In August 1966, the new Mustang bred XR Falcon was released. A major feature of this model was the famous US small block 4.7-litre V8. This new Yankee-built engine was one of three engine options, the others being two versions of the faithful straight six.
The 4.7-litre V8 was not new to Australia but its use in a locally-made body now made it the cheapest V8 in the country and a favourite with buyers and the press alike. It was felt that Ford had made an effort to get it right first go. The addition of disc brakes, power steering and synchro in first was considered an important move.
The most desirable XR of all, the GT, was a late addition. Strangely, in spite of some pro-racing manoeuvring within Ford Australia, the Falcon GT did not start life as a racer, it was meant as a Police pursuit vehicle and the demonstration model was even produced in Powder Blue.
With a four-barrel carburettor and a low restriction exhaust manifold, better breathing gave the car exhilarating performance, 225 bhp at 4800 rpm which translated to top speed of 193 km/h. Of course it was necessary to re-rate the standard Falcon front coil and rear semielliptic, leaf-sprung suspension to improve handling. Servo-assisted 270 mm front discs and 254 mm rear drums provided the stopping power, while 14-inch steel wheels and 185 section radial tyres were standard.
The interior of the GT featured the black Fairmont trim, with full instrumentation. The wood-rimmed steering wheel came straight from the American Mustang and the Australian GT centre badge was stuck over the Mustang pony.
Only one exterior colour was available to the general public, GT Gold, with a black stripe along the door sills and boot. Most of the badges came straight from Ford’s American Muscle Cars. Retail price was $3890. Total production in 1967 amounted to 558 with a further 164 made in 1968 but the total production run of 760 ended early in the year to make way for the next GT, the XT.
The V8 engine was the Falcons big advantage over other local makes. Initial projections by Ford suggested a 10-12 per cent slice of Falcons market share, but when the demand shot to 20 per cent, buyers suddenly found themselves on a three-month waiting list.
Australia’s love affair with the V8 had begun in earnest.