Automania

Ford Falcon GT and ’67 Mustang GT

This week I thought I should give you a couple of muscle-cars, Aussie style, though only the Falcon GT can claim real Australian heritage. This car is what the boys Down-under flog along the highways “out west” (up-country), away from radar speed guns, and all they have to avoid are the country coppers.

Ford Falcon GT

The other car, the Mustang, is a real classic, and this particular vehicle is one I have been in more than once, the owner Kerry Horgan being the chemist whose shop was next door to mine! I have also raced against him many times, and our Down-under correspondent John Weinthal has been a friend of his for 40 years.

When comparing these cars, John describes them as “one classic - another potential”. Here are the Words from Weinthal.

Mustang GT

“The Ford Falcon GT is Ford’s current performance car flagship - a 5.4 litre V8 powered muscle car with 290 kW, or near enough 400 horsepower, to delight anybody with even the slightest love of raw power, although it comes in an enticingly velvet glove.

“The GT entered the Ford Australia stable via its fresh new Ford Performance Vehicles offshoot early this year as a five-speed manual. The selectronic auto version tested followed mid-year.

“This was the fifth BA Falcon to pass through our hands after the excellent base XT, the always exhilarating XR6 Turbo sedan and pick-up.

“This GT is a stand-out with deep front spoiler, bonnet bulge, large rear spoiler, optional GT striping and superbly shaped sports seats with power height adjustment for the driver. The only handicap to achieving a perfect driving position is the unforgivable absence of a proper left foot rest.

“The GT can dribble through traffic with eerie ease. It has a firm but absorbent and relatively refined ride. A distant V8 thrum reminds one constantly of what is possible should traffic, weather and whim dictate more haste. You are always master.

“The GT has great character. It takes the best of all the BA’s and adds its own intrigue, including an exhaust bellow to thrill any true Aussie heart. It can be almost indecently rapid in its responses.

“Subjectively this Falcon GT, in spite of its extra 50kW, feels only mildly faster than the exhilarating XR6 Turbo. The Turbo has a more youthful edge to its urge, contrasting with the GT’s robust maturity. However you spell it, this is a well kitted out excitement machine and real value at just under AUD 60,000 (direct conversion to Thai currency is around 1.7 million baht).

“The arrival of the GT suggested more than just a regular review. The opportunity was created to set it beside one of Ford’s icon muscle cars of the past - a 6.7 litre 1967 automatic Mustang notchback with the full US GT pack of the day.

“This particular Mustang was imported brand new in 1967 by its owner’s older brother. The all up cost, including a host of extras and right-hand-drive conversion, was just under AUD 6000 which was a heap of money back then.

“Pharmacist and race driver owner Kerry Horgan guesses it has covered at least 300,000 km. These include finishes in five Targa Tasmanias, regular racing at Warwick’s exciting Morgan Park circuit and Queensland Raceway plus many Willowbank drag strip outings. It has never led a pampered existence.

“According to Kerry it is a bit like grandfather’s axe with a lot of chopping and changing of parts and performance and safety upgrades over the years. It has never been pranged and its only repaint was some 20 years ago. Today it gleams in the same original cream as when it left Detroit.

“The Mustang began life as a 6.4 litre V8. It has since been stretched to 6.7 litres with oil coolers for the engine, power steering and transmission. Its current output is around the same as the GT’s 290kW or 400 horsepower. However it weighs at least 200 kg less than the GT and sits much lower thanks to suspension changes for racing. At Willowbank this Mustang has recorded quarter mile sprints at 13.5 seconds; more than enough to embarrass the latest GT.

“At about this point all comparisons end. There is nary a microchip or computer control for any of the Mustang’s functions. Remote locking, electric windows, climate control air-con, cruise control, steering wheel mounted sound system buttons, fully supportive seating and the sort of refinement and ride comfort we take for granted today were never on this Mustang’s menu. Kerry reckons his car to be worth between AUD 25,000 and 30,000 today or half the price of the Falcon.

“The most interesting race one might conduct between today’s GT and its 1967 counterpart would be to the petrol pumps. Both enjoy a drink - at frequent intervals. Don’t count on more than 350 km between visits to your favourite servo if you spend most of your time driving in town. That’s the price of big time grunt in an 1800kg five seat eye-grabber.”

(Thank you John for the comparison, but while I agree that the Mustang is a classic, I do not believe the new Falcon GT will ever get into that category. The original Falcon GT’s were, like the Mustang, brute horsepower cars that really required hanging onto. Step on the go pedal injudiciously and these things would immediately go sideways! The new cars are far too sophisticated. However, looking at the interior shot of the Mustang, doesn’t the steering wheel show its age! Dr. Iain)


Drive Days

How many of you have been on factory sponsored “Drive Days”? You know the deal, where the factory takes you to a racing circuit and supplies race drivers to take you round and show you just how well the new product stops, goes, steers, etc. From the non-racers point of view, these can be quite an exciting event, but from the racer’s point of view, it is quite different, let me assure you. They are work.

The first one of these I ever went on was for British Leyland in Australia. As a member of the “Works team”, I was expected to attend, there was no excuse accepted, and way back then, I was actually quite excited about it. Silly boy!

A national newspaper had run an article asking whether the readers felt they were skilled enough to be good drivers. Of course they got a response - hundreds of them replied, so all the works teams in Australia were approached (Nissan, Ford, Holden, British Leyland) and we took turns every weekend. The parent manufacturer supplied the cars and their race team drivers and the newspaper supplied the happy punters. In our case, that was FWD Morris Nomads (a 1500 cc Morris 1100 built in Oz). These were thereafter known as Morris Go-Mads, but that’s another story yet again.

The punters came in two types. There were the “wannabe’s” and the “bloody hopeless”. There seemed to be nothing in between. If given the choice, we always went for the wannabe’s. They were so intent on showing us that they were the natural heir apparent to Sir Jack Brabham’s world title that it was easy to trick these guys up. As soon as we had them on the track, on a long sweeper, we would ever so quietly reach down between the seats and pull the handbrake on. With the FWD this produces instant oversteer as the back steps out of line, and by the time our boy wonder had got the wheel turned into the slide we would have dropped the handbrake and he was in trouble all over again. They had no idea why the back had suddenly stepped out, and we certainly weren’t going to tell them.

However, one particularly hopeless woman has remained firmly in my memory. One of the other drivers, John Leffler, brought her to me. “You won’t believe this woman,” said Leffo, and I was left with this rather uninspiring 40 year old. I took her around the track at trundle speed and then we stopped, changed sides and we took off with me in the suicide seat. This was no wannabe, she did not speed. At a constant 20 kph she drove down the track, not moving the steering wheel in either direction. As we slowly crossed over the centre line, I kept on thinking to myself, “She’s going to turn back on course, surely.” No. Just as surely, we continued on unabated until she had four wheels in the dirt on the other side of the track and heading directly for the safety fence.

I decided to get the car on the track again, leaned over and pulled the wheel over till we were once more doing 20 kays, but back on the bitumen. We rolled along fine till we came to the corner and she just sat there, the steering wheel never moving, until we again ran out of road. This woman was physically incapable of steering. Not one clue.

After I steered her back to the starting point, Leffo came over. “Howdja go, mate?” he asked. I shook my head in disbelief and began to explain what had happened, but he stopped me, saying “Don’t tell me, she was exactly the same with me, but I thought maybe I had frightened her or something!” We then asked her if she actually had a drivers licence and she said that she did. We then told her that best thing she could do was to nail the licence to the mantelpiece and never drive again!

So much for “Drive Days”!

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked when did the first power top convertible go into production, and what was the make of the car? The answer was 1934 with Peugeot’s ‘decapotable electrique’.

So to this week. The normal piston engines have one piston per cylinder, and the usual layout of the cylinders is either in-line, or in a V formation, or horizontally opposed. However, there were a few engines that were made with more than one piston per cylinder, working outwards from a central combustion chamber. These were made in Scotland and France. What were the makes using this? Clue - the Scottish one with a two cylinder, four piston engine won a Tourist Trophy race!

For the Automania FREE beer this week, be the first correct answer to email [email protected]

Good luck!