First published in 2011-05-05
You’re the head of the local arm of a multi-national automotive corporation in the hedonistic late 1960’s.
You’ve invented a muscle-car sub-genre that is going to prevail for decades.
You need a daily driver.
What to do?
Chicago-born Bill Bourke was deployed to Ford Australia from 1965 to 1971 and during that time, not only became Managing Director of Ford’s local arm, he also invented the Ford Falcon GT. Not in that order.
The story has entered local automotive folklore; when watching Ford engineers test a high-performance police-spec version of the brand-new-shape 289ci V8-powered 1966 Ford Falcon, he figured it wouldn’t hurt to sell an up-spec version to cashed-up Baby Boomers, fresh off the Hercules from ‘Nam and ready to blow off some steam. And by steam we mean rear tyre rubber. Bill badged them as GTs and the rest is history.
Such an idea in the USA would have been met with derision; 4-door sedans were NOT muscle cars, however with Australia’s small economy of scale, sticking some power in the 4-door was the only option. Despite Holden’s 2-door Monaro being in the works for release in 1967, Ford would not re-introduce a coupe until the XA-model hardtop of 1971.
The dude could not abide. He wanted muscle and he wanted it before Holden.
The 1967 XR-model Falcon GT, with luxury items and drive lines borrowed from the Ford Mustang and only available in a luminescent gold duco (uh, unless you count the 8 that were Gallaher silver, oh and the ones that were Russet Bronze, Sultan Maroon, Polar White, Avis White and Ivy Green) was an instant success.
Bill must have tired of his one-off special-build, right-hand-drive Ford Galaxie Squire big block (Galaxies were only available in sedan in Australia), so after inventing the XR Falcon GT of 1967 and the Australian muscle car genre as we know it, he longed for another drive car. Ever the introvert, he did make do with a custom-coloured, bright-reddish-pink Falcon GT until his mate Bunkie Knudsen, then Boss of Everything at Ford Motor Company, suggested that Ford USA could build Bill a suitable drive car.
If you’re the managing director of a large local manufacturing concern with a parent company that not only has the ability to pimp fuck out of your choice of car, but has a boss who has pretty much just advised you to do it, what do you do?
Bill had a brand new, 351 cubic inch XW-model Falcon GT removed from the line and flown off to Detroit. Bunkie had a look at it presumably waved a magic wand or commissioned the Oompa Loompas and shit got done.
Three months later, the one-off Falcon was sent back with some excellent upgrades; a wind-back sunroof, flush-locking bonnet pins and the newly-released cold-air ‘Shaker’ air intake, items that would be made available in 1969 with the XY-model.
The rubber was wrapped around 14×7 American Racer alloy wheels while up top there was a vinyl roof. Duco was a trick (and allegedly actual) gold-fleck metallic, while inside there was a remote driver’s mirror, high-back bucket seats and a Fairlane rear-bench.
Up front, the car featured a yet-to-be-released GTHO Falcon-spec front spoiler.
Oh wait, and 428-cubic-freaking-inches of big block, Cobra-jet V8 power.
Ford USA upgraded the auto to a Cobra-jet-specific C6 trans and fitted all Mustang HO-spec differential, axles and brakes; probably just to stop the thing flinging itself into space when Bill unleashed the thunder; something he did with great gusto and alarming regularity.
Reporters at the time recall stories CONFIRMED by Bill that he could easily hit 140mph with four journos on board, with ‘hail Marys’ and general shitting of pants fairly commonplace.
The 428ci Cobra-jet V8 had a stated output of around 335 horsepower, however the actual output was rumoured to be closer to 410 horsepower, with the low-balling attributed to rising safety concerns and insurance premiums in the USA. Four hundred and ten horsepower, kids, is like HSV or FPV levels of power now – 300+ kilowatts and counting… on skinny tyres, no grip and with not much to hold onto but a high-backed bucket seat and your faith in the Lord eternal, that’s some serious awesome.
That is why this car is featured in our Freaks section. It’s not for sale, it’s not been spotted in the metal stalking our streets, is a factory-built Falcon big block when no such thing was ever built; it holds total authority over any Aussie muscle car less awesome than itself, which is everything, ever.
Bill eventually worked his way up to Executive Vice President of North America. We can only assume he ordered a Ford F650 with a Boeing 747 motor in it to celebrate.
Reference: All photos gleaned from Australian Muscle Car Magazine Issue 14 – Buy it now