The Aussie Cleveland V8 turns 50!

It’s half a century since Geelong cranked out the first of its Cleveland V8 engines


On November 12, 1971, Ford Australia celebrated the production of its first Australian-made Cleveland V8s.

While 351 Clevos had been going into XW Falcons and ZC Fairlanes since 1970, these engines were imported from the US alongside the smaller 302 Windsor.

When Ford’s Geelong plant tooled up to manufacture the engines, a short-stroke 302 Cleveland was added to the range. First appearing in the XA Falcon, the unique-to-Australia variation meant costly imported Winsdors were no longer required.

Ford Australia initially relied on imported ‘Cleveland Foundry’ blocks until ‘Geelong Foundry’ blocks took over in 1976.

The engines would power Aussie Falcons, Fairlanes, LTDs and even F-trucks until November 1982, when Ford ceased to offer V8 passenger cars.

The last Cleveland-powered Falcon is acknowledged to be a 302-cube Fairmont Ghia ESP, which recently sold at Grays for over $350,000.

However, many suggest the 302 Cleveland was offered in special-order Fairlanes and LTDs after the official date, and locally-assembled Broncos and F-trucks also packed Clevelands until 1985.

Aside from passenger vehicles and workhorse trucks, Aussie Clevelands also made their way into the iconic De Tomaso Pantera.

The Italian-built sportscar hit the market in 1972, with a 351 Cleveland providing oomph via a five-speed ZF transaxle.

Ford USA wrapped Cleveland production in 1974, so De Tomaso turned to Australian-produced engines once American supply ran out.

Toy Shop owner, Giocattolo founder, and De Tomaso distributor Paul Halstead organised the operation. He apparently raced to Geelong when he discovered Cleveland production was ending in 1982, arriving to find tooling was already dead and (literally) buried.

The Pantera would use Aussie-exported power until remaining supplies were exhausted 1988.

Bolwell’s home-grown Nagari also copped the 351 Cleveland towards the end of production in 1974, propelling the two-seater to a 13-second quarter-mile.

Of course, the Cleveland remains a beloved street machiner’s donk today, so check out some of our favourite Clevo-powered cars below!