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FORD is poised to revive the famous 351 nameplate for the final edition of the iconic GT Falcon -- a move that will finally end all hopes and secret plans for a modern-day version of the GT-HO.
Rather than describing the cubic capacity of the V8 engine of the iconic 1970 model -- at the time the fastest sedan in the world -- the 351 numbers this time around refer to the upgraded power output of the Falcon GT’s supercharged V8.
Ford is understood to have given the Falcon GT a tune-up from 335kW to 351kW as part of a limited edition model due to be unveiled mid-year. The batch of 500 cars -- in at least four colour combinations -- will be the last Falcon GTs ever made as Ford has confirmed it is retiring the badge before the facelifted sedan goes on sale by September.
Once the 351kW Falcon GT goes, the 335kW Ford XR8 will continue from September 2014 until the rest of the Falcon range reaches the end of the line no later than October 2016. Ford is understood to have completely re-engineered the Falcon GT since the closure of Ford Performance Vehicles division at the end of 2012.
Insiders say it has retuned the engine and the suspension to match the “staggered” wheel and tyre combination (as with the limited edition R-Spec released in 2012 and all HSVs since 2006, the rear tyres of the new GT will be wider than the front for better traction).
Carsguide has also been told there were secret plans to make the power output for the last-ever Falcon GT significantly higher than the 351kW high note it will finish on.
Confidential sources claim that the now defunct Ford Performance Vehicles had extracted 430kW of power from the supercharged V8 while it was in development, but those plans were vetoed by Ford because of concerns about reliability -- and the ability of the Falcon’s chassis, gearbox, driveshaft and differential to handle so much grunt.
“We were at 430kW long before anyone knew HSV was going to have 430kW on the new GTS,” said an insider. “But in the end, Ford put the brakes on it. We could get the power easy enough, but they reckoned it didn’t make financial sense to make all the changes to the rest of the car to handle it.”
As it stands today the Falcon GT briefly gets up to 375kW in an “overboost” mode which lasts up to 20 seconds, but Ford is not allowed to claim this figure, according to international testing guidelines.
The new limited edition GT with a retuned 351kW supercharged V8 and wider rear tyres is understood to accelerate quicker than the old model, and is said to be smoother off the line. The original supercharged Falcon GT’s acceleration was blunted because it could not get enough grip from the rear tyres.
A rather rudimentary traction control system -- which cuts engine power -- made the GT Falcon less than elegant off the line, spluttering as it struggled to find traction. “The new one is a revelation,” says an insider. “It’s definitely ending on a high note. It’s just a shame the GT didn’t get to this point earlier.”
Price is yet to be determined and even the top echelon of Ford dealers are yet to receive the full details on the car, but insiders say it will be close to $90,000 on the road. Ford dealers have already begun taking orders.
One dealer who wished to remain anonymous told Carsguide: “Ford has absolutely under-called this. They have not built enough cars. If the 500 Cobra GT limited edition Falcon sedans sold out in 48 hours a few years back, you can imagine how quickly the last ever GT is going to sell out.”
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling