Falcon: the secret stillborn factory team

Falcon: the secret stillborn factory team

It’s 1979. Ford has released the full-size XD Falcon against Holden’s compact VB Commodore.

Edsel Ford II talks about reviving the Falcon GT and even a spiritual successor to the mighty GT-HO. Neither happens. But a return to racing with a factory backed team of XDs nearly did.

The then youthful Edsel II – on family assignment at Ford Australia – wanted to revive Broadmeadows’ muscle car culture of the late 1960s and early ’70s. The XC Cobra runout of the Falcon hardtop was his idea. Edsel was also behind a plan to give the XD – which could still be bought with the 5.8-litre Cleveland V8 in ESP guise – some Bathurst cred by taking the company back into touring car racing.

Secretly, ex-international driver and team manager Frank Gardner was lined up to develop a racer and form what would be a factory Ford team ready to go in 1980. The scheme went a long way down the road, with Gardner targeting Jim Richards – fresh from partnering Peter Brock to their runaway ’79 Bathurst 1000 victory – and Colin Bond. Except they didn’t know about it. The project was all so secretive and preliminary that few did.

Gardner rated Richo highly, having competed against him at Bathurst and in sports sedans. (They eventually got together when Richards replaced Allan Grice at JPS BMW in 1982.)

The finer points of what was a still-born project now escape me. But I recall clearly that a Gardner-orchestrated return by Ford with factory backed XDs – perhaps camouflaged as a Ford Dealer Team – was a serious proposal.

Despite Edsel Ford’s patronage, the idea was vetoed by then managing director Sir Brian Inglis, who had pulled the plug on Broadmeadows’ previous factory involvement. He never believed motor sport sold cars, and he was proven right as Falcon outsold Commodore through the 1980s and well into the ’90s.

Get your free weekly report from the world of fast cars - subscribe to the MOTOR newsletter!