The 1970s was characterised by the big Aussie family models from the big three — Ford, Holden, and Chrysler.
However, the fuel crisis at the end of the decade led to a change of direction for manufacturers across the world due to a lack of oil production resulting from the Iranian Revolution. Fuel shortages followed, leading to rising prices and long lines at petrol stations, similar to those witnessed in 1973.
The US market reacted to not only the oil crisis, but also the impact imported compacts were having in the sales race, highlighted by the Toyota Corolla.
Holden announced it was replacing its HZ with the European-derived Holden Commodore linked to the Opel Rekord, Senator, and Vauxhall Carlton.
On the other hand, Ford didn’t downsize too much with its XD Falcon, which just like Holden borrowed many styling cues from its European relative, the Grenada.
All body styles were carried across from the XC to the XD bar one — the hardtop.
Introduced at the start of this Falcon’s generational run in 1972, the hardtop was Ford’s racing contender debuted by John Goss as the factory squad continued to race its XY GT-HO with some modifications during the 1973 season.
Goss and the McLeod Ford team completed crucial development work during this time, which proved advantageous as the Tasmanian secured pole in the first metric Bathurst event in 1973, extended to 1000km.
There too was the Ford team represented by a pair of blue and white hardtops. Following his loss to Peter Brock in 1972, Canadian Allan Moffat was aiming for redemption partnered by Ian ‘Pete’ Geoghegan, while loyal ally Fred Gibson was teamed with Barry ‘Bo’ Seton.
Goss was unable to convert his pole position into victory — damage incurred from avoiding an overturned Torana dropped him and open-wheel ace Kevin Bartlett out of contention.
Famously, Brock’s Torana ran out of fuel with co-driver Doug Chivas at the wheel allowing Moffat and Geoghegan to give the hardtop a maiden victory at the Mountain.
Success for Ford followed in 1974 as Goss and Bartlett won a mixed weather race, but the hardtop’s greatest day at the fabled Mountain was the famous 1-2 form finish three years later.
The sight of two Ford XC Falcon Hardtops driving together down Conrod Straight is still a sore point for Holden fans after all these years.
For the XC variant, the GT nameplate was dropped and the XC GS Hardtop became the hero model.
Moffat was joined by international Bathurst rookie Jacky Ickx to take a dominating 1-2 finish from teammates Colin Bond and Alan Hamilton in a race where Holden sparked into action with the revenge at the top.
Holden went up a level with its A9X variant, but Ford didn’t leave the Lion to replicate the Blue Oval’s dominance from the season before.
Despite its mixed performance on the track, the XC was a winner in the showroom battle with Holden as more than 171,000 units were produced between July 1976 – March 1979.
Crucially, the XC was the first model to adhere to new pollution regulations leading to a re-design of the six-cylinder engine through cross-flow heads.
Aso there was a tidy up of the design externally as the range-topping GS Hardtop featured round headlights at the front, a new dash, and higher front seats.
Two special XC models were released during its three-year timespan on the market, the first being the Allan Moffat Special.
This was not the first special Falcon variant dedicated to a driver, as Goss had enjoyed this accolade after his 1974 Bathurst victory.
Long-time leading Ford driver Moffat received the same offer prior to his fourth Bathurst victory in 1977.
A limited run of 500 Allan Moffat Specials were produced featuring distinctive paint styles available in three colours: red, white, and blue. Also unique were the blacked-out areas on the bonnet, lower side doors, and rocker panels.
Based on the 500 four-door sedan, the Allan Moffat Special was powered by a 4.9-litre V8 engine, with dual exhaust and either a four-speed manual or automatic transmission. In addition, four-wheel disc brakes and a handling package made sure the Allan Moffat Special was an all round performer.
Cost? At $7689, it was a bargain.
The second special was the Cobra. Now the Cobra was indeed based on the Hardtop and was launched to actually move on 400 body shells ahead of the XD launch in 1979.
Inspired by American tuning ace Carroll Shelby’s designs in the US, Ford Australia managing director at the time, Edsel Ford, aimed to take advantage of the brand’s success on the track by launching a special edition Falcon.
Featuring Bold Blue stripes along the side and over the top of the Sno White body, it also featured Cobra emblems similar to what Shelby had on his models of the 1960s.
A nice touch was a sequentially numbered plaque on the dash.
Powerplant wise, the first 200 Cobras contained the 5.8L 351 Cleveland V8, while the remaining 200 had the 4.9L 302 Cleveland, except for the 351 in which it had the first option.
The Cobras featured the choice of either an automatic or manual transmission, four-wheel-disc brakes, limited slip differential, 15-inch Globe wheels, front and rear spoilers, plus a dual exhaust.
Production numbers 002 to 0031, known as Option 97 specification models, provided the basis of the Bathurst Cobras enabling Ford to homologate a range of extras for The Great Race in October. These included a twin electric fan set-up switchable from the dash, gearbox oil cooler, suspension bracing, and re-worked, rear-wheel body housings.
These are identifiable through the large rear-opening bonnet bulge.
In late 1978, the two Moffat Dealer Team Falcon Coupe Hardtops were painted in the same Shelby-inspired scheme as the Cobras, but it gave the operation no success as the advent of A9X was in effect.
In fact, Ford pulled its support at the end of the season, leaving star drivers Moffat and Bond as privateers, although the latter continued to fly the flag in rallying.
Rounding out the large era of Falcons alongside the Hardtop, the XC is still revered to this day as last of its kind.