Lost for 30 Years: 1971 Australian Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III

Todd FitchBy Todd Fitch

While some Americans claim sole rights to the “muscle car,” Australia’s love of V8-powered rear-wheel-drive cars has carried on continuously through to this day. Most gear-heads recognize the 1973 Ford XB Falcon GT351 that supercharged the movie career of a young Mel Gibson in Mad Max. However we also have the Aussies to thank for the ’04-’06 Pontiac GTO, the ’08-’09 Pontiac G8, and the 2011-2017 Chevrolet Caprice PPV (Police Patrol Vehicle), all of which prove that burly V8 coupes and sedans have a place in today’s automotive landscape, even if that place is Australia or in the hands of those who Protect and Serve. In 1971, Ford of Australia’s racing program homologated 300 of these 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III racers for the Australian Touring Car Championship. Our feature car hid under a blanket for 30 years before being uncovered and finding its way to Australia’s Gosford Classic Car Museum. Soon this rare bird heads to auction where it’s expected to fetch over $500,000. Thanks to News.com.au and Pickles Auctions for pictures and details.

Rather like American cars built for NASCAR and sold mostly to race teams, these Falcons had one purpose:  winning. In the capable hands of Allan Moffat and others, Falcon GTHO Phase III racers set lap records, won races, and claimed the 1973 Australian Touring Car Championship (ATCC) title.

The 351 cid “Cleveland” made 300 HP on paper, though that number may have been as high as 380. Though equipped with a 6150 RPM rev limiter, they pull hard to 7000 with the limiter removed. Try that with your typical muscle car. Check out the Gosford Museum’s YouTube videos for more on the barn find story. A previous Phase III brought $683,650 in 2007. There’s still time to acquire this piece of racing history. Book your travel arrangements for the Pickles Auction on 28 October, 2017. What do you think of this factory racer from Down Under?

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Comments

  1. Troy S.

    Famous ford muscle car down under, relatively unknown up here in the states. Very quick car , probably low 14’s or high 13’s in the quarter stock off the lot which ain’t to shaby. Four door performance sedans are more common place than two door versions down in Australia yet they look surprisingly sporty.

    4+

    • Bobsmyuncle

      In ’71 those times were better than “ain’t too shabby” at 2921 pounds though that ET should be even better 13.08!

      Apparently the horsepower was actually 350 to 380 putting the ET at 12.42 or 12.09.

      That is really fast today forget’ 71!

      0

    • Eoin

      Off the showroom floor the best you could do a quarter in was 14.2 seconds but they did easily wind out to 135mph; consequently the Phase III held the crown for a long time as the fastest four door production car in the world.
      In 1971 a couple of motoring journos took a stock one for a spin on the Hume Highway, outback New South Wales, and got this photo of the speedo off the dial.
      Ford made one only Onyx Black Phase III as a promotional car; I know where it is and I know the owner has knocked back 7 figures.

      0

  2. jimbunte jimbunte Member

    love this car.

    3+

  3. lawrence

    wow….like !

    2+

  4. Jim

    Just don’t get the values of these, they look like a maverick 4 door. And I’m a big Ford guy. If you’re gonna spend that kind of $$$ but a real muscle car from the man himself.

    4+

    • Steve R

      They look like the mid-to-late-60’s Falcon 4 door, the Maverick, not so much. It looks like the Australians even called it a Falcon.

      Cool car, then again, the Australians always have had interesting cars that were never available here.

      Steve R

      4+

      • Adam T45

        Great pick-up Steve R. These were based on the American Falcon. They had to be heavily re-engineered because our Australian roads are some of the roughest and toughest on the planet. The very first of the Australian Falcons (identical to the American car) suffered all manner of structural and suspension issues Down Under as our roads beat them to death!

        6+

    • LAB3

      Looking at the wrap around marker lights and taking away that piece of vertical chrome from the center of the grill and it screams Nova from the tires forward.

      1+

    • Adam T45

      I fully understand your confusion Jim, so I’ll see if I can put it into context for you: The American car which is probably most comparable to the Falcon GTHO is the Plymouth Superbird. That probably seems like a rather odd comparison, but it is a fair one when you consider the purposes of each car. The Plymouth was chiefly designed to help Plymouth win the Daytona 500. That is the Holy Grail of stock car racing in the US. The Falcon GTHO was primarily designed to deliver Ford a race win at the Bathurst 500, which is Australia’s equivalent of the Daytona 500. They were nothing more than homologation derivatives of road cars.

      The thing about the GTHO (and to clear up a misconception, “HO” actually stands for Handling Option, not High Output) is its rarity. Only 300 were ever built, and many have been destroyed either as race cars or by unskilled drivers on our roads. In 1971 the GTHO broke new ground as it was the only 4-door family sedan in production form anywhere in the world that could top a genuine 140 mph.

      8+

      • Brakeservo

        So this is faster than a Mercedes 6.3 or Maserati 4.2 Quattroporte ??

        0

    • Bobsmyuncle

      I get not being able to reconcile the value, however if you are trying to establish a value based on the car’s appearance, you really are missing the point.

      1+

  5. Adam T45

    As an Aussie I have to say that I will be mightily surprised if this car does pull half a million dollars. While they are now incredibly rare (many were beaten to death on the race tracks of Australia while more died in the hands of road users who put their ambitions ahead of their abilities), this car has some issues that will hurt it. The alloy wheels appear to be in need of restoration as they are heavily discoloured (Australian spelling). However, that is a minor issue compared to those air scoops on the back doors. They will need to be removed, and the bolt holes in the door-skins from their installation will have to be repaired and repainted.

    Regardless of that, these are still an amazing car. Now that Ford no longer has a local manufacturing presence here in Australia, these will only ever increse in value.

    3+

    • Ward William

      As a fellow Aussie, I’m betting this will pull more than 500k. Do you remember how everyone who could not afford one of these painted up their Falcons to look like one. Nothing funnier than seeing “one of these” back in the day sporting a straight 6. No doubt this baby would bring a smile to old Allan Moffat. LMAO

      2+

  6. Phinias

    It may be fast, it may handle like a dream but it is bu-ttugly!

    4+

    • Adam T45

      Trust me Phinias, the colour doesn’t do it any favours. To see one in the metal painted in metallic electric blue is something VERY special.

      5+

  7. Danny

    Bathurst is on this weekend.

    7+

  8. Wayne

    These things rode like a buckboard, had heavy steering akin to a truck, but went like a startled gazelle.

    3+

  9. Woodie Man

    Mad Max

    2+

  10. Jonathan

    Not a pretty car but in 1971 two journalists made it infamous by recording a 200 mile journey in 2 hours in a demonstrator. On winding country roads. Think about it!

    5+

    • Tricky

      A photo of that drive made the cover of Wheels magazine in 1971. The Editor at the time made them doctor the photo to show the speedo at 120mph at 5000rpm. In fact they were doing in excess of 150mph at 6500rpm. Why?? The 2nd journo was in the back seat taking the photo over the drivers shoulder with no seat belt on – at 150mph!!

      6+

  11. KEN TILLY

    These were also built in South Africa but only as a four door as far as I know and some even with slush boxes I believe. At the time it was the fastest road car, along with the Ford Capri Perana built by Basil Green, at 142 mph. and at 8 mpg. (Imperial). That’s fast by any standard. Funnily enough, most of them have been bought by Aussies and are now thundering around Australia.

    3+

  12. KEN TILLY

    In South Africa they were called Ford Fairmont GT and there are still plenty of them there, at a price!

    5+

  13. KEN TILLY

    Nice Mill

    3+

    • Brakeservo

      So is that scoop a non-functional “dummy?”

      0

      • Tricky

        Nope. Functional. Ram air shaker scoop added 15-20 hp down Conrod Straight

        3+

  14. Pa Tina

    OZ has also kindly sent us the current, and soon to be departed, amazing Chevrolet SS.

    6+

    • LAB3

      My understanding is the current generation of the Camaro was designed by Holden (GM)

      2+

      • Adam T45

        Spot on LAB3. The underpinnings for the Camaro are based on the Holden Monaro. Sadly I have to inform you that on the 20th October, Holden will stop manufacturing cars in Australia. All Holdens will then be imports. On that day it will be the end of ALL vehicle manufacturing in Australia. Toyota closed its doors last week, and Ford shut down operations in October 2016.

        4+

      • Alan (Michigan)

        A very sad state of affairs, Adam. Very sad.

        0

  15. cudaman

    A nice engine with a 78ish 4-door Nova wrapped around it…..I don’t see the expected value, just don’t.

    2+

    • Adam T45

      I fully understand your confusion cudaman, so I’ll see if I can put it into context for you: The American car which is probably most comparable to the Falcon GTHO is the Plymouth Superbird. That probably seems like a rather odd comparison, but it is a fair one when you consider the purposes of each car. The Plymouth was chiefly designed to help Plymouth win the Daytona 500. That is the Holy Grail of stock car racing in the US. The Falcon GTHO was primarily designed to deliver Ford a race win at the Bathurst 500, which is Australia’s equivalent of the Daytona 500. They were nothing more than homologation derivatives of road cars.

      The thing about the GTHO (and to clear up a misconception, “HO” actually stands for Handling Option, not High Output) is its rarity. Only 300 were ever built, and many have been destroyed either as race cars or by unskilled drivers on our roads. In 1971 the GTHO broke new ground as it was the only 4-door family sedan in production form anywhere in the world that could top a genuine 140 mph.

      2+

      • Tony, Oz.

        Adam, as an Aussie the problem with these HO’s is that they’ve been copied and copied to the point you don’t even give them a second glance when you see one on the road. As the saying goes ‘Ford only made 300 of them and there’s still 600 on the road’!
        Unless you study them real close it’s hard to tell the copied ones from the genuine and all of the repro parts are still available so they’re still being built in backyards across the country.

        0

      • Adam T45

        I absolutely agree with you Tony, Oz. You even have to look closely to tell the difference between a regular Gt and a GTHO. There are plenty of reproductions out there for sure, but I guess that someone will probably pay the money if they want the genuine article (but not me!).

        0

  16. Derek

    Gentlemen, please peruse youtube and watch some of the 70s (in particular) Bathhurst racing. Well worth the wasted couple of hours….

    3+

  17. Sam

    Nice car but it looks like a collaboration of Ford and JC Whitney.

    1+

  18. supernova72

    RIP the Chevy SS as well. Closed the Holden factory this year. I really enjoyed me test drive in the states. Cheers.

    1+

    • Pa Tina

      Six-speed?

      0

  19. Stu

    As Ford and GM Australia didn’t have the luxury of a large population many early muscle cars were optioned up 4 door family sedans. But the offerings from Ford GM and even Chrysler were the equal to or faster than what was offered in the USA and even went around corners.

    4+

  20. Gay Car Nut

    Lovely looking car. It’s a damn shame they were never sold here in the USA. While its styling was based on American styling, I like something that was engineered, developed, and built in Australia.

    1+

  21. John Taylor

    I don’t think it is worth that but after seeing what some things have been going for in recent times who would know, it only takes 2 keen bidders someone might want that more than the other guy.

    As a side note these were back then the fastest 4 door sedan in the world off the show room floor at 140 M.P.H. conservative speed maybe more.

    I do know where there is one that was bricked up inside a house because they were very hot property at one stage and would be stolen at the drop of a hat. I know a guy who was followed by a Police car when he visited Sydney and after he booked into the motel noticed the cop car still sitting across the road and drove off, after they had settled into their room he went outside to get something out of the car and the car was gone, of course no one saw or heard anything. That is hot sort after they were.

    0

    • Tricky

      But the E38 Chrysler Charger was quicker down Conrod Straight!!

      1+

      • Kiwi Cortina

        I think the E49 was on the top of the heap for the Charger wasn’t it?

        1+

  22. Peter K

    Yeah… Ok Is speedy and quick for its time. However living here in the states it might as well be Unobtanium material. Closest thing we had was the Ford Capri V6 that came out of Germany. Lots of room in the engine bay for upgrades. Lets Fast forward to now and talk about 4 door sedans/wagons for a minute. There are plenty of Mercedes, Volvo, 4D sedans and wagons floating around the USA that are just begging for a new hotrod home. Both of these cars will accept an american made motor with little effort that will look like the sleeper that you have always reamed of for comparatively little money. I know this because I have 2.

    1+

  23. peter

    Yes, the HO meant handling option. They were meant only for the Bathurst 500 and were fitted with extra large fuel tanks to reduce pit stops. Bathurst is, and remains really, a GM vs Ford race. Interestingly, from time to time, the old race car drivers get to do some demonstration runs with their old cars on the Bathurst track and afterwards they generally all say they can’t understand how they ever raced their cars flat out!

    1+

    • Tony, Oz.

      When these cars were on the showroom floor there was talk of limiting the sale of them only to people with a special license who could prove they could handle them on the roads and in traffic, not sure if it ever got up though.

      0

      • Bobsmyuncle

        I’ve always argued that it should be that way especially these days!

        Also the special license should allow you to speed and have exclusive access to the passing lane!

        0

  24. ACZ

    FYI. PPV stands for Police Pursuit Vehicle, not Patrol.

    0

  25. IanM

    Even rarer was the one and only black Falcon GT with a 428 shoehorned into it, made by Ford Australia for the then boss of Ford. I have read that it is now in private hands in Australia. Rare and desirable, and with race pedigree, these are Australian icons and along with Bathurst model Holden (GM) Monaro GTS 327s and 350s they will always be indicators of the current state of the Aussie collector car market from time to time.

    2+

  26. Peter Boyle

    gib!!

    0

  27. michael streuly

    Intresting car i do not think its worth 500k. Would still like to blast it thru the canyon here in the san fernando valley.

    0

  28. Rob S.

    My good aussie friend, Owen Hartley, who used to live in Melbourne, moved to the states 35 years ago, would always croon about the GTHO, the 302 clevelands and 351 cleveland. He would reminisce about Bathhurst and the battles that went on there between Holden and ford. He always said how much faster the GTHO was to anything we had, Boss or anything or big block. When he said they were four doors I broke out in laughter, I told him nothing with four doors goes that fast. I told him I would be willing to pit a Boss 351, our fastest production powerhouse, to his GTHO and without any hesitation what so ever, he said he would take that bet any day of the week. Doing some homework I found that these four doors were rockets! Once I realized this I asked for his help to locate one for purchase, at this point, he broke out in laughter!!
    Thanks to our Aussie gear head buddies for all the knowledge and great stories imparted to us.

    5+

    • Tony, Oz.

      Rob, if you want one I can get one for you, it may not be a genuine GTHO but in the States who would know the difference, we have trouble working out the genuines from the copies but if you want one I’m sure I can get someone to build one for you, just send a blank check and I’ll get back to you. He, he.

      0

  29. Pa Tina

    Take a peek at the auction site for a nice overview of some of the other cars mentioned in these comments.

    0

    • Alan (Michigan)

      Oooooo….

      The Lotus Cortina!
      There are some fine rides going in this auction.

      The cult-desired 21 window VW? A tarted-up rust bucket, I think. A better paint job could be done by a 14 year-old wielding rattle cans from Home Depot.

      0

  30. Heven67

    I can tell you from direct competition, a fellow I know came to a private drag day with an XY falcon, looked like every other XY, no one noticed what it really was, an XYGTHO, Ive known the guy and car for over 30 years and its the read deal, in standard form, never been apart, he raced it and it done a 12.8 @ 99mph.

    0

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