Car Restoration Projects
Blue-blood Falcon GTs
The Falcon GT was the thoroughbred of the Ford Australia stable, a true ‘blue-blood’, bred from a need for speed, to take on and to win on the racetracks against General Motors’ ‘red-blooded’ Holdens and Chrysler’s ‘white-knight’ Chargers. Jim Gibson – one-time GT owner himself – caught up with a pair of fanatics.
Ross Pagano is in the true sense of the word a Falcon GT aficionado, stabling five of Henry’s thoroughbreds at his home in south-western Sydney, when Gibbo caught up with him and his wife, Sheree
They’re both very active and dedicated members of the Falcon GT Owners Club of New South Wales Inc. The club’s motto is, ‘Proudly Keeping the Legend Alive’ and the Paganos are certainly doing their share of fulfilling the credo of that chapter.
Ross’s extensive knowledge of the marque positions him as a Concours d’Etat judge for the club, where he’s known for being a purist and not a fan of a fake or look-a-like: detecting one in a heartbeat.
The pair has owned 10 GTs since their courting and eventual marriage in 1982. Sheree is a Bathurst girl and a Peter Brock fan, so it was inevitable that a couple of Brock Commodores crept into the garage during their early married years.
Ross had met Sheree while working in Bathurst and taught her to drive using the famous mountain circuit as part of the curriculum. Then on the most important day, when Sheree was accompanied by a policeman for her driving test, she found herself heading in the direction of Mt Panorama. When she pointed this out to him he said – to her amazement: “We may as well take a drive around”.
It can’t get any better than that: a Brock fan passing her licence test on the hallowed bitumen where her hero claimed nine enduro victories.
The GT connection
Ross devoured car magazines since the age of 12 and was initially a fan of the Holden Monaro, having watched it race, but when the much smaller six-cylinder and less muscular Torana replaced it, he lost interest in the General’s cars. He’s been a resolute devotee of Ford’s hairy-chested, V8-powered GTs ever since.
The current Pagano brood consists of an immaculate – as you would expect – blood red BF model, exuding its bold Falcon GT lineage. Further investigation reveals two XBs and two more XAs, each with its own story to tell.
They have in captivity a 1976 New England Green four-door XB. Only two of this special-order colour, coded Y051, were ever built: both four-door models for the same Melbourne businessman. The first was stolen, so the buyer re-ordered an identical car in April 1976. To Ross’s knowledge, the stolen car was never recovered.
It is heavily loaded (as they say in the trade) with a plethora of factory options: T-bar automatic transmission, 28-gallon fuel tank, sunroof, power steering, air conditioning, power windows, blackout bonnet, four-speaker radio/cassette, tinted windows, laminated and banded windscreen and cloth insert seats. It also has a couple of dealer options – remote boot release and power aerial.
Until the end of 2004 it had spent all of its life in Melbourne, with its original Victorian registration number IOB 600. The previous owner had it for 15 years and for the last 14 of those it was unregistered. The Paganos bought it in December 2004 with a genuine 139,000 kilometres on the odometer.
Ford Australia could not identify the colour code, so the previous owner found the colour in a Dulux paint catalogue and advised Ford, who then issued an official Ford letter confirming Y051 to be a non-standard colour called New England Green.
Ross said: “The chassis number decodes to April 1976; the compliance plate shows May 1976, but according to the logbook it wasn’t delivered until the 30th of August of that year.
“Why such a long build time?” Ross wondered. “ Did the sunroof, parts sourcing, the unique colour and/or Ford’s focus on building XCs that had to be ready for a 1 July 1976 launch cause the delay?
“Being one of the last XBs, it has many change-over-to-XC parts – the radiator support, wipers, rear pillar lights, console insert trim, black popup door buttons, black inner door surrounds, inner door panels, B-pillars, lower radiator brackets, black boot carpet and probably others I have yet to find!
“The logbook is handwritten, originally being made out to the AAMI company, but was then crossed out and changed to the owner’s business.
“The majority of logbooks I have seen are typewritten.”
The Paganos’ second four-door XB GT is white and also has a unique and interesting history that hadn’t been completely unravelled. It is one of two with paint code Z192, an unidentified colour up until 2007.
Australian Muscle Car magazine issue number 26 lists all 2868 XB GTs built and colour code Z192 is scheduled against two four-door sedans and is the only colour listed as being unidentified. According to Ross, earlier lists showed only one in this colour. So in the absence of any other information, he thought it was possibly a stamping error.
However, when the AMC list showed two, he thought his assumption incorrect. Then after further investigation by this GT historian it was revealed that the off-spec colour code was actually Y229, this colour code being CUB Brown, so was this car a special order from Carlton United Breweries? If not, why would anyone order a car in this colour?
This fact hasn’t yet been determined, but the car was nicknamed ‘the beer car’ by the GT historian.
Under the current white paint there is evidence of the original brown right through the car, in the engine bay, under the carpet and under the back seat. It has been inspected by knowledgeable GT club members and confirmed not to be a re-body or plate swap.
The car was originally delivered in Singleton NSW. It has matching numbers, with factory top loader gearbox and saddle trim. It has flat lipped, early 14 x 7inch globe wheels, plus cloth seats and outback pack factory options.
The XA collection
Of the two XAs, the first is a four-door that Ross was restoring to concours condition when Jim Gibson visited. It is the second time he has owned the car, having repurchased it from a mate he had sold it to some time ago.
Like many restoration projects it was extensive. The rear section of the car from the rear window/parcel shelf area was cut off and replaced employing the artisan skills of a panel beater that Ross had entrusted with this delicate task.
Ross had completely stripped the car and was refurbishing and/or renewing every single item as it was fitted on the day it was assembled along Ford Australia’s production line at Broadmeadows, Victoria.
No copper brake pipes, or non-standard components were to be be installed and the result, judging by Ross’s fanatical quest for originality, will be an outstandingly original piece of iconic Australian motoring lore.
The next project was another unique piece of Falcon GT history. This two-door XA sitting in the Pagano’s shed was adorned with all manner of bits and bobs, well below its pedigree, awaiting the day Ross removes these items and start on its authentic journey, with its Cleveland V8 engine once again rumbling under its scooped bonnet.
It is what’s known as a PRO 83 model and could be called a pseudo-Phase IV. It’s common knowledge and has been written about ad nausea, that the XA Falcon GTHO Phase IV was killed off after four XAs were built.
There was mass hysteria, whipped up by the populist press that eventually led to production of these road-going race cars to be stopped. The Phase IV project was axed after one road car and three race cars left the factory and went to selected owners.
As Ford had ordered parts to build the Phase IV, it now had surplus stock, so the RPO (Regular Production Order) 83 was born. There were 250 of these two- and four-door XA GTs produced with this model code: the exact amount required for race homologation.
At the time when we talked with Ross, he was anxious to start on this gem, but there were many hours of burning the midnight oil on the four-door before he could get started on this wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The blood red BF exudes bold Falcon GT lineage