Falcon GT By The Years: 1972

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Ford Falcon XA GT
For 1972, Ford introduced a new range of Falcons with a completely new body, much sleeker in appearance than the XR to XY series. It was designated the XA, and there was a GT version, available (as with all GT’s from the XT onwards) with automatic transmission as well as the standard manual transmission. The new GT appeared to be designed to appeal to a more mature buyer than the XY.

It did away with the "shaker" inlet, and the (arguably) garish striping of the XY GT was replaced with a much more subtle scheme. The general styling of it made the XA appear far more mellow and less menacing than it’s forebears – although that was not necessarily a bad thing, nor was it any indication that the GT had been watered down in the places that mattered.

In fact mechanically the new GT was very similar to the XY GT, apart from a general and slight softening of the suspension due to the XA's wider track. On the racetracks the GTHO Phase 3 continued to enjoy success, John Goss winning the South Pacific touring car series (which is run in conjunction with the Australian rounds of the Tasman Cup racing car series) with a first after Allan Moffat let him through, as the points were more valuable to Goss - two seconds and a fourth; Bob Morris winning the Bars Leaks Marathon at Oran Park.

In the other Oran Park series, the Grace Brothers-Toby Lee series, John Goss, after a disastrous first round, won the second, third and fourth rounds, but could only manage a fourth in the final round, which cost him the series. Fred Gibson, who won the Grace Brothers-Toby Lee series in 1970 and 1971, fared worse, scoring no points in the first round and blowing his engine in the second, coming only sixth in the third, failing to finish the fourth and coming fifth in the final round.

The Australian touring car championship saw the appearance of two "improved" Falcons, one being the 630 bhp car of lan "Pete" Geoghegan, which never got a real chance to prove its capabilities, as it was plagued by mechanical problems all year. However, Big Pete did win one round and also scored two seconds and a third in the Championship. Kingsley Hibbard brought out his “improved" Falcon for two rounds of the championship and finished a brilliant fourth in one of them after starting from the rear of the grid.

In the other round he contested, he failed to finish. John Goss, Fred Gibson, John French and Murray Carter brought out their series production GTHO Phase 3s for a couple of rounds of the championship, Goss and Gibson achieving a very creditable third and fourth respectively in round three (Bathurst, Easter) behind Pete Geoghegan's “SuperFalcon", and Allan Moffat's Trans-Am Mustang. John Goss also scored fifth in the final round at Oran Park, John French came fifth in the seventh round at Sandown Park and Murray Carter finished 11th in round four at Surfer's Paradise.

But tire wear was starting to become a major problem with the GTH0’s by mid 1972, and this was amply demonstrated in the first round of the manufacturers' championship at Adelaide International Raceway where the Falcons were soundly beaten by the new 3.3 liter 202 ci Torana XU- I’s, which were now in road trim and turning out just under 200 bhp, the power being put to the ground via wide-rimmed aluminum wheels.

In contrast the Falcon’s narrow 14 inch steel rims were showing as the major cause for the tires to distort alarmingly, thus enabling them to rub on the suspension springs, which in turn gave the big Ford’s a terrible handling disadvantage. Allan Moffat suffered two tire failures in the first 15 laps of the 165 lap race, the second one causing him to hit the wall, putting him out of the race. Both the other Falcons (Goss and Gibson) suffered tire problems, leaving the circuit wide open for the new Torana’s to take out the first three places.

For the second round of the championship at Sandown, the Falcons appeared with 15 inch Globe alloy wheels. With a plethora of suitable rubber available for 15in wheels, Ford had decided that this was the answer to their problem. They commissioned Globe Products of South Australia to develop a special 15” by 7” alloy wheel for the GTHO. Globe built the wheels for Ford, patterned on the Ferrari Daytona design - and produced them in super-quick time. The advantages over the previous steel wheels were monumental.

They offered incredible strength, their light weight brought about a major reduction in un-sprung weight, made a much larger range of racing rubber available to Ford and - most importantly - their vastly superior brake cooling characteristics cut temperature by almost half. With the steel wheels, the temperature of the brakes was about 840 degrees Centigrade.

With the Globes, that figure was cut to 450 degrees Centigrade. At Sandown in round two, the Falcon’s of John Goss, Fred Gibson and Murray Carter came first, second and third respectively. There were no tire blowouts and no pit-stops to change tires every few laps. As it happened, the Falcon’s of John French and Allan Moffat both failed to finish, French blowing his engine and Moffat suffering a gearbox failure. But bigger and better things had been planned by Holden, Chrysler and Ford for the next major race on the agenda, the Hardie-Ferodo 500, which, for the first time, was to be included as a round of the manufacturers' championship.

Chrysler's big gun for the 1972 race was to be a 5.6 liter 340ci V8 powered Charger. Holden's was to be a 5-liter 308ci V8 powered version of the Torana XU-1. And Ford's was to be the Falcon GTHO Phase 4. The phrase "was to be" is used because none of these cars turned a wheel in anger in series production racing. They were all banned, the result of the logic of narrow-minded politicians and an irresponsible daily press. But more of that later. The GTHO Phase 4 was based on the then-current XA GT and would have been an extremely rapid and safe motor car had it entered production.

It featured the Globe 15in wheels as standard equipment, their superior characteristics eliminating the need to modify the Phase 3's brakes, although it had been hoped to fit four-wheel disc brakes when the Phase 4's specifications were first decided. In the suspension department, spring rates remained as for the Phase 3, because of the reduction in un-sprung weight made possible by the new wheels, and also because of the natural increase in track of the XA Falcon. A new type of rear leaf spring was fitted which provided greater roll stiffness; the rear anti-roll bar was dispensed with, which reduced oversteer. This in turn resulted in the Phase 4 being fitted with a softer front anti-roll bar, helping keep the handling characteristics of the car neutral.

The engine featured some modifications, particularly in the cylinder heads, where the combustion chambers were revised to give better flow and volume around the inlet valves. This reduced the compression ratio slightly to 11 to 1, and brought about better fuel consumption and more torque, which was spread over a wider rev. range. Near peak torque came in about 1000 rpm lower in the Phase 4 than the Phase 3. The camshaft and the engine's bottom end remained the same, but a few changes were made in the lubrication department.

A new sump was developed which featured "ears" welded onto each side to increase capacity by three pints and concentrated oil around the pump pickup, thus reducing the chances of oil surge causing the engine to blow. The new sump also featured a metal baffle to minimise surge; it served a second purpose, "scraping" the air off the crankshaft as it turned, and thus curing the windmilling effect, which causes the oil to froth.

Engine cooling came in for some modification, too, Ford using a big capacity radiator from air-conditioned V8 Falcons, and a fan with blades that twist flat once a certain speed has been reached. This saved 30 bhp at 6000 rpm and prolonged the life of the fan belt. Carburation remained the same as the Phase 3 (Holley 780 cfm four-barrel), but new exhaust headers were fitted to give a further increase in torque. The Phase 4 would have had about 340 bhp at 5800 rpm in road trim and a torque figure of approximately 390 lb.ft. at 3600 rpm.

The transmission stayed the same as the XA GT with the same internal ratios. Because of the greater engine flexibility of the Phase 4, and its more slippery body, the close-ratio gearbox was dropped, however a taller differential ratio was introduced - 3 to 1 (the same as the XT GT), and it was a positive lock unit.

Sixty per cent aspect ratio tires were also to have been used, and when mounted on the 15in Globe wheels, the overall wheel/tyre diameter was almost identical to the old 14in wheel/70 per cent aspect ratio combination, the difference actually being only one revolution per mile. This, combined with the 3 to 1 final drive ratio, gave the Phase 4 24.4 mph per 1000 rpm in top gear. At the 6200 rpm, automatic ignition cut out, speeds in gears were 54, 70, 111 and 151 mph, which was a 10 mph higher top speed than the Phase 3!

It would have been a great motor car, but it wasn't allowed to be. Only one GTHO Phase 4 ever found its way into competition: Bruce Hodgson's Phase 4 was used briefly for rallying, a field of motor sport light years away from the circuit racing it was designed for. But it was reasonably successful, although not exactly suited for the purpose. But at least one made it. A short time before the 1972 Hardie-Ferodo, Australian motoring enthusiasts were shocked and angered with the treatment the new Chrysler, Holden and Ford cars for the race were getting from the daily press.

The Chrysler Charger V8, the Holden Torana V8 and the Ford Falcon GTHO Phase 4 were set upon in editorials and articles, the journalists responsible (or perhaps irresponsible), applying the descriptive phrase "Supercar" to the new cars and making very loud noises about how such cars could all top 160 mph in road trim, and how, with homologation regulations requiring 200 of each to be built, a lot of the general public would certainly be either killed or injured if they were ever allowed to drive them.

A lot of newsprint was dedicated to the cause of ensuring these cars were never built, and unfortunately for the manufacturers and motor sport followers it didn't take very long for general public opinion to swing against the cars. The campaign was relentless, and the Government had it’s back to the wall, such was the growing condemnation from people who, arguably, didn’t really know what they were talking about.

The journalists called for legislation to be passed in an effort to stop the carnage on the road. According to some reports there were even fleet purchasers who threatened manufacturers that their contracts would be in jeopardy should they develop such vehicles – initiated in the main by government departments. The manufacturers had no choice; they had to stop.

Generally overlooked was the question of primary safety. Nobody mentioned that the so called “Supercars”, as well as traveling very rapidly in a straight line, would have handling, braking, steering and road-holding capabilities on par with the best in the world. Few mentioned that too little performance in all these areas is a major cause of accidents. Not one journalist tried to ban the average family sedan with drum brakes, cross-ply tires and enormous amounts of understeer deliberately built in - apparently this is a perfectly safe combination.

Following a hasty re-shuffling of plans, the main competitors for the 1972 Bathurst race remained similar to 1971, except for detail changes to the car. Holden had its 3.3 liter XU-1 Torana, by now well developed and regarded as favorite for the race. Ford, after having the GTHO Phase 4 effectively banned, had to retain the Phase 3 which, although faster and no less reliable than in 1971, was no longer a current model - and in racing, anything that is not right up to date must be doubtful.

Chrysler introduced a slightly modified Charger to Bathurst. Called the E49, it featured more power from its 4.3 liter 265ci motor, (302 bhp at 5600 rpm), plus a four-speed gearbox, making it an extremely rapid motor car - its acceleration was actually slightly better than a GTHO Phase 3, although it was some 10 mph down in top speed.

A new system of classing was introduced for the 1972 race, replacing the familiar method of classing the cars according to their retail price. The new system divided the cars into four groups of Capacity/Price (CP) units. These CP units were simply the capacity of the car's engine, in liters, multiplied by the retail price. For example, a car of 1.5 liters capacity which cost $3000 would have a CP rating of 1.5 by 30001 which is 4500.

The classes were: - A - up to 3000 CP units; B - 3001 to 9000 CP units; C - 9001-1800 CP units; D - over 1800 CP units. This put the Falcons and E49 Chargers in Class D, and the Torana XL1-1s and a lone E38 Charger in Class C. Race practice saw Allan Moffat in the number one works car on pole position again, with an incredible 2:35.8, just 3.1 seconds faster than 1971. Beside him was John Goss, who, despite blowing a motor in practice, still managed to clock a best of 2:37.2. Behind them were John French and Fred Gibson, driving the number two works car. Race day was pouring with rain and the start was an incredible sight, with a huge cloud of spray blanketing the field, which looked more like a power boat fleet than a pack of cars.

This year, luck wasn't to be with the Falcons. The first trouble they struck was with Fred Gibson, who lost it at McPhillamy Park, hit the bank and rolled over a couple of times, about 50 yards short of an XU-1, which had also rolled a few seconds before. The driver of the XU-1 was none other than Bill Brown, who must be the unluckiest driver in the country as far as Bathurst is concerned.

Des West's Falcon retired because of a clutch failure and John Goss blew another engine. But it was also with Moffat's car, Ford's main hope for an outright win, that things weren't looking terribly bright. He had a spin at Reid Park, which cost him his lead, and when he pitted for fuel and tires, he was penalised one minute for starting his engine while fuel was still being put aboard the Falcon.

Meanwhile, John French was going very well, steering his Falcon into the lead on lap 54. At the same time it was becoming obvious that Moffat was in a great deal of trouble, as his brakes were not working anywhere near as well as they should have been and he very nearly hit the fence at Murray's Corner at the end of Conrod Straight.

From this point, Moffat's chances of victory became virtually nil. He drove desperately in an effort to make up time - with no effective brakes he was only just making it around some of the corners. In his second pit stop, he was penalised yet again for restarting the car before refuelling had been completed, and finally he had to have one of the front brakes disconnected.

John French saved the day for Ford with his fine second outright; the Gulson car was the next Falcon home in seventh place, followed by Moffat in eighth and Murray Carter in 10th. The problem with the brakes on Moffat's car was found to be in the disc pads, which were literally disintegrating from the effects of heat.

Upon examination of Fred Gibson's rolled car it was found that if he had continued, his brakes would have suffered the same fate as Moffat's. The winner was Peter Brock in his Holden Dealer Team Torana XU-1, by the huge margin of five laps. His car ran without trouble all day and he thoroughly deserved his win.

After Bathurst, Moffat won both of the remaining manufacturers' championship rounds at Phillip Island and Surfer's Paradise, giving the series to Ford. Moffat also won the TAA series production race at Calder, giving Ford its 12th win in major series production races for 1972. The last races of 1972 saw the end of an era in Australian touring car racing. Mainly because of the “Supercar" blow-up, and the adverse publicity which went with it, the Confederation of Australian Motor Sports released a new set of regulations for 1973, which meant the end of series production racing.

The idea was to free the manufacturer. from the annual task of building a small number of “Bathurst Specials", the new regulations allowing certain modifications to improve performance and handling to be made to the cars, thus enabling the "standard" models of a given manufacturer's range to be modified to racing specifications, while still retaining some sort of resemblance to the cars being driven by the public.

The new class was to be called "production touring", while the former "improved touring" class would now become known as "sports sedans", where a virtually free hand was given regarding modifying cars. Whereas the "improved touring" cars were really Group 2 cars, the new sports sedan class could enable people to build-up machinery like Bryan Thomson's 5000 on Chevrolet-Volkswagen, or John McCormack's Elfin MR5 Formula 5000 with a Chrysler Charger body attached to it.

However, it was obvious that Australians were in for some exciting and close racing in 1973 - and they weren't to be disappointed. There was also a plethora of sensationalized journalism during the development of the Phase 4, claiming it could top 160 mph, when the actual figure was just a little over 150. It suited their purposes to use the higher figure as a means of persuading Ford to discontinue the manufacture of the car, and it worked.

Also see:
GT Falcon Race Results 1972
Bathurst Race Results 1972
Bathurst Race Program 1972
Bathurst Memorable Moments
Unique Cars and Parts USA - The Ultimate Classic Car Resource