at his ho­tel room and we dis­cussed what we were go­ing to do. One of the things I said was, ‘Harry, how are we go­ing to go? Will we be com­pet­i­tive?’ He said, ‘We’ll win the race’ and I thought, ‘Hmmm, that’s pretty con­fi­dent!’”

“Harry had done a lot of brake pad devel­op­ment,” re­calls Gib­son. “I think the brake pads and shoes were pretty spe­cial. Even though the shock ab­sorbers had to look stock, I’m sure Harry got shocks made by Mon­roeWylie at a lot heav­ier rate than any­one else would’ve had and I think the en­gines were blueprinted. They were very well-pre­pared.”

Firth/Gib­son were the win­ners from the Geoghe­gans, with the Alfa GTV of Chivas/ Ste­wart com­plet­ing the podium.

So be­gan a new era in Aus­tralian mo­tor­ing. The XR GT’s suc­cess cre­ated a tem­plate for Aus­tralian per­for­mance cars that con­tin­ues to the present day.

Unique Cars will be at the event – will we see you there?

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