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Best Australian muscle car


FORD FALCON XY GT-HO (1971)

Hold your head high, Australia, and celebrate making the fastest four-door production car in the world.  The act of inserting a humungous V8 engine into a family sedan is hardly the pinnacle of automotive engineering. The fact is, it works.

And so it did for Ford Australia as it increasing took on more cubic inches to fight its blacktop wars against its showroom rivals on the gruelling ribbons of Australia's race circuits.

The GT-HO - ostensibly Handling Option to suit the political correctness seeping into Australia's simpering 1970 culture - was the fourth Falcon GT to get the more-is-best mechanical philosophy.  It followed the 1967-68 XR Falcon GT (4.7-litres, 168kW/414Nm); 1968-69 XT GT (4.9-litres, 172kW/420Nm) and 1969-70 XW Falcon GT-HO Phase II (5.76-litres, 224kW/515Nm).

The GT-HO Phase III came with even more mumbo (5.76-litres, 280kW/525Nm) and a (little) bit more attention to suspension, wheels and tyres.  It won on the track and it won Australian hearts. The V8 rumble and roar would make hairs stand on the back of the necks and send shivers through the petrolheads standing atop Bathurst's Mount Panorama.

There was, there is, nothing like that sound of barely contained fury.  The GT-HO could sprint to 100km/h in 6.4 seconds and hit 225km/h but tested its pilots with drum rear brakes and narrow six-inch, five-slot steel wheels and 185/14 tyres. The pretty Globe Daytona 15-inch five-spoke alloy wheels came later.

The GT-HO sold for about $4600 and, unlike the XR version, sales were slow. Ford made only 300 GT-HO Phase III examples though, indicative of imitation being the finest form of flattery, there's probably about 2000 on Australian roads.

After the GT-HO, governments decried the rush of automotive power and banned further high-performance car production. It was the end of an era.