Used Ford Falcon review: 1997
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Falcon GT owners and enthusiasts are hoping Ford doesn't pull off cruel hoax on them when they unveil the new BA GT later this month that they did in 1997 when they launched the EL GT. Falcon GT owners and enthusiasts around the country are holding their breath hoping that Ford doesn’t attempt to perpetrate the same cruel hoax on them when they unveil the new BA GT later this month that they did in 1997 when they launched the EL GT.
In celebrating the 30th anniversary of the great Australian muscle car in 1997 Ford delivered a car that fell well short of just about every measure that defines a true Falcon GT.
In the nine years between 1967 and 1976 the Falcon GT carved out a special place in Australian motoring history. Its combination of performance and luxury defined a new type of car in the local market. Add to that the legendary racing feats of the mighty GT HO at Bathurst and other tracks around the country and the GT became an icon that is as revered today as it was in its heyday.
Ford dropped the GT for politically correct reasons in 1976, choosing to build special GT models to celebrate particular anniversaries. There was the EB GT in 1992 to celebrate the GT’s 25th anniversary and the 1997 EL GT to mark the 30th anniversary.
Both were limited edition models, and for that reason they have become collectable, but to GT enthusiasts they were mere parodies of the real thing.
The key to the original GT was its unique blend of performance and luxury equipment which made it a great high speed highway cruiser, but by the time the EL rolled around it had become soft and new age sensitive, with a clear emphasis on comfort which showed that the youthful tearaway had entered middle age.
It was impossible to miss an EL GT. With its Darth Vader grille, high mount rear wing it could have come straight out of a sci-fi comic. Unfortunately its performance didn’t back up its aggressive on-road presence, and the GT fraternity largely dismissed it.
Ford insiders admit today that they wished they hadn’t built the EL GT because it sullied the proud heritage of the original GT and created scepticism in the community about the true credentials of any future GT they built. For that reason there is a feeling that the new GT has to be true to the heritage while at the same time being a truly modern performance car.
Just 250 EL GTs were built in 1997, 135 or 54 per cent of which had automatic transmissions – which should give an indication of what Ford was thinking when they built the EL – and 115 had manual gearboxes. A further 15 were built for New Zealand and another two were to be sent to South Africa.
Power was from a hotted-up 5.0-litre V8 that pumped out 200 kW at 4700 rpm, an impressive figure for the time, and 420 Nm at 3700 rpm. It had special cylinder heads, high compression, big valves, heavy duty valve springs, roller cam followers, fuel injection, a larger throttle body, and exhaust extractors.
Ford boasted that a GT equipped with a manual gearbox would race to 100 km/h in a little under seven seconds and cover the standing 400-metre sprint in a fraction over 15 seconds. The auto version was about half a second slower. On their own the numbers sound respectable enough, until you realise that a classic GT from the late 1960s or early 1970s would comfortably better them.
Gearbox choices were a four-speed auto that was recalibrated to suit the GT, and a five-speed manual that had a heavy-duty clutch, strengthened gears and a short-throw gearshift.
A lightweight drive shaft connected to a Hydratrak differential running a short 3.45 ratio gear.
Under the sci-fi skin lay uprated suspension and brakes. At the front there were higher rate springs, retuned shock absorbers, larger anti-roll bar and urethane bushes in locations crucial to handling.
At the rear the live-axle rear end was enhanced through higher rate springs, retuned shock absorbers, a larger anti-roll bar and urethane bushes.
Braking performance was substantially increased, with twin piston front callipers and larger disc rotors front and rear.
The wheel arches were filled with 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in Yokohama 245/40 VR17 performance tyres.
Inside, the EL GT was awash in luxury leather and wood grain trim, along with a long list of creature comforts including air-conditioning, power windows and mirrors, and sound system. Both driver and passenger had the protection of airbags.
There was no sign of the vibrant classic colours like Vermilion Fire, Wild Violet, True Blue, Yellow Ochre, instead there were three colours on offer with the rather bland middle-aged names of Heritage Green, Sparkling Burgundy, and Navy Blue.
IN THE SHOP
The key to maintaining the value of your GT is to use it sparingly. Many have been bought as second cars to be used for fun on weekends only, and they are the cars to seek out if you want to buy one.
Lovingly cared for these cars rarely have any dings and dents in the body, and the interior is normally in near new condition having been garaged their whole life.
Check for body damage, particularly look for paint mismatches in the difficult to match metallic paint, and quiz the owner on why they want to sell. Most buyers of GTs buy them to keep for the long haul, so question their motive for selling.
EL GTs have generally done such little mileage that few things have gone wrong with them, and those things that have needed attention have been fixed quickly by proud owners.
• little-used examples
• garish styling that turns heads
• more show than go
• caring owners mean few problems
• signs of body damage that indicate abuse
|Year||Price From||Price To|
Range and Specs
|GLi Longreach||4.0L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO||$3,000 – 5,170||1997 Ford Falcon 1997 GLi Longreach Pricing and Specs|
|GLi Longreach Tradesman||4.0L, ULP, 5 SP MAN||$4,300 – 6,930||1997 Ford Falcon 1997 GLi Longreach Tradesman Pricing and Specs|
|Classic||4.0L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO||$2,400 – 4,070||1997 Ford Falcon 1997 Classic Pricing and Specs|
|Futura||4.0L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO||$2,600 – 4,400||1997 Ford Falcon 1997 Futura Pricing and Specs|
Lowest price, based on third party pricing data