America has their Mustangs, Austrailia has their Chevy Malibu, Europe has the AMG, and South Africa? Well we have the Ford Fairmont GT. Built in SA from 1970 – 1973, and based on a Australian version of the Ford Falcon, the Fairmont GT is not for sissies. An article found in the January 1972 edition of Car magazine gives the impression the Journalist was a bit intimidated by it. It was named “The Big Daddy” by Ford staff back in the day.
While admittedly there is no real “WOW” factor to its appearance, some distinct key features are very prominent when looking at it. One is the Ram Air scoop that can be found on the bonnet, and unlike many of our cars today, this scoop was actually functional.
Other features included the black line running across the side of the car, clearly stating 351 Gt on the side, and a boot large enough to fit a whale in. The GT model also had fatter tires, aluminium wheels and chrome wheel nuts. (Big stuff back then when you consider Mercedes has the passenger side view mirror as an optional extra)
If you look closely, and use some imagination, you might see some NASCAR, or a dragster in street clothing.
Here is why it was said this car is not for the average driver. Powered by a 4v per cylinder Cleveland V8, power figures looked quite dramatic. 0-100 in 7.3 seconds, 300 bhp, over 500Nm of torque and a top speed of 210km/h. It gets better. The road test done in 1972, the car, with manual override, ran from 0-120km/h in 1st gear.
In a 400m run, second gear kicked in just before 120km/h. It only had a 4 speed auto. It was also capable of ripping your face of when braking, managing to stop from 120 to 0 in 4.3 seconds, WITHOUT ABS and EBD.
It is said the car is quite comfortable when it driving normally, provided you work sparingly with the overly sensitive “go” pedal. Steady and responsive road holding, along with “good brakes” made the Fairmont GT manageable. Until you hit Gravel, or wet tarmac. Fuel consumption is also claimed to give a “reasonable” 15.2l/100km.
Some “wandering” was said to happen at speed, and some harshness in the way the suspension soaks up bumps was mentioned, but in all honesty, suspension setups was not really something to note it terms of handling back then.
A Rev counter, oil pressure gauge, and imitation leather was standard. The aircraft style gear shifter, together with the rather small steering wheel makes the Faimont GT just a little different from the rest.
The most interesting thing is the Horn. You have to grip the steering and squeeze it to make it sound. This was considered a “Panic-Horn” Something that makes completely sense when you lost control of a such a monster!
Looking at these amazing machines does not really give such a big impression, as they may pass for every day Fords of that Era, and even now, with today’s technology, I will not be surprised if the very one you are looking at is a replica. The Fairmont GT sold in SA for just over R3000, and while being pricey, it was still obtainable for the average hard working Citizen, if you could get one.
Very few units were built, and with so many of our classics, most of them ended up offshore with collectors.
I dare say, of all the classics featuring on Torquesteer, the Fairmont GT is actually one I would like to have on a track.