Silver Cobra Emblem

Ford Australia's
XC FALCON

Silver Cobra Emblem
The Untold Story


IMMORTAL MUSCLE
FORD COBRA - 25TH ANNIVERSARY
(As Written In Australian Muscle Car magazine, Issue 8)
"Thanks To Chevron Publishing"

Story: Mark Oastler
Research material: Adrian Ryan (FoMoCo), Nick Karadimis, Garry Gunn, Mark Pividor
Pics: Studio - Graeme Neander AMC Library Seven Network

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Cobra 019 - Belonging to Mark Pividor, This Bathurst Special is 1 of 30 built
Cobra 019 - Belonging to Mark Pividor, This Bathurst Special is 1 of 30 built

Thunder Road - the first corner of the 1978  Hardie Feroda 1000
Thunder Road - the first corner of the 1978 Hardie Feroda 1000

In 1978 the Ford Motor Company of Australia produced the Falcon Cobra. The one-off build of 400 cars, each an XC model Falcon Hardtop in white with blue stripes paint work and unique build number identification, included 30 'Bathurst' versions built specifically for race homologation. To celebrate the Cobra's 25th birthday, AMC takes an in-depth look at the Bathurst Cobra and reveals its foundation was laid almost a year before its release, via a complex and sometimes confusing paper trail, which represented Ford's 'hush hush' performance push.

GIVE 'EM THE OLD ONE - TWO

Moffat leading Bond at Oran Park
Moffat leading Bond at Oran Park

1977 had been a very special year on the race track for Ford Australia. The Moffat Ford Dealer Team XB Falcon Hardtops driven by Allan Moffat and Colin Bond had steamrolled the Holden opposition, in a crushing display of superiority over the L34 Toranas. However, Ford knew that Holden was hard at work on the A9X race homologation version of its latest LX model Torana, which was to make its race track debut at Sandown's 'Hang Ten 400' endurance race in September. The new Torana was designed to address the inherent weaknesses of the LH model L34, particularly in the areas of brakes and drivetrain. It would be available in either sedan or the new two-door 'hatchback' body styles, which had been released in February, 1976.

Meanwhile Ford had introduced its new XC model Falcon range a few months later in July 1976 so naturally it wanted to capitalise on any race track success for its new facelifted model range as soon as possible. The Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) officially recognised the transition from XB to XC as being valid from July l, 1977. The change of model was limited to body and trim variations. The previous ''GT'' model designation was also replaced by '500 GS' in CAMS recognition documents.

However, cosmetic upgrades of grille, tail lights and interior would not have been enough to stay one step ahead of the new Torana opposition. Lessons learned during several years of racing the XB Hardtops gave Ford the ammunition it needed to make the XC an even tougher competitor. Later that year, CAMS rubber-stamped Ford's request for an 'Evolution' of the new XC Falcon 500 GS which incorporated a package of upgrades mostly designated to enhance race durability . Not surprisingly, this upgrade was valid from September 1977 - just in time for Ford's first confrontation with the new A9X Toranas at the Hang Ten 400 on September 11.

THE PAPER TRAIL BEGINS

Toranas win at sandown prompts Ford to make some changes
Toranas win at sandown prompts Ford to make some changes

The XC Falcon 500 GS Evolution package, which it was claimed in the CAMS documents were 'now fitted as standard equipment to Hardtop Model Falcon 500 GS' included the following:
" New front spoiler
" New rear spoiler
" Spring Tower Brace
" Steering idler arm support bracket
" Spring tower reinforcement bracket
" Twin row water pump and crankshaft pulleys incorporating additional drive belt from water pump to crankshaft
" Transmission oil cooler incorporating electric pump, lines kit and cooler.

The XC also carried over the shorter upper control arms and stiffer lower arm strut suspension bushes which had been homologated as a 'Production Variant' for the XB in July 1976. These shorter top arms, which had the same dimensions as the standard XC production items, allowed extra wheel and tyre clearance and greater degrees of negative cambur for the race cars.

The XC 500 GS Evolution Hardtops made their competition debut at the Hang Ten 400, which that year doubled as both the opening round of the Championship of Makes and round eight of the ATCC. However, it was not to be a spectacular debut for the Moffat Ford Dealer Team cars, which had dominated the sprint season in XB form. Moffat suffered an engine failure in practice, missed qualifying and started the race from the back of the grid. However, he put in a storming drive to finish 3rd. Teammate Bond qualified 4th and was running strong early but suffered a lengthy puncture which dropped him out of winning contention.

The race was won by Peter Brock in one of the stunning new A9X Torana hatchbacks entered by Holden dealer Bill Patterson. Allan Grice finished second in another A9X. The Moffatt's team problems at Sandown had made the new Toranas look stronger than they actually were at that stage, but there was no doubt FoMoCo had been rattled by what they saw. Although new and lacking development time, the new Holden with its rearward facing cowl induction bonnet scoop, was clearly a very potent package that was only going to get faster.

EVOLUTION 11

Bathurst 1977 - Fords famous 1 2 finish
Bathurst 1977 - Fords famous 1 2 finish

There was only a three week break between Sandown and the Bathurst 1000 but Ford was clearly determined to make sure Ford teams had everything they needed to topple the Toranas at the biggest and most important race of the year.

Immediately following the Sandown event, Ford lodged an amended set of homologation papers which requested another 'Evolution' of the Falcon Hardtop 500 GS. In the document, it was claimed that 'the following items are now fitted as standard equipment to Falcon GS Hardtop sedans with effect from 1st October, 1977' with the intention of running them at the Bathurst 1000 on October 2. The 'Bathurst Evolution' included the following:
" Hood scoop (reverse facing or cowl induction like the A9X)
" Thermatic fan kit consisting of two fans of 12"/300.40mm diameter. Number of blades of cooling fan - 2 of 10 blades
" Air ducting to front brakes including duct and flexible tube.

Although Ford planned to use this second 500 GS Evolution at Bathurst, and Ford teams even arrived at Bathurst with the bonnet scoops fitted, CAMS scrutineers ordered that they be removed for the race. Although the reason given at the time is unclear (such was the confusing nature of homological requirements in those days) it is believed the evolution components had not been produced in sufficient numbers to be eligible for Bathurst. Not that it mattered, because the Moffat team ran away with the race and staged the event's first 1 - 2 formation finish.

According to CAMS documents, this second evolution was made valid from 17th October, 1977, allowing Ford teams to use the new equipment to good effect in the remaining rounds of the ATCC.

At Adelaide's round nine, Moffat and Bond staged another dominant 1 - 2 finish, before Moffat stormed to victory at Surfers Paradise in round 10. Moffat chose to sit out the final round at Phillip Island but entered a car for Bond (who finished 5th) to ensure he held on to his 2nd place in the championship.

THE 'CLAYTONS' COBRAS

1977 XC hardtop is one of 13 factory built cars with the full "Bathurst" homologation specifacations
Gary Gunn's 1977 XC hardtop is one of 13 factory built cars with the full "Bathurst" homologation specifacations. These were built 6 months before the "Bathurst Cobras".

In December 1977 Ford built 13 XC Falcon Hardtops which all carried chassis numbers commencing with JG65TE (verified by Ford). These cars were equipped with all the body and mechanical specifications approved in the September 1977 and October 1977 evolution race homologations, which would later form the basis of the special build of 30 Bathurst Cobras built six months later in July, 1978. Considering the small number of cars and the timing of their manufacture, it is believed these 13 cars were built as a one off special order batch specifically for Ford teams which planned to race them in the 1978 season.

Victorian enthusiast Garry Gunn owns this car - JG65TE 71202 - perhaps the only one in that batch of 13 cars which escaped race track duty. The whereabouts of the other dozen JG65TE cars is unknown at this stage. The race-only plan for these cars was authenticated by Ford Australia historian Adrian Ryan, who responded in writing to Garry's formal request for factory information on his car. In the letter, Ryan confirms that "Ford built 13 XC Hardtops with Bathurst specifications, however several of these were scrapped and I don't know how many were sold to the public. I understand that these cars were made for the various race teams and for development use. Usually any prototype or development cars are scrapped but sometimes they are sold to employees or to dealers. This is all the information I can find on these vehicles."

As you can see, Garry's car is now under full restoration and provides a fascinating comparison with Mark Pividor's Bathurst Cobra featured in our studio shoot, The two cars are effectively blood brothers. Our thanks to Garry for making his car available to AMC and for providing some valuable documentation to go with it.

AMC: How did you come across such a rare car for only $3500?
GARRY GUNN; I'm a bit of a coupe nut. I was just reading through the Melbourne Trading Post one day and I thought 'gee, look at that' so I rang the guy and asked 'how rusty is it? And he said 'it's actually not too bad'. Anyway I went for a drive to check it out and it looked sad. Very sad. It'd been sitting under a tarp for years and I just walked away from it. About a week later I thought 'Garry, you're an idiot, just the tags and the pumps and all that stuff would be worth that much money' so I rang the guy back He said heaps of people had looked at it but thought it was too rough and walked away. Even so, he still wouldn't take less than $3500 for it so I said 'okay. I'll be there Saturday to pick it up' and that was that.
AMC; Did you know about the existence of these 13 XC Hardtops before you bought this car?
GG; I'd heard rumours but I don't believe anything until I see it. Then I tied it up with a story I'd read on the history of the Falcon GT, which said there were 13 built in December 1977. The guy also seemed to know what he was talking about so I thought, oh, what the heck, for three and a half grand it was worth it.
AMC: Do you know the whereabouts of the other 12 cars?
GG: There was one advertised in Unique Cars about 4 years ago. It was a yellow one in Brisbane and that's all I know of at this stage. I've had a look at a few XC race cars but they've been hit, bent and buckled and they haven't had any tags on them so how would you know? It's very hard to tell once they've been a race car.
AMC: So how's the restoration going?
GG: I've only had the car about a year. I acid-dipped the shell straight away just to see what I had and then I started chasing panels for it. The floor and engine bay were really clean but things like outer sills, doors, rear quarters, guards etc were basically rat shit (bad rust) so I went and found new stuff for the lot.
AMC; What's the plan for the finished product?
GG: Well it came from the factory painted Steel Blue. I want to keep it pretty authentic. I'm a big Group C touring car fan so I like the idea of having a real Group C car for the road, but I will never do anything to it that can't be returned to its original factory specifications.

1978 - TORANA TERRITORY

Peter Brocks dominent A9X Torana
Peter Brocks dominent A9X Torana

Such had been the extent of Ford superiority in 1977, many expected a repeat in 1978. However, several things occurred in the off season which dramatically turned the tables. Surprisingly, Ford decided that the level of financial backing and technical support it had provided the Moffat Ford Dealer Team in 1977 would be adequate for 1978. This was despite Moffat's plea that the Blue Oval needed to redouble its efforts to stay on top of the new A9X Toranas and an angry General Motors-Holden hell bent on revenge.

Moffat also lost the services of his vastly experienced team manager, Carroll Smith. The American engineer had played a key role in the Moffat team's success in 1977 but, due to visa restrictions, he was only allowed to stay in Australia for 12 months. His all-round engineering and organisational skills would be sorely missed. There was also talk of a rift between Moffat and Bond over unpaid prize money from the crushing Bathurst 1 - 2 result, which didn't auger well for a strong season.

Badly stung by its Mountain mauling at the hands of Ford, The General's response for 1978 was swift and brutal. Its new A9X Torana had enjoyed considerable development since its debut at Sandown the previous year. The Holden Dealer Team also underwent some key changes. John Sheppard replaced Harry Firth as team manager and Holden's favourite son Peter Brock returned to the big budget factory team after a three-year absence running privately entered Toranas.

As soon as the 1978 season got underway, Ford's main strike force - the Moffat Ford Dealer Team - was plagued with engine unreliability as the venerable 351 Cleveland V8s were being revved harder and harder to keep pace with the lighter, more nimble A9X Toranas.

After suffering engine failures in the opening two rounds of the ATCC at Symmons Plains and Oran Park, plus another three in testing for the third round at Amaroo Park, Moffat claimed the only way to reclaim even a modicum of engine reliability at such high revs was fitment of roller rockers (ie replacing the standard pressed-steel fulcrum between the pushrod and valve stem with a machined alloy rocker arm fitted with needle roller bearings). However, CAMS stubbornly resisted the request.

As a result, things became increasingly ugly as the 1978 season unfolded. Out of sheer frustration, Moffat chose to fit the illegal roller rockers at Amaroo, arguing that the sway bar fitment on the A9X Toranas was also illegal. Moffat's persisted with his push for roller rockers by using them again at the following round at Sandown, winning what had been a thrilling race before being excluded and slapped with a six-week suspension by CAMS. This forced him to sit out two rounds of the ATCC and effectively ended his championship. Brock was also outed for a month over the sway bar fitment issue, but would go on to win the title. The 'Roller Rocker Affair' had highlighted the increasing fragility of the Falcons as they tried to keep pace with the A9X Toranas. And things were only going to get tougher from there,

ENTER THE COBRA

The Cobra brochure

Ford's all new 'European look' XD Falcon, code named 'Blackwood' was due for public release in March 1979. Like any major car maker, Ford was keen to complete a successful model run-out of the XC model to clear dealer floors for the new car. This included the slow selling XC Hardtop, which even in 5.8 litre GXL form hardly excited he performance car market and had nothing like the cache of the earlier GT versions.

Credit for the Falcon Cobra concept goes to Edsel Ford, a great grandson of Henry Ford who at the time was working as assistant managing director of Ford Australia. This role was considered an important training opportunity for the young American, as part of his grooming to take a senior role in Ford's future global management team.

In typically brash American fashion, Edsel figured the 'rub off' from such a revered Ford performance name like 'Cobra', as used on the Ford V8-powered sports cars and Mustangs developed by Carroll Shelby in the 1960s, would be just the thing to inject some excitement into the brand and assist greatly in clearing Ford's remaining stocks of slow selling XC Hardtops. From a marketing viewpoint it was inspired thinking. However, many die-hard muscle car fans were disappointed the car's mechanical specs remained standard Ford fare already available. As a result, they saw it as little more than a cynical sales exercise built around the Cobra's distinctive twin stripe paint scheme, which unashamedly 'cashed in' on one of Ford;s iconic names from the halcyon days of the 1960s.

THE COBRA TAKES SHAPE

The Cobra Magazine Romotion
The Cobra Magazine Romotion
The Cobra Magazine Romotion

Ford chose to build the Falcon Cobra in a limited production run of 400 units, as that equated to the remaining number of Hardtop shells waiting to find new owners. All cars would be available with either the 302ci (4.9 litre) with Borg Warner rear axle or 351ci (5.8 litre) V8 engine with the more rugged nine-inch differential. 30 of the 400 cars to be built were designated as Bathurst specials to meet homologation requirements for the Hardie-Ferodo 1000.

The 400 cars carried chassis numbers JG65UMOOXXXK (X being the build number between 001 and 400) and al were built in July 1978. They were to be made available in the following combinations of engines, transmissions and options:
" 4.9 litre manual = 100 units
" 4.9 litre auto with air conditioning & power steering = 60 units
" 4.9 litre auto with air conditioning, power steering and power windows = 40
" 5.8 litre manual (Bathurst units) = 30
" 5.8 litre manual with air conditioning & power steering = 10
" 5.8 litre manual with air conditioning, power steering and power windows = 40
" 5.8 litre auto with air conditioning, power steering and power windows = 120

According to Cobra enthusiast Mark Pividor, who owns the Bathurst Cobra (No, 019) featured in our photo shoot, this is the build number sequence for the Cobra production run:
001 Promo car 302 auto
002-031 Bathurst (Option 97)
032-041 351 manual A/C P/S
042-080 351 manual A/C P/s P/W
081-200 351 auto A/C P/S P/W
201-300 302 manual
301-360 302 auto A/C P/S
361-400 302 auto A/C P/S P/W

Cobra build numbers 001 and 351 are odd pieces in the Cobra jigsaw. Ford Australia historian Adrian Ryan says 001 was a 302-engined automatic built as a promotional car that proceeded the 30 Bathurst Cobras (Option 97) which carried the build numbers 002 to 031. He says 001 was purchased by Ms Chris Noonan, who was secretary to Ford's Director of Manufacturing at the time, Ted Gardner. Mark Pividor's research shows car 351 (a very desirable number!) was a special order car for a Ford employee in South Australia. It was fitted with a 351 manual (even though its build sequence number means it should have been a 302 auto), long range fuel tank and intermittent wipers. It was first registered in SA on July 24, 1978.

All Cobras were based on the Falcon 500GS Hardtop. The Regular Production Options (RPOs) fitted as standard equipment were:
" Four wheel disc brakes
" Limited Slip Differential
" Dual exhaust system
" Tinted Banded laminated windscreen.

To this base specification, the non-RPO equipment unique to the 400 Cobras built was called 'Option 96' and included the following:
" Front spoiler (vacuum formed - Bathurst units were fibreglass)
" Rear spoiler (fibreglass)
" Paint code Z605, Sno White exterior colour with Bold Blue accent colour stripes and with Blaze Blue pinstripe tape ½-inch wide between Sno White and Bold Blue accent colour.
" Colour keyed bumper bars to match exterior striping
" Bodyside protection moulding deleted
" Quarter panel (dummy) air scoops deleted
" Tinted backlite
" 15" x 7" Bathurst Globe alloy wheels with locking wheel nuts (XB RPO)
" ER70H15 Textile radials (XB RPO)
" New tyre placard
" Interior trim style Black vinyl only. Trim code B - Black/Blue woollen cloth seat trim striped to match exterior paint/stripe treatment (blackwood style Onkaparinga cloth) using existing seat trim style (variation for Bathurst units)
" Cobra name decal mounted on boot lid ('Falcon' badge above RH tail light)
" Cobra snake decal fender mounted
" Die-cast plinth carrying Cobra name decal mounted on glove box door. Plinth identical to that used with the Ride and Handling badge. The Cobra name decal for the glove box door is sequentially numbered between 001 and 400.

BATHURST COBRAS

Cobra 019 - Belonging to Mark Pividor, This Bathurst Special is 1 of 30 built
Cobra 019 - Belonging to Mark Pividor, This Bathurst Special is 1 of 30 built

According to Ford records, the first 30 cars (JG65UMOOO31) were equipped with the 'Bathurst' Option 97 to meet race homologation requirements for Bathurst (ie the minimum number required by CAMS to be eligible for the 1978 Hardie-Ferodo 1000).

There was plenty of noise made in the press at the time about these 30 cars featuring a whole list of new performance enhancements. In reality, the 30 'Option 97' Bathurst Cobras simply carried over all the race-developed modifications and components which had been integrated in the XC Falcon since its debut at Sandown way back in September 1977!

In fact, the Cobra Bathurst option required only three additions to CAMS existing homologation papers for the Falcon XC 500 GS. This amendment, validated by CAMS from September 1, 1978, officially recognised the XC Falcon GS variant 'now known as the Ford Cobra' and included the following additions:
" Scheel KBA 90018 front seats. Weight of seats:15.2 kg
" Wheel type now one-piece alloy. Weight of wheel: 7.6 kg
" Revised front spoiler

The interior of the "Bathurst Special"
The interior of the "Bathurst Special"
The interior of the "Bathurst Special"

Proof of Ford's relatively straight forward upgrade of its existing XC Falcon race specification to create the Option 97 Bathurst Cobras can be found in one of the company's confidential dealer bulletins. When listing the special features and modifications made to the 30 cars at the factory, reference is made several times to 'previous Bathurst units' as reproduced here:
The specification for the 30 Bathurst units as listed above (Option 96 - Standard Cobra) but with the following:
" Rear wheel houses to be reworked in Plant as on previous Bathurst units (maximum distance between wheel arches to be no greater than 45 inches)
" Spring tower reinforcements to be fitted in Plant as on previous Bathurst units.
" Modified No. 2 cross member (to be fitted in Plant). Modification to be carried out by Geelong Plant.
" A fibreglass (McWilliams sourced) in lieu of vacuum formed front spoiler is to be used. This part will be painted and fitted by P & A Garage.
" Front seats are to be Scheel model KBA90018 (all Black) purchased fully assembled but reworked by Scheel to provide ADR compliance and to suit Falcon seat tracks. (Details to be advised separately). Scheel seats are to be fitted in Plant with Falcon sedan front bucket seat tracks.
" Rear seat is to be trimmed in combination of Black Corduroy/Cashmere.

The following items will be fitted by P & A Garage as on previous Bathurst units:
" Transmission oil cooler
" Strut braces
" Idler arm brace
" Electric fan kit
" Heavy duty radiator
" Hood scoop

Not listed in the official documentation, but clearly evident on Mark Pividor's car, are the following items:
" Long range 128-litre fuel tank. The spare wheel was mounted on the right hand side of the boot cavity on an additional welded bracket, due to their being no recess for the spare wheel on top of the big fuel tank.
" All 351 manual cars were to be fitted with an axle anti-tramp rod on the left hand side. Many cars, like Mark Pividor's, did not get this but the mounting hole is there.

The Bathurst Cobras twin thermo fans
The Bathurst Cobras 128 litre long range fuel tank
The Vathurst Cobras oil cooler

BUILDING THE COBRAS - PETER GILLITZER & IAN VAUGHAN

Shelby GT 350 Mustangs were built in both road and race specifications. Standard and "Bathurst" Falcon Cobra's share a similar relationship
Shelby GT 350 Mustangs were built in both road and race specifications. Standard and "Bathurst" Falcon Cobra's share a similar relationship

Peter Gillitzer was Ford Australia's Vehicle Planning Manager during the Cobra's creation, working alongside Product Planning Manager Ian Vaughan.
AMC; Who came up with the Cobra idea? Was it really Edsel Ford?
PETER GILLITZER; Yeah, it was. He was the guy who suggested painting it with those stripes and calling it the Cobra. It was a way of getting rid of the last (XC Hardtop) cars. Everyone was trying to think of ways to make those last cars more attractive and different. They'd been pretty slow sellers towards the end. One of the suggestions from Malcolm Ingalls (product planner) at the time was to do them all in black and do a commercial deal with Playboy magazine, but of course being good old Ford there was no way they were going to get involved in something as sexy or contentious as that!
AMC: Did they ever build a Playboy prototype to at least evaluate the idea?
GILLITZER; To the best of my knowledge, I think it was just an idea, like a number of other things that were kicked around at the time. For a long time we didn't paint cars black because it showed up a lot of imperfections in the body. They used to build a few special order cars, though. I had a few black cars and the plant manager Don Deveson liked black cars so there were a few black cars built.
IAN VAUGHAN; The whole Cobra thing was about how do we sell the last 400 Hardtops which were coming to the end of their model range. In those days we had pretty modest stripes on the cars and the styling guys got some white cars out and put a couple of little black stripes along the rocker panel and couple of other things. We had a design committee meeting and I remember Edsel walking in and saying 'Arrhh, shit, that's not what I had in mind! I want something that's really going to attract some attention here. What else can you do?' And the styling guys were sort of scratching their heads and wondering how wild he really wanted it. Anyway, someone produced a Mustang Cobra brochure and Edsel lit up and said 'Yeah, something like that'd be really great!' So we went back to the drawing boards, came up with the Cobra and wow, he signed off on it.
AMC: How were the 400 Cobras built. Did they go down the line in one batch?
VAUGHAN: No, it had to be done over a series of days because we had to balance the line for a mix of Hardtops, sedans etc. You couldn't build 100 percent Hardtops for one day so we probably had a limit of 20 percent of Hardtops to be built each day so, in that case, the Cobras were built over a period of several days.
AMC: How were the cars painted?
VAUGHAN: They were originally blue cars which had all the white bits added. It was a big job to get them looking like that. From memory it was done in what we call the 'side pass loops' in the paint shop to do the white paint, then take it back, prepare the stripes (ie masking up) and do all the blue so you had to run those cars through the paint shop more than once.
AMC: What about the 30 Bathurst specials? Why were there only 30 built?
GILLITZER: It was the minimum number we thought we could get away with (laughs). Look, in those days there were a lot of smoke and mirrors used in terms of build volumes to meet race requirement. It was a very dodgy business. CAMS at the time was not well enough resourced to check it. They didn't have the people nor the time to go and check all these things so if you could put up a story that sounded half reasonable or they had something that was defensible or they could refer to then they usually called it quits at that!.
VAUGHAN: Sheetmetal variations had to be done when you built the body so again that would have been a special process within the body shop where the base car would, if you like, get hand treated through the body shop and the bigger rear wheel arches, spring tower reinforcements etc would be done in process. Its not the sort of thing you can do by re-working (off the line) later, it's got to be done as it goes down the line which is really harder than the paint shop job because you have all your jigs and fixtures set up for the base car and you've got to modifying your way through that.
AMC: And, according to Ford documents, they then were sent to the P & A Garage for the other stuff to be fitted. What was the P & A Garage?
GILLITZER: That's the Parts and Accessories Garage. It's the main building to the north of the main head office building at Broadmeadows. Inside there was a large service garage used for servicing company vehicles primarily, but it also handled a bit of odd-ball fitting work and its where all the spare parts are held. One of the things I clearly remember is some of the horrible bits and pieces we put on them, like that pump we put on the transmission which was a bilge pump from a bloody boat! You know there was some pretty atrocious stuff going on.
VAUGHAN: The P & A Garage did the sort of stuff that say Tickford (FPV) could do for us today but we didn't have a Tickford equivalent then, so the P & A Garage was our only kind of off-line mod shop.

COBRA'S UNHAPPY SEASON

The Cobra Falcons didn't make their competition debuts until the second round of the 1978 Australian Championship of Makes (CoM). Round one in July was a 250km enduro held at Sydney's Oran Park. Toranas outnumbered Falcons by more that two to one. It was a Torana whitewash - Brock winning and leading home seven other Toranas. The Ford showing was weak with Moffat's single car entry and Dick Johnson retiring with mechanical failure while Murray Carter cut a tyre and crashed.

CoM ROUND TWO

Moffat's Cobra - XB/XC upgraded to full "Bathurst Cobra" specs
Moffat's Cobra - The old XB/XC Falcon upgraded to full "Bathurst Cobra" specs

Hang Ten 400 Sandown September 10, 1978 129 laps - 401km.

The Cobras made their debut at the traditional 'Hang Ten' 400km Sandown enduro in September. The two Moffat Ford Dealer Team cars of Moffat and Bond, resplendent in their striking blue and white colour schemes, were not new cars at all. Under the new paint, they were the same two cars which had cruised to victory at Bathurst in 1977 and battled the Toranas in the 1978 ATCC.
Even so the Cobra debut hardly got Ford fans excited about their prospects for a repeat of their 1977 Bathurst one - two finish. The cars were plagued with problems throughout the weekend starting with Moffat's customary engine blow-up in practice. Bond blew a tyre early in the race causing a long pit stop and then his car's engine started making some awful noises. Moffat then suffered a broken transmission cooling line and pitted have it fixed, only to discover he had lost top gear and retired from the race.
Bond's car then fell onto seven cylinders, struggling on until finally having to pit to change spark plugs. He returned to the track but retired soon after with a left rear wheel nearing failure. Again, it was a Torana whitewash with Brock leading home teammate Harvey for an HDT 1 - 2, followed by another three privately entered Toranas.

HARDIE - FERODO 1000 (non CoM)
Mount Panorama, Bathurst. October 1, 1978 163 laps - 1006km

Bond leads the Boss up mountain straight
Bond leads the Boss up mountain straight
Bond and Bob Morris got this close
Bond and Bob Morris got this close in the opening laps of 1978 Hardie-Feroda 1000

This race saw the introduction of the 'Hardies Heroes' qualifying shoot-out, named after race sponsor Hardie-Ferodo. The format, which has become a popular fixture of every Bathurst race since then, consisted of single car qualifying runs to sort out the top ten grid spots. Each car was allowed two attempts, on a track which started out wet but began to dry as the session progressed. Brock, who for the first time had Jim Richards as his Bathurst co-driver, was in awesome form to claim pole ahead of Bond (teamed with Fred Gibson) with the Moffat/Jacky Ickx Cobra 3rd fastest. After some very exciting opening laps, Moffat soon took the lead with Brock cruising along behind him in 2nd place. The Cobras were soon in trouble. Bond had been slowing for a few laps before he pitted with no 4th gear. The only way to fix it was installation of a new gearbox. Moffat drove two more stints back to back, but when he pitted to hand over to Ickx a fuel spill ignited. A Moffat team member and a CAMS scrutineer both suffered some nasty burns as a result. Then Ickx overshot Hell Corner on lap 70. On lap 81, the Belgian ace brought the car in with low engine oil pressure and the car was retired. Bond was still circulating, although many laps down due to the gearbox change. After two more flat tyres and the engine starting to sound rough, Moffat couldn't bear to see the car being repeatedly lapped by the Toranas and told him to park it. Both Cobras out at half race distance. Again a Torana 1 - 2 with Brock powering to an easy victory ahead of the Grice/Leffler A9X with Murray Carter and Graeme Lawrence preserving some respect with Ford with a strong 3rd place finish in their XC Hardtop.

CoM ROUND THREE
Rothmans 250 Adelaide International Raceway October 22, 1978 104 laps - 251km

Bond claimed Cobra's sole victory at Adelaide
Bond claimed Cobra's sole victory at Adelaide

Finally a victory to Ford and the only win recorded by the Falcon Cobra. Moffat claimed pole with Brock 2nd and Bond 3rd. From the start of the weekend, the Cobras were showing a good turn of speed. Bond and Moffat both took turns leading the race and after the final stops for tyres and fuel it appeared they were heading for a 1 - 2 finish. However Moffat's engine blew just 15 laps from the finish and Bond's car started sounding rough with the engine coughing and backfiring. Bond had enough of a lead over Brock and Harvey to be able to limp the car home with a sick engine and barely any tread left on his Goodyear tyres. It was a masterful drive, but only served to highlight how the big Fords were being stretched.

CoM ROUND FOUR
Rothmans 300 Surfers Paradise Raceway - November 5, 1978 95 laps - 304km

Bond's last drive for Moffat in Queensland
Bond's last drive for Moffat in Queensland

Adelaide had lifted Ford's spirits, the final round in Queensland was to finish the season on a desperate low. Again Moffat blew an engine during Friday practice. He blew up another one on Saturday after just three laps. He then 'borrowed' Bond's car to try and qualify but ran wide onto the grass, bumped along a safety fence and spun. Bond started 6th with Moffat back in a lowly 17th on the grid but it was a very unhappy race. Moffat was beset with tyre wear problems from the start, making three stops for fresh rubber which cost him bulk time. Bond's engine sounded progressively worse and finally blew on lap 48. It was to be Bond's last drive with Moffat - a sad end to what had been such a great driver combination. Moffat survived to finish 7th but it was yet another win to Brock with Toranas filling the first four places. Dick Johnson did well in his XC to claim 5th with Vern Schuppan - the Queenslander outclassing Moffat in both qualifying and racing.

The 5th and final round of the 1978 CoM was to be held at Phillip Island but due to track problems the race was switched to Melbourne's Calder Park on December 3. In comparison to the previous CoM rounds, the Calder event was poorly supported with many of the big guns choosing not to show, including HDT and the Moffat Ford Dealer Team. Torana racer Peter Janson led home another Torana whitewash in the big car class but the CoM title was awarded to Ford, thanks to the efforts of Rod Stevens in a 2.0 litre Mark One Escort and a crazy point system which favoured consistent class winners over outright race winners! Not surprisingly, the points structure was changed the following season.

MOFFAT TALKS COBRA

Moffat hammers it out of the "Dipper" closely followed by Dick Johnson
Moffat hammers it out of the "Dipper"
closely followed by Dick Johnson

Moffat's #1 Cobra
Moffat's #1 Falcon Cobra

AMC: Most of the specifications of the Bathurst Cobra were really introduced in September 1977 when the XC debuted at the Sandown 400. Were all those bits that were homologated back then, like the idler arm brace, spring tower reinforcements, spring tower brace etc developed as a result of your feedback from racing the XB?
ALLAN MOFFAT: Yes, Ford as the manufacturer had to take the request to CAMS but Peter Gillitzer did that for us. Every race we went into that year, we were always looking for a way to give us the golden bullet for Bathurst. It didn't matter if it was a radiator cap or a wheel bearing, we were always looking for little things which could eliminate the weaknesses of the standard car. You might have noticed that most of those items were safety items, the kind of things that guys wouldn't even get in the cars today if they weren't on there. The bracket on the idler arm for example was just one little piece of steel which helped reduce the potential for the idler arm to wiggle off and, well (laughs) let's say it was our 'Dipper Reassurance Program' (in reference to the steep downhill corner at Bathurst called 'The Dipper').
AMC: So were you having a problem with front end strength in the XBs?
AM: No, not really, but we knew that with the pace we were going to hit Bathurst with that year, to finish first, first we had to finish, so any little thing that wasn't a big act and it didn't seem to bother CAMS was worth having. It really wasn't a big list of things when you look at it.
AMC: The second XC Evolution Ford requested between Sandown and Bathurst in 1977 included twin electric fans, brake ducting and a reverse-facing or cowl induction bonnet scoop for more engine power, just like the new Torana A9X. Was that in direct response to what you saw at Sandown in September?
AM: Well, they certainly got our attention. Even though we turned up at Bathurst with the bonnet scoops on, the scrutineers told us to take them off. We weren't allowed to race with them on. Don't forget we had Carroll Smith with us that year so any little drop kick thing that looked possible we went for, but for some reason or other they took the scoop off. Mind you they let us have them after Bathurst. I really can't tell you the reason why they wouldn't let us run them that weekend, because I used to stay away from all that stuff as it used to upset me so much.
AMC: Researching this story has made it very clear the processes of vehicle homologation with CAMS were a nightmare in those days…
AM: Yeah and we (Ford) were amateurs at it compared to the other company (Holden), I have to tell you. They had company personnel who were heavily involved in it, who were dedicated to it. They were enthusiastic and they knew how to play the game and they did it very well. Looking back at it, I wouldn't call it shifty, I'd just call it smart and we didn't have that kind of smarts working for us. Gilly (Peter Gillitzer) did everything he could for us without getting fired!
AMC: After dominating the 1977 season, including that fantastic 1 - 2 finish at Bathurst, everyone expected a repeat performance in 1978 but reports at the time claimed that Ford actually reduced your funding. What was the story there?
AM: I can remember it clearly. Two days after the 1977 Bathurst race I was in Max Grandsden's office (Ford Australia Sales and Marketing Director) and even though we may have still been basking in the glory of the Bathurst 1 - 2, I said to him that we needed to get serious about next year. We knew we only had Carroll (Smith) for the one year (as being a US citizen he could only get a 12 month visa) so we had to determine how we were going to staff up and in fact whether Ford wanted to continue. Yes, they did, but in Max's mind and in the minds of a lot of other people on the third floor we'd had an easy win and we had such an arsenal, they thought 'great, the same amount of money for 1978 will be fine'. I remember leaving the room and saying 'this is going to be a disaster Max. We're going to get blown off the face of the map because Holden are mad as hell and when they get mad they spend money. Sure, the Bathurst win looked easy, but that really wasn't the case and we need to double our efforts' but Ford's idea of doubling our effort was to remain the same.
AMC: There was also apparently a rift at the time between you and Colin Bond over some unpaid prize money from Bathurst. Was that true?
AM: It wasn't that it was unpaid. It was the percentages that were being argued about, not so much by Colin himself mind you, but it was totally settled in due course.
My only disappointment about my relationship with Colin over the two years he drove for me was that Ford never allowed him and me to team up in the same car which is why I had to bring Jacky (Ickx) out for Bathurst.
AMC: During the first half of the 1978 ATCC you were dogged by engine failures, which prompted you to push for roller rockers on the Falcon engines. Were the engines blowing up purely because you had to rev them so hard to keep pace with the A9X Toranas?
AM: Yes. That was the act that I was trying to explain to Max back in 1977 but you can't explain those sort of things. You have to let it explode in their face but by then it's all too late. Had we had responsible sit down with Ford a couple of days after Bathurst of '77 and really planned '78 it would have been different. To use the resources of the company where ever possible. Things like new connecting rods and a few little goodies like that. It wasn't that the engines were totally useless, they were just a little bit on the fragile side and with the arrival of the Torana A9X of course it pushed the envelope. The Falcon was a heavy wagon train. You know, there wasn't too much titanium in those cars! (laughs).
AMC: Why were you so insistent of being allowed to use roller rockers?
AM: Well, when you're bouncing around over the 7000rpm mark, you've got to have valves that are being activated by something better than what were recycled Model T fulcrums by today's standards. I'd say we were probably up around the 7400rpm mark by then. People in the stands were paying good money to see the cars go around and not keep blowing up but that was something that CAMS never understood, actually. We were trying to entertain and give people bang for their buck in the grandstands but CAMS wouldn't allow us to use little things which could make the cars hang together. CAMS rationale was that if they gave us roller rockers we'd rev them to 8500rpm which was horse shit. All we wanted to do was make sure they wouldn't blow up at 7500! In their wisdom, they eventually approved the use of roller rockers in time for Bathurst that year.
AMC; Even so, the Cobras were still dogged by engine failures in the four races that you competed in. The cars were fast, but why were they still so fragile?
AM: Wet sumps, mate. They remained our Archilles Heel. It was the configuration of the Ford sump on the Cleveland engine that caused us so many problems. The reason why the Holdens never had the same problems was that the big, deep part of the sump was at the back of the engine but our was at the front. Every time we accelerated the oil went to the back and starved the oil pick-up, whereas every time Brocky put his foot on the gas he had nothing but oil smothering his pick-up pipe. It was as simple as that but ((being allowed to fit a sump like the Holden V8) was something that John Keefe (CAMS) fought against as if his goddam life depended on it.
AMC: You were also running the trusty Top Loader gearbox in the Cobras, but they too were breaking, even though you were allowed to run a transmission cooler. What was the problem there?
AM: Overheating. Simple as that. Remember the quality of the oils we had in those days. Like the engines, it was just a case pushing the envelope too far.
AMC: In summing up, was the Cobra a match for the A9X Torana or were you fighting a losing battle from the start?
AM: I knew we would be fighting a losing battle from the moment Max Grandsden said 'we can't do anything more for you'. The A9X was a smaller car, it had a hell of a lot more than we had everywhere, you could never discount Peter Brock when you gave him a sniff of victory, there was nothing wrong with his Bridgestone tyres at any time and they (Holden) had tremendous assets to work with. Now, you add up all those things they had and you subtract all the things we weren't able to implement and there's your answer.

Smokin' 'Em Up!

COBRA 019

The Bathurst Cobra featured in our studio shoot belongs to Cobra enthusiast Mark Pividor. It carries chassis number JG65UM00019K and Cobra ID number 019. It is one of the 30 built for Bathurst homologation. Mark's detailed records of his car's history shows it was sold new by Alto Ford on October 27, 1978. The original owner kept the car for around six years and clocked up only 11,460kms in that time. In July 1984 it was sold and the second owner didn't keep the car for long, selling it again in December that year with 18,600km on the clock. Its third owner kept the car for around 17 years before selling it to Mark in February 2002 having only added around 2,600km in that time. Mark says his Bathurst Cobra has now been driven a total of 23,560km in its 25 years of existence. That's less than 1000km a year, but its great to see such a rare factory homologation special in such unmolested, original condition. AMC would like to thank Mark for making his rare Cobra available to AMC and for his considerable assistance with this story.

Cobra 019 Front Driverside View
Mark Pividor & his Bathurst Special, Cobra, 019

COBRAS OVERSEAS

AMC has already highlighted the growing number of XA and XB Falcon Hardtops which found homes in the US. It seems the mighty XC Cobra is going to be an equally popular export if our overseas reader interest is any guide. UK resident Nick Short is the proud owner of Cobra No. 257 which he imported in April 2000. Although in tatty condition when he bought it, Nick has completed a full back to bare metal repaint and interior retrim (in the correct fabric). Nick has a lot of fun squeezing his monstrous Ford down the narrow country lanes in Oxfordshire and parking it outside a local pub called 'The Cock Inn' (not a popular pub for female drinkers). Florida resident Chris Flocken is the proud owner of Cobra No. 226 which was formerly owned by Mark Pividor. As you can imagine, the sight of these great Aussie muscle cars on foreign roads turn more heads than any Ferrari!

Cobra 257 in front of The Cock Inn
Nick Short & his Cobra, 257
Cobra 226 lives in Florida

PROMOTIONAL COBRAS

As part of the Cobra marketing campaign, Ford also built several promotional vehicles that were used during pre-race activities in 1978. These included an F100 pickup, Transit van and four XC Falcon utilities tricked up with body kits and full Cobra graphics. We assume they all had Cobra paint code Z605. Whatever happened to these rare factory Fords?

The Promomtional Transit Cobras
The F100 & Transit Promomtional Cobras
The Promomtional F100 Cobra

Thank You AMC
for allowing me to share this great article.
You've answered many of the qustions us Ford fans have pondered for 25 yeasr.

Special Thanks to my Mum for typing out this article.

Ford Falcon Cobra, a spirited car for the enthusiast

If you'd like your Cobra photos added to my site
Please E-mail them to me at

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