The mighty Falcon GTHO has risen from the ashes two years after the closure of the Ford factory.
Except the people who built this car can’t call it a GTHO because it was never an official program.
The engineers who developed the supercharged Falcon GT always knew there was more power in reserve and more potential in the chassis.
In the end, they ran out of road before they could get the fastest Falcon of all time over the line.
Now they’ve taken their knowledge and knowhow from building performance Falcons for more than a decade to create what they’ve dubbed the “Holy Grail”. In case you’re wondering, it’s no coincidence the name has HO as the first two letters.
Just 100 upgrade kits will be available. Once they’re sold there will be no more.
The power and exhaust package is about $30,000 while the suspension, wheel and tyre package is about $14,500. Most buyers so far have taken the lot. The only catch: you need a BYO supercharged V8 Falcon. With 10,000 built since November 2010, the 100 kits will be snapped up fast.
The changes are much more than a fat exhaust and fatter tyres. The work takes about 40 hours in total (including 26 hours on the engine alone) and is done by the engineers at Premcar in Melbourne, the new name for the company run by mostly former FPV staff.
“We were never fully satisfied with what we put out under the FPV brand so we kept working in the background and (this) is the fruit of all that hard work,” says Premcar boss Bernie Quinn. “We’ve uncorked the Miami engine to create 483kW of power and 753Nm of torque.” That’s 650 horsepower in the old money.
Premcar has changed the intake to include a triple pass intercooler, described as “probably the most efficient intercooler anywhere in the world because the air gets cooled twice and the water passes through the intercooler three times”.
“We have a different exhaust on the car, a different calibration on the engine. It now revs to 7000rpm instead of 6000rpm and has a new power steering pump to handle the extra engine speed,” says Quinn.
The chassis modifications were built around the Michelin Sport Cup 2 tyre. “We wanted to start with the best tyre we could possibly get and then built the chassis around it,” says Quinn.
There are a pair of new, beautifully milled trailing blades (to fit wider tyres at the rear) and revised suspension bushes. The coil-over dampers are adjustable for ride height, rebound and compression, so you can drive to a race circuit and then click them into track mode.
Premcar claims the Holy Grail is at least 10 seconds quicker around Winton than the standard Falcon GT, although getting all that power to the ground can be tricky from a standing start.
On our V-Box timing equipment, the best 0-100km/h we could extract was 5.0-seconds neat from the six-speed manual. The six-speed auto would likely be a touch quicker. Another media outlet also got a similar time from the same car, so we reckon we’re close to the money. Of course, 0 to 100km/h times are just one measure of performance. Once rolling, it feels as potent as a Mercedes C63 AMG.
So is it a GTHO? The answer is complicated. “We’ve built the ultimate Falcon for that platform. It’s not true to say that Premcar put a package to Ford to say ‘guys you should release this as a GTHO and Ford knocked it back'. That’s not true”.
Quinn goes on to explain that after the supercharged V8 was released in November 2010, Ford and Prodrive’s joint venture FPV was in a state of transition.
“Everyone knew the writing was on the wall for the Falcon so it was very difficult at that stage to make business cases work … because Falcon sales were on the decline. It was a very difficult time to build business cases around significant investments.”
“What happened was, collectively, everyone just couldn’t make it work. There (were) prototypes running around, there were engines on dynos, and all that stuff was going on because engineers do that. I’m an engineer and I encouraged it. But to say that we went to Ford with a package (and said) ‘just tick the box and go’ is not true.”
Quinn says there was “definitely a desire inside Ford but it couldn’t get over the line. “You could walk around the halls of Ford and say ‘do you guys want to do this?’ And 99 per cent would say ‘f- - - yeah’, but the fact is it was very difficult to make a business case out of it.”
Premcar says it is “not by chance this is coming out a decent gap after they made the last Falcon”. “We wanted to be respectful to the relationship with Ford,” says Quinn.
Unlike most other modified Falcons the Holy Grail meets Australian Design Rules and emissions standards.
“We’re not bringing an aftermarket offering, we’re bringing a (manufacturer-grade) offering to the aftermarket,” says Quinn.
On the road
Apparently some customers want Premcar to “round up” the performance numbers from 483kW and 753Nm. But take it from me, this car does not need one extra kilowatt.
It only took 200 metres after coming out of the pits to realise that this car is something special. I actually stopped after the second corner of the race track to make sure stability control was on.
I needn’t have worried. The Michelin tyres grip like Velcro and make the Falcon extremely predictable. In fact it doesn’t feel like a Falcon at all. That’s because performance Falcons before this one were skewed towards comfort. Apparently Ford executives liked to drive Falcon GTs and were more interested in pampering rather than performance.
Also, it was the bean counters who chose tyres based on price, not engineers who chose tyres based on performance. With the Holy Grail the engineers are in charge, so anyone who likes driving will love what the upgrades do to their Falcon.
I’ve never really done backflips over fast Falcons over the years, with the exception perhaps of the XR6 Turbo and XR Sprints. But even then they lacked rear end grip and the brake booster felt underdone.
While the brake booster is unchanged, the stopping system is now connected to tyres that know how to grip and stop.
The whole chassis package is a revelation. In fact, I’m genuinely surprised to discover just how much potential was left in the Falcon platform. Why Ford left it on the table is a mystery to me. Surely some of these gains could have been put on earlier Falcon variants.
While there is no doubt the GT-F and XR Sprints help send off the Falcon on a high note, this is in fact the car the Falcon should be best remembered by. What a tragedy only 100 people will get to experience it.
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling