First appearance of Ford Falcon Rallye Sprint has historic racing aficionados excited
While its iconic Mustang model is most usually associated with Ford Motor Company’s touring car racing exploits of the 1960s, it is the appearance at January’s Taupō Historic GP meeting of the Mustang’s predecessor that has historic racing aficionados excited – the Ford Falcon Rallye Sprint painstakingly constructed by Levin’s Paul Berkahn.
The 2021 Taupo Historic Grand Prix will mark the much anticipated first appearance in the combined Historic Muscle & Saloon Cars (HM&SC) group of Berkahn’s recently constructed 1964 example of the Falcon Rallye Sprint.
“Building an HSC car has its challenges, not least because the regulations require, for the most-part, original components be used. An HSC V8 must therefore be either an original car with period race history such as the Ivan Segedin or Red Dawson Mustangs, or be built precisely to period specifications like the FIA’s Appendix K” says historic touring car expert Steve Holmes.
“An FIA Appendix K historic racing car is one that has been built to the exact specifications provided by that vehicle’s FIA Homologation Sheet. We already have several FIA cars competing with HSC, including the Ford Escorts of Paul McCarthy and Greg Goudie, and the BMW 2002 of Howard Wood, plus a growing number of others. Although newly built cars, they’re essentially of the exact same specification as similar makes and models that raced in period. And it’s the FIA Homologation Sheet that ensures this” says HM&SC group secretary and historic touring car expert Bruce Dyer added.
“Although relatively new to New Zealand, FIA Appendix K historic racing cars are common in the UK and Europe, plus Australia and the United States. If you watch the live streaming for the Goodwood Revival or Goodwood Members Meeting, the cars competing invariably comply to FIA Appendix K regulations” adds Dyer.
Steve Holmes, also the author of the seminal textbook Historic New Zealand Racing Cars published in 2019, says “the Falcon Sprint has an interesting competition pedigree”.
“In the early and mid-1960s, Ford Motor Company embarked on a massively ambitious international motorsport program which fell under its Total Performance banner. Its racing programs included NASCAR Grand National stock car racing, NHRA drag racing, Le Mans 24 Hours and World Sports Car endurance racing, and European rallying. Ford also supported the Shelby American SCCA A/Production Cobra sports car program. The Falcon Sprint was first selected to contest European endurance rallying events.”
“Holman-Moody, who had major involvement in Ford’s other racing programs, built a fleet of Falcon Rallye Sprints to contest the 1963 Monte Carlo Rally. The cars were sent to Alan Mann Racing in England, Ford’s Great Britain competition team, who organised and oversaw the project.”
“In late 1963, Ford launched the new second-generation 1964 Falcon, sporting much sharper styling, and highlighted by bold bullet-shaped accenting that ran the length of the car along the bodywork flanks. In a new set of homologation papers submitted to the FIA, Ford listed the vehicle weight at just 980 kilograms with body panels as being of ‘mixed construction’, and including bonnet, boot lid, doors, and front and rear mudguards made from fibreglass or aluminium. Remarkably, the FIA approved Ford’s submission, and the 1964 Falcon Sprint was homologated at an impossibly low 980 kilograms.”
The Falcon Sprint rally program came to an end with the launch of the new Mustang in April 1964. However, the Falcon Sprint made a comeback a couple of years later, when the British Saloon Car Championship (BSCC) switched from FIA Group 2 to Group 5 regulations for the 1966 season. The Falcon Sprints were notably lighter than a Mustang, and with much the same running gear and horsepower, won three of the eight BSCC races in 1966, seven of the ten races in 1967, nine of the eleven races in 1968, and six of the twelve races in 1969. Drivers included Frank Gardner, David Hobbs, Roy Pierpoint, Dennis Leech, Gawaine Baillie, Brian Muir, Peter Gethin, and Martin Birrane.
The Falcon Rallye Sprint of Paul Berkahn is a replica of the 1964 Monte Carlo Rally example driven by Graham Hill, including the full interior with front and rear seats, and carpets, as seen on the Monte cars. “Group 2 regulations don’t actually require anything other than two front seats, and certainly, no carpet!” says Bruce Dyer.
“Paul has fitted the homologated fibreglass body panels but being racing panels, the panel gaps were terrible. So he has spent countless hours perfecting the gaps. This is a car of true show quality. His emphasis right from the start has been for period correctness. Performance is much less of a factor. An appreciation by fans at Taupo next month will be justification for all the effort that has gone into this epic build.”
“Paul’s Falcon is the first FIA Appendix K V8 to be built for our group, a watershed vehicle, but it definitely won’t be the last” says Dyer.