The RPO83 – a HO by another name

When the last Falcon XY Phase III rolled off the production line in 1971, it signified the end of an era, becoming the final GT-HO officially sanctioned by Ford. But it was far from the end of the HO story.

RPO83The company’s replacement for the XY, the all-Australian designed and built XA range, was launched to great fanfare in 1972 and right from the outset there were plans to develop a high performance variant, once again wearing GT badges.

Indeed, Ford’s racing department had a secret weapon under development, the Phase IV project, with an eye to Bathurst in 1972, but the so-called ‘Supercar Scare’, following an article in the Sydney media by the late Evan Green, put a premature end to this and potential rivals like the stillborn V8 Torana XU-2.

Ford got around this – and early problems with oil surge in the XA GT race cars at the start of the 1973 season – by releasing an homologation package, known internally as the RPO83. This allowed the GTs to run features like four-wheel disc brakes, a bigger 780 cfm carburetor, extractors, exhaust manifold and shielded clutch slave cylinder hydraulic lines, while the rear axle was a 9-inch Ford Traction Lock diff with 3.00:1 ratio. A long-range fuel tank and a baffled sump also used up the components left over from the Phase IV programme.

Exceptions were the camshaft and valve gear modifications of the Phase 4, which died with the stillborn project, but the modifications to the carried-over Cleveland 351-cid V8 was a still very healthy 330HP (247kW) at 5400rpm, combined with a lot beefier torque curve peaking at around 520Nm and the scope for further race development was much greater than the standard GT’s. And in another departure for Ford’s premium power model, RPO83 cars could be ordered with a choice of four-speed manual or three-speed automatic transmissions.

Performance for the regular XA GT was quoted in 1972 at 0-100km/h in around 8.0 seconds, a standing 400 metres time in 15.8 seconds and a top speed of 193km/h – slower than a top-spec Tarago people mover these days, but hot stuff 35 years ago. And a race-spec RPO83 was considerably faster.

The RPO83 Falcon GTs proved a great success on the track, with Alan Moffat teaming up with Ian ‘Pete’ Geoghegan to win Bathurst in 1973.

As the production model XA GT was sold in both sedan and hardtop guises, with the pillarless two-door with styling heavily influenced by the American Ford Torinos, the RPO83 kit was available for both models and consisted of special wheels, blacked-out bonnet and sill panels, vents on the front guards, special badges and interior trim.

However not all RPO83 cars were created equal, with some having more special ‘goodies’ than others. With no less than 26 different option combinations available, in two different body styles, it’s fair to say that of the total build number of 259 units (130 hardtops and 129 sedans), all were unique.

Out of interest, Yellow Glo was the most popular single colour, with a total of 42 cars, both sedans and hardtops, produced in that hue, followed closely by Red Pepper, with 41 and Polar White with 32 examples, third.

But if you’re after real rarity, go for a well-optioned vehicle in a unique factory paint finish: the sedans finished in Repco Green, and Ansett Blue, or the Hardtops in Corporate Blue, Rothmans Blue, Brambles Red, Woodsman Green, Indigo Blue, or Sogo Port Wine.

Because it was an HO in disguise and for its uniqueness and rarity, the RPO83 remains a special part of Ford folklore. Not only was it Ford’s final homologation package in the traditional sense and was born to win on the race track, but it also created one of Ford’s hottest road cars ever, available to just a select few.

As auction prices soar for genuine Falcon GT-HOs – particularly the most desirable Phase III models – knowledgeable enthusiasts are now eyeing well-optioned Falcon RPO83 sedans and coupes as the next best thing.

Build Numbers and Paint Type

Paint Code Paint Name
Sedan
Hardtop
Total
S/Z820 Yellow Glow
20
22
42
X Red Pepper
23
18
41
3 Polar White
16
16
32
Q Yellow Fire
16
7
23
T/Z840 Lime Glaze
9
12
21
Z Wild Violet
8
7
15
I Jewel Green
7
2
9
J Calypso Green
5
4
9
8 Cosmic Blue
3
3
6
K/Z838 Wild Plum
2
4
6
7 Walnut Glow
4
1
5
B Onyx Black
1
4
5
C Skyview Blue
1
4
5
O/Z841 Summer Gold
3
2
5
Y017 Aluminium
2
3
5
E Pottery Beige
2
1
3
R Copper Bronze
2
0
2
Y/Z831 Kelly Green
2
0
2
Y157 McRobertsons Old Gold
0
2
2
Y280 Zircon Green
1
1
2
Y045 Corporate Blue
0
1
1
Y083 Repco Green
1
0
1
Y107 Ansett Blue
1
0
1
Y113 Rothmans Blue
0
1
1
Y117 Brambles Red
0
1
1
Y145 Woodsman Green
0
1
1
Y299 Indigo Blue
0
1
1
Y376 Sogo Port Wine
0
1
1
Unknown
0
11
11
RP083 Sedans and Hardtops Total Built:
129
130
259