The Ford Cortina GT500 was Ford's first homologation special built with one purpose in mind - to win Australia’s 500-mile production car race, the Armstrong 500 at Mount Panorama, Bathurst.
The brainchild of Harry Firth, the GT500 was built to satisfy homologation rules to allow it to race in the Armstrong 500. The Lotus-Cortina would have fitted the bill perfectly. However, as the Lotus-Cortina was not imported into Australia at the time, the rules stipulated that 250 examples would have been needed to be imported to allow it to qualify. So Ford and Firth decided to modified the locally available Cortina to be built to qualify to race. Besides some rare prototype cars known as Type 1s, the total production consisted of Type 2s with 122 made using a Canadian spec CKD body shell, and Type 3s with 125 made using an Australian made body.
Firth developed the GT500 in the same Queens Road (Melbourne) workshop where he, his brother Norman and Frank Lowndes prepared his previous Armstrong 500 winners. Over six months, this team worked with Ford Australia engineers to maximise the existing Cortina GT’s potential.
Harry 'The Silver Fox' Firth took the donor 2 door Cortina, added dual down draft Webers and Lotus-Cortina gear ratios. He added a new Wade cam, reshaped the combustion chamber and raised the compression to 9.5:1.The flywheel was lightened, the head modified, even the little end bearings came in for revision to allow better reliability at high engine revs (with all of these modifications, the engine could spin out to 7000+ rpm).
The biggest competition the Cortina GT500 faced at the Mount came from the BMC Mini, however with some additional cunning from Firth, the GT500 ended up with a huge advantage. An auxiliary 8.5 gallons fuel tank was added to the Cortina, located immediately behind the rear window adding up to a huge 77-litre fuel tank in the boot with two racing-style snap-fillers on the bootlid. The twin fillers meant that the GT500’s twin tanks could to be filled quicker with one for fuel in and one for air out, further reducing pit times. And to keep the front disc brakes cool, large alloy cooling ducts were added under the front bumper. Riding on lowered, upgraded suspension (with dampers to Firth’s own specifications).
There was added incentive to perform well at Bathurst in 1965. For the first time, the first car across the line in the race was to be officially recognised whereas previously winners were determined soley by class. This provided enormous motivation to the manufacturers marketing departments. And Firth and the little GT500 did not disappoint. Cortina GT500s scored first place with Barry Seton and Midge Bosworth, second across the line in the hands of Bruce McPhee and Barry Mulholland and fifth place with Bill McLachlan and Gelignite Jack Murray. All the other top 10 positions were filled with Morris Cooper Ss.
For sale is a recently concours rotisserie restored example of this very limited and hugely important GT500 model. With the current owner for more than 20 years, this Type 2 GT500 comes with a huge restoration receipt and photo file documenting the meticulous level of attention to detail that has gone into this car. The GT500 runs all the original running gear including its original 122E 1500 cc engine with the dual down draft Weber carbies and original Lotus Cortina spec 4 speed gearbox. All the original hard to find parts are still there including the original glass bowl fuel filter, two blade radiator fan and FOMOCO wiring loom. The owner has focused on retaining as much of the original gear that came with the car in order to maintain its originality.
The car has been repainted on a rotisserie and is as good underneath as it is inside and out. The car retains all its original chrome and glass and the seats have been properly retrimmed including a full restoration of the internal seat springs. All the gauges have been recalibrated, steering wheel restored and new carpet fitted. Even the heater, demister and cooling fan have been reconditioned and work perfectly. This has been a labour of love and respect and is indeed a perfect example to enjoy or present as an important example of Australian motor sport ingenuity and development.
Two years after the introduction of the GT500 in 1967, Ford took the development of a homologation special to the next level. While still a limited edition model, the XR GT Falcon was certainly more mainstream whereas the Cortina GT500 was really an all out specialised hotrod. But that is its importance in Australia’s automotive history and why the GT500, which resulted from a joint venture between a group of Ford engineers and Harry Firth, is recognised as one of the most interesting and important Australian Muscle cars.
Sydney based for your inspection. (AMCS Ref: 5769)
AMCS will gladly arrange door to door freight delivery anywhere in Australia or New Zealand. Also please note if you have a quality Muscle or Classic car you wish to list or have valued please give us a call at AMCS, we will be happy to assist you.
Engine: 1498cc Ford inline-four, two-valve, pushrod, twin-choke d/draft Weber carb
Power: 73kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 137Nm @ 3600rpm
Gearbox: 4-speed Ford with Lotus Cortina ratios
Suspension: McPherson struts (f), semi-elliptic springs (r) with telescopic shocks
Brakes: Discs (f), drums (r)
Weight: 826kg (kerb)