May 1974, and my hardtop rolled off the production line at Broadmeadows with a 302 Cleveland. It's now been stroked to 351 cubic inches. Pure gasoline therapy that is good for 23 litres per 100 kilometres, so it's lucky that it has a long range fuel tank to keep it on the street for those long cruising days.
This is the third I've owned, and the enthusiasm shown by the hardtop's many admirers keeps me turning the key and keeping it on the road. Ford certainly got it right on the drawing board and when they pushed it out the factory, winning hearts and minds of the motoring public with its sweeping well-muscled rear quarters and breathtaking overall styling. Built for the track, the model dominated Bathurst on three occasions.
With the XA, XB, XC and Landau variants on offer, my favourite will always be the XB hardtop, which saw Ford take top honours with the Australian car market over its XB run. You could choose from base model Falcon 500's, GS, Fairmont, GT and Landau for those with a bit of luxury in mind.
Owning a hardtop is simply carrying on the breed, allowing the glory days of the 70's to shine today by evoking days long gone by. Spearing down the highway, you'll spot other steel bumper classics and reciprocate a friendly wave of acknowledgement. Mutual respect for these legendary guzzolene warriors. Mad Max chose his steed well with the Main Force Patrol edging him back to continue his work via a supercharged Pursuit Special. The Toecutter didn't stand a chance!
Tyres that fit those massive rear wheel wells were stuck to Mount Panorama and the assortment of race tracks around Australia (of which some are now housing estates) in the heady days of the touring car championship. What won on Sunday sold on Monday. Each time I reverse out of the garage and the 351 idles on the driveway waiting for the wife to jump on board, it's as if the car is saying, "Get me to the track... the open road is calling."
Don't leave it too late to get in a hardtop while you can. Just like young couples trying to purchase their first property in today's real estate market, you'll need to budget a pretty penny to secure a sound example of a hardtop to call your own. There are many hardtops in sheds getting their well-deserved restorations after years of neglect, so with a mix of quality originals diminishing versus complete rebuilds, the choice is there for the taking. Be prepared to pay for a time warp back to pure motoring ecstacy. V8 heaven!
How could one not award scores of ten in every facet for the venerated hardtop? With Superbird's, John Goss Special's, Cobra's, GT's and the rare RPO83's taking phenomenal sums of money when changing ownership, there is still nothing like owning a hardtop. Who wouldn't want one sitting in their garage?
98 octane, a little quality engine oil, keep the coolant topped up and trouble-free motoring awaits. Get in, sit down, strap in, shut up and listen to the finest Cleveland symphony firing on all eight cylinders for as long as you can handle because you know, the next temporary custodian is gonna' give it the beans!