XD Falcon: Ford’s accidental racing hero

03 March 2014
Queensland’s Dick Johnson was by far Australia’s most successful XD Falcon racer, winning two Australian Touring Car Championships and the Bathurst 1000 in a car that became known simply as ‘Tru-Blu’. Here Johnson is pushing very hard as he hammers through The Dipper on his way to a great victory at Bathurst in 1981 with co-driver John French.

Ford Australia did not want to race its new XD Falcon in 1980. It wouldn’t even homologate it for privateers to race. So how on earth did the XD even make it onto the track let alone become a hugely successful race car revered as one of the greats of the Group C touring car era?

You could say it happened by accident. Well, two accidents really. One was a critical oversight by the sport’s governing body CAMS in relation to the car’s minimum weight during the XD’s approval process in 1979.

The other occurred at Mount Panorama in 1980, when a Queensland battler by the name of Dick Johnson collided with a large rock that tumbled onto the track and destroyed his home-built XD Falcon while leading the Bathurst 1000.

The immediate outpouring of support from the public and Ford Australia, to get the shattered Queenslander back on track with a new XD the following year, is arguably Bathurst’s most treasured zero-to-hero tale.

From any angle Johnson’s XD was a gun-looking race car, with the 120-litre ‘drop tank’ at the back, big front and rear spoilers, bulbous wheel arch flares and fat tyres that were signatures of the much-loved Group C era. This was the second and most successful of his two XD race cars, which now takes pride of place in the Bowden car collection in Queensland.