The Falcon may have won the last Armstrong 500 held at Phillip Island in 1962, but it wasn’t until the V8-powered Falcon XR GT conquered Mount Panorama that the name entered Australian motorsport folklore. We retrace the rise of the Falcon on the race track in SupercarXtra issue #128, a special Ford edition.
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Falcon was already a name with winning credentials in the Great Race when the new XR GT model fronted up to 1967’s Gallaher 500 at Bathurst.
Harry Firth and Bob Jane, after all, had won the Armstrong 500, the precursor to the Bathurst event, in an XL Falcon in 1962. But that was an age ago… a deed done with a different Falcon, a full generation older, with a six-cylinder engine, not a V8, on a different track.
Touring cars had moved on and small, quick four-cylinders were the winning ticket. Ford’s Cortina GTs and GT500s cleaned up the first three 500s at Bathurst (1963 to 1965), then the Mini Cooper won in 1966. A big V8 was a leap of faith. Sure, there was this new V8 Falcon – then the fastest, most exciting car ever pitched to buyers by an Australian carmaker – but also the memory of big barges like the Studebaker Lark. They’d torn smaller cars to pieces up Mountain Straight with their bountiful torque, even led the race, but always self-destructed with tyre, brake and fuel-economy issues.
By the end of that weekend, however, a new era had dawned, and the Falcon badge was on its way to being an Australian institution for racers, petrolheads and everyday car buyers alike.