The cars we loved.
The Australian muscle car scene during the 60’s and 70’s mirrored some developments in America. There were three major players: Holden, Ford and Chrysler, almost like in America’s big three. One difference was that the Australian marked had fewer restraints placed upon it and for the most part, it seemed to operate in its own ecosystem. By the late 1970’s American muscle cars were emasculated shadows of their former selves. In Australia, it was still possible to find powerful V8 powered rear drive coupes, although some players in the market like Holden realized that changes were coming and responded early by downsizing its offerings.
Racing was as important in Australia to its big three just like it was in America. Bragging rights usually came with wins and sometimes even special editions. Ford had swept one of Australia’s major racing events, the Hardie Ferodo 1000, in an impressive 1-2 finish in 1977. To celebrate, a special edition of the XC Falcon hardtop would be developed. Ford had about 400 left over body shells of the XC hardtop that were no longer needed as the new XD body type was soon to roll out. Before deciding on the Cobra route, Ford pondered the ideal of creating a Playboy special edition car complete with bunny graphics and who knows what kind of back seat… The ideal was quickly scrapped after Ford considered its family company image.
The ideal of a Falcon Cobra came unsurprisingly from an American. Edsel Ford II, then the deputy director of Ford in America just happened to be on ‘tour’ in Australia. It was mostly his suggestion that a muscle car themed Falcon with Americanized touches be produced. In keeping with that theme, the Cobra was available in white with blue racing stripes, very much like the Shelby Mustangs of the past. The XC Cobra was about more than looks. Under the hood there were two types of V8 engines fitted. A 4.9 was the most common engine while very few were fitted with the 5.8 litre Cleveland. By the standards of golden era muscle cars, horsepower figures of 202 and 217 respectively were not all that impressive.
What the Cobra lack in raw power, it made up for in refinement and standard equipment like four wheel disc brakes and a rear limited slip differential. Inside there was even leather sport seats with two tone interior accents. The Cobra was distinguished further from the standard Falcon coupe by virtue of its Ferrari inspired aluminum 15in wheels, designed to assist brake cooling. Performance was better than most so called muscle cars of the era that were more or less stripe and decal clones. 0 to 60 with a four speed manual was in the 8.6 range with a top speed of 126 mph (with 5.8 V8). The smaller engine was not much slower (8.7, 124mph). Gas mileage, although not a concern, was between 11 to 13 mpg with either car.
The Cobra’s timing could not have been better. New Australian emission standards were beginning to look like those in America. The Cobra probably would not have survived, even if it carried over to the new XD range. Holden’s new smaller Commodore was more popular than ever and Ford seemed to retire the concept of a muscle car with the XD range. There would not be another Cobra until 2007, this time as a sedan.
Today the XC Falcon Cobra is considered to be highly collectable, fetching $70,000 or more. Most of them are still in existence today and many more standard XC Falcon coupes have been modified to look like the Cobra or the XB based Mad Max car. Recently Hot Wheels has released a 1/64 scale version of XC Falcon Coupe, probally the closest most of us will ever get to get to owning something close to the XC Cobra.