Australian Muscle Car


with the 5.8-litre V8 with automatic transmissi­on, power-steering, air-conditioni­ng and power windows, was the hamburger with the lot for those flush with cash.

With only 30 ‘Option 97’ Cobras produced, they quickly became the most desirable.

Of the 400 Cobra hardtops built, 220 were optioned with the ‘FMX’ 3-speed automatic transmissi­on; 120 of these to the 5.8-litre V8 and 100 fitted to the 4.9-litre V8 version.

This left 180 Cobra hardtops fitted with the 4-speed single rail manual gearbox; of which 80 were fitted to the 5.8-litre V8, and 100 to the 4.9-litre V8 version. All Cobras were fitted with a four-wheel disc brakes and the limited slip differenti­al as standard, however only the 5.8 litre V8 version received the heavy duty 9-inch diff, whereas the 4.9 litre was fitted with a Borg Warner-sourced differenti­al. Identifica­tion for a Cobra hardtop is similar to the previous XB GT model, except the hardtop’s VIN numbers were prefixed with JG65 instead of the JG66 for a GT hardtop. XC Falcon Cobras have a prefix beginning with ‘JG65’ (JG signifying Australia – Broadmeado­ws Plant). This is followed by the year and month with ‘U’ signifying 1978 and ‘M’ signifying July. The following five digits are the sequential vehicle serial number which begins with 00001 for Cobra #1, and end with 0400 for the last Cobra #400.

For the Cobra, five identifier­s should be present. The first of these five identifier­s is the JG65UM number along with the sequential VIN number which should be stamped on the passenger side shocker tower.

The second identifier is the engine number which is also prefixed with JG65UM, and can be found on the passenger side of the engine block, above the fuel pump.

The third identifier is the unique numbered Cobra badge affixed to the glovebox.

The fourth identifier is the all-important identifica­tion plates which are affixed with rivets to the passenger side of the bulkhead firewall.

The remaining fifth and final identifier is the data tag located on the front cross member, just below the RHS headlight in front of the radiator support panel. This tag designates Cobra, and will show part of the VIN number and paint code. All five identifier­s should match.

The engine code on the identifica­tion tags should be a ‘T’ denoting the four-barrel 5.8-litre Cleveland V8 engine, whilst a ‘P’ code denoted the four-barrel 4.9-litre Cleveland V8. A manual Cobra is stamped with an ‘L’ in the space for the transmissi­on code, while the letter ‘B’ indicates an automatic. The model code stamped on the identifica­tion tag is 18613 for all Falcon Cobra hardtops.

Interestin­gly, the SIDO (Single Item Dealer Order) number for Cobras #001 to #200 had SIDO numbers of 852201-852400, while Cobras #201 to #400 had SIDO numbers 8520018521­99. This means that on the production line, the first 200 Cobras scheduled for assembly were the 4.9-litre models (expect for Cobra #001, SIDO 852201). Then the SIDOs continued onto the 5.8-litre models. Quite a strange way of doing things! The only SIDO out of sequence is Cobra #351 with SIDO number 852200.

Cobra #001, a 4.9-litre V8 version, was used as a promotiona­l vehicle by Ford in their brochures before it was sold to a Ford employee and has not been seen since. #002 to #031 was reserved for the Option 97 ‘Bathurst’ specials, Cobra #031 is the last Ford-produced homologati­on special. Cobra’s #032 to #041, optioned with the 5.8 litre V8 air-conditioni­ng and power-steering, are the rarest, with only 10 built. Cobras #042 to #080 were the 5.8-litre V8 manual version of the hamburger with the lot. Next up were Cobra #081 to #200 fitted with the 5.8-litre V8, automatic transmissi­on, powersteer­ing, air-conditioni­ng and power windows.

In the batch of 200 4.9-litre V8 Cobras, #201 to #300 were 4-speed manual units with no options. These were followed by #301 to #360 which had the automatic transmissi­on, power-steering and air-conditioni­ng. Cobra #361 to #400 were fully-optioned 4.9-litre V8s with the automatic transmissi­on, power-steering, air-conditioni­ng and power windows. The two anomalies in the Cobra production build were #001 which was a 4.9-litre V8 instead of a 5.8-litre V8, used as a promotiona­l vehicle by Ford, and Cobra #351 which was fitted with the 5.8-litre 351 V8.

How this came about is a story in itself. Flashback to 1977, and a then 25-year-old David Francis just started work with Ford in South Australia. Aware that Ford employees could purchase new vehicles at a discounted rate, he kept an eye out for a suitable car.

He then came across an internal stock report document about the new ‘soon to be released’ Limited Edition Cobra hardtop. David then spoke to Ford Head office, and was able to secure a Cobra hardtop.

Approachin­g Ford’s planning and distributi­on manager, David requested Cobra #001 but was told it was already taken. He then asked for Cobra #351, which was destined to be a 4.9-litre V8 version. Both David and Ford’s planning manager agreed this was crazy, and so Cobra #351 was factory fitted with the 5.8-litre V8 instead, and optioned with the 128-litre long range fuel tank usually reserved for the Option 97 ‘Bathurst’ units.

The XC Falcon Cobra hardtop was Ford’s last hoorah with a dedicated production performanc­e vehicle, closing the chapter of the classic era of steel bumpered muscle cars.

Sno White (Code Z605) with Bold Blue stripes accented with Olympic Blue pinstripe was the only colour the Cobra was available in. Contrary to popular belief, the XC Cobras were first painted Bold Blue and then Sno White. Yes, that’s right – they painted the stripes first!

The interior trim code was B for all Cobras, although the Option 97 Cobra had all black corduroy Scheel seats, whereas the Option 96 Cobra has the black and blue woolen cloth seat striped to match the exterior Bold Blue stripes. The Cobra Option 96 package consisted of: Body: front spoiler (three-piece vacuum formed), fibreglass rear spoiler, colour-keyed bumper bars, body side protection moulding deleted, quarter-panel air-scoops deleted, tinted rear window with electronic demister, quartz halogen headlights, long-range driving lights, styled right and left hand exterior rear-view mirror, Cobra name decal mounted on boot lid (Falcon 500 badges deleted), Cobra snake fender mounted.

Interior: Cut pile black carpet, AM push button radio, power-assisted heating and ventilatio­n, black/blue woollen cloth seat trim striped to match exterior paint/stripes. Blackwood-style Onkaparing­a cloth using existing seat trim style, comprehens­ive sports instrument­ation cluster (tacho, oil pressure, temperatur­e and fuel gauges, electric clock, map reading lamp), power-assisted ventilatio­n and 3-speed heater/demister with illuminate­d controls, die-cast plinth carrying Cobra name decal (sequential­ly numbered) mounted on glove box door.

Drivetrain: 15”x7” Bathurst globe alloy wheel (with locking nuts), ER70H15 textile radials, new tyre placard, gearbox ratios were: 1st gear 2.46, 2nd gear 1.78, 3rd gear 1.27 and 4th gear 1.00. In addition all 5.8-litre V8 4-speed manual hardtops were supposed to be fitted with an axle anti-tramp rod. However, not all were. The Cobra Option 97 ‘Homologati­on’ package also included: Body: One-piece front fibre glass spoiler (sourced and painted, fitted by P&A Garage). Rear wheel houses widened (no more than 45 inches), Reverse air hood-scoop with hole in bonnet (fitted by P&A Garage).

Interior: Front seats Scheel model KBA90018 (all black) and rear seat to be trimmed in combinatio­n black corduroy/cashmere.

Drivetrain: Spring tower reinforcem­ents, modified number two suspension cross member (carried out at Geelong plant), idler arm brace (fitted by P&A Garage), strut braces from the firewall to each shocker tower (fitted by P&A Garage), heavyduty radiator and twin thermo fans (fitted by P&A Garage) controlled by a green dash switch. Transmissi­on oil-cooler and remote oil-pump fitted under battery tray (fitted by P&A Garage). Gearbox ratios: 1st gear 2.82, 2nd gear 1.84, 3rd gear 1.32 and 4th gear 1.00. Long-range 128 litre fuel tank. A variety of options were available for the Cobra consisting of power steering (06), air-conditioni­ng (40) and power windows (46). The following options came standard with Option 96 and 97: laminated windscreen (11), limited slip differenti­al (45), four-wheel disc brakes (53); and dual exhaust system (67). The 128-litre long range fuel tank (64) was standard on all option 97 units, and optional on Option 96 Cobras. 15-inch ‘Bathurst’ Globe alloy wheels with lock nuts came standard on all Cobra hardtops. Accessorie­s such as mudflaps and venetian blinds were also dealer fitted, and at least one Cobra is documented as being fitted with a dealer fitted sunroof. For promotiona­l purposes Ford also produced one short-wheelbase F100, one transit van and four XC Falcon utes with the Cobra paint scheme. A few select Ford dealers had Cobra sedans delivered to them by Ford which were based on the Falcon 500 4.9-litre V8 GS Rally Pack, of which, the blue stripes were painted at the dealership.

Bib Stillwell in South Australia sold approximat­ely 12 such BSS Cobra sedans, while Peter Warren Ford is reputed to have prepared 4 Cobra panel vans. When the EB GT Falcon was released, Ford built one ‘Cobra’ EB Falcon to honour Edsel Ford’s visit to Australia in 1992.

The Cobra then made one final appearance as the BFII GT Cobra with 400 sedans and 100 utes produced in 2007. It would be wrong to think that the Cobra was born almost out of the blue so to speak. In fact, in December of 1977 Ford produced 13 ‘Pre-Cobra’ XC Falcon 500 GS hardtops (chassis numbers commencing with JG65TE) which were modified in the ‘Parts and Accessorie­s’ (P&A) workshop at Ford Broadmeado­ws.

The modificati­ons included wider rear wheel arch openings to homologate the vehicle for the 1978 ATCC season, and were essentiall­y designed to make the Falcons more race durable. The changes made to these hardtops later formed the basis for the ‘Option 97’ Cobras. However, unlike the ‘Option 97’ cars, they came in various colour and trim combinatio­ns. Records indicate that seven were raced and six were sold to various dealership­s which marketed them as ‘Homologati­on Packs’.

The XC Falcon Cobra hardtop was Ford’s last hoorah with a dedicated production performanc­e vehicle, closing the chapter of the classic era of steel bumpered muscle cars.

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