Falcon GT By The Years: 1970

Send This Page To A Friend

Ford Falcon XW GT
For 1970, the XW series of Falcons continued in production and the GTH0’s continued to be raced in the ever-increasing number of series production events appearing on the motor sport calendar. By now the sedans had become the biggest spectator draw-card of all the classes of racing and race promoters and sponsors were quick to realise the potential of these cars.

The Sydney retail group of Grace Brothers and the shirt manufacturer Toby Lee combined to sponsor a series for series production cars at Sydney's Oran Park Raceway. This attracted a great deal of interest and enthusiasm and ultimately was won by Fred Gibson and his Falcon GTHO.

The Falcons had a successful year in 1970, taking out several of the major races including the 2UW Trophy at Warwick Farm (Allan Moffat); the Endeavour Trophy at Bathurst at Easter (Fred Gibson), and the Hume Weir 1000 (Fred Gibson).

As the time for Bathurst neared, speculation arose on what particular form the various cars would take. Holden surprised everybody by dropping the big Monaro as its Bathurst car and replacing it with a hot version of that company's new six-cylinder Torana, a car considerably smaller and lighter than the Falcons.

The Torana GTR XU-1 featured a 3048 cc 186ci engine complete with triple Stromberg carburetors, a 10.5 to 1 compression ratio and a tricky cam and exhaust system, all of which combined to produce 160 bhp at 5200 rpm and 190 lb.ft of torque at 3600 rpm. Weighing in at 2430 lb (some 800 lb lighter than the Falcons), it was sure to give them some hurry-up, although it was still an unknown quantity.

Chrysler, too, had a new car for the 1970 race. Called the Pacer, it was based on the Valiant range of sedan cars and featured a 4 liter 245ci straight six with a four-barrel carburetor. The car was developed under the guidance of Leo Geoghegan and, although slightly larger in size than the Falcon’s, it was, like the Torana, lighter, but did not feature servo-assistance for its disc/drum brakes.

Another apparent handicap was the three-speed gearbox, which made first gear rather high - but it did have a 35-gallon fuel capacity, only one gallon less than the Falcon, and it featured better fuel consumption due to its lighter weight and more economical six-cylinder motor.

Ford announced the Falcon GTHO Phase 2 in late August and, though it looked identical to the first HO, there were a few significant changes. Firstly, Al Turner had introduced a new version of the 351 engine. The Cleveland was a much later design than the Windsor motor fitted to previous Falcons, and featured such things as solid lifters and other features which would increase reliability and power. Because of the new engine, engine revs could have higher limits than before.

For example, a series production Windsor engine would run out of steam at not much more than 5500 rpm on Bathurst's Conrod Straight, whereas the Cleveland would rev to over 6500 in a race without causing too many problems, although a working red line of 6200-6500 rpm was normal practice.

The Phase 2 cars also featured a bigger 780 cfrn Holley four-barrel carburetor and revised gear ratios, but Ford, despite all these modifications and revisions, still only quoted 300 bhp at 5400 rpm and 380 lb.ft. of torque at 3400 rpm. Also, a rather high final drive ratio of 3.5 to 1 was standard equipment.

The performance, however, was getting to the incredible stage. The GTHO Phase 2 could accelerate from a standstill to 100 mph in only 17 seconds, a full 13 seconds faster than the original XR GT. Top speed was reputed to be between 135 and 144 mph, depending on final drive ratios (and which road tests were worth taking notice of) and in the lower gears 50, 75 and 100 mph were attainable. The price; $4790.

Although John French had successfully debuted the Phase 2 a few days earlier at Surfer's Paradise, the Sandown 250 was the first real test of the new car. No fewer than nine Falcon’s fronted the starter for this event, which was regarded as being an indicator for Bathurst, Not only the new Falcons were there, but also the Holden Torana XU-1s and the Chrysler Pacers.

In the early stages of the race, Falcon’s held the first six places, but gradually problems started to plague them and four cars retired with various problems, while two others finished at a walking pace. Allan Moffat in the No.1 works car had an untroubled victory, but the next Falcon home could only manage sixth, this being the second works car of Bo Seton and Fred Gibson, six laps down.

Despite Moffat's apparently easy win, the Ford camp was concerned with the troubles experienced by the other drivers. In particular the new Cleveland engines were not proving to be as reliable as they should have been. Ford went into the 1970 race with 14 Falcons and an air of uncertainty about their engines, their brakes and the potential of the opposition, particularly the Torana’s, which had done very well at Sandown Park.

In practice, Allan Moffat won pole position with a 2 min. 49 sec. lap, and the other works-entered Falcons filled positions two and three on the grid. But practice did not increase Ford's confidence as the Torana’s had run all day with problem, whereas the Falcons had suffered a lot of engine troubles and overnight rebuilds were the order of the day for quite a number of them.

The first lap of the race gave heart to the Holden supporters as Colin Bond, who had already worked up from fourth on the grid, dived under Allan Moffat under brakes to take the lead in his Torana XU1. It didn't take Moffat long to re-pass Bond, however, and the Canadian stayed in the No. 1 spot for the remainder of the race. Behind him, however, a lot of Falcons were in trouble.

The works car of Fred Gibson and Barry Seton had its differential seize and Bruce Hodgson, Gary Rush, David McKay, Kyrn Aunger and Bob Beasley all suffered engine failures. Bruce McPhee, also in a works car came in second on the same lap as Moffat, but the next Falcon home was the car of John Goss and Bob Skelton, who had driven a good race to come in seventh, theirs being the first non-works Falcon to complete the distance.

*NOTE: Cleveland engines were built in Ford's Cleveland, Ohio factory;  Windsor at their Windsor plant in Ontario, Canada.

Also see:
GT Falcon Race Results 1970
Bathurst Race Results 1970
Bathurst Race Program 1970
Bathurst Memorable Moments

Unique Cars and Parts USA - The Ultimate Classic Car Resource