Amazing Restoration: 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III

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When Australia came to the muscle car party, it did so with some impressive vehicles. The Big Three (Ford, Holden, and Chrysler) could see enormous value in the “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” philosophy. With this in mind, Ford developed unique versions of its already potent Falcon GT range. The prize that they had their eye on was a victory in the annual 500-mile race conducted each October around the Mount Panorama circuit at Bathurst. This was, and still is, Australia’s premier motorsport event. In the era of Production Touring Car regulations, a win virtually guaranteed any manufacturer both strong advertising and sales. One of the most iconic of these cars is the Falcon GTHO Phase III. Today, these cars generate enormous interest when offered for sale. That means that they also command impressive sale prices. This particular Phase 3 has just undergone a full nut-and-bolt restoration, and its condition and attention to detail are both breathtaking. It is now being offered for sale, but someone will be paying for the privilege of parking this classic in their driveway. You will find it listed for sale here on Australian Muscle Car Sales, where the price has been set at A$895,000.

Before we look at this vehicle’s overall condition, it’s worth noting one detail that makes this an unusual GTHO. To qualify to compete at Bathurst, Ford produced 300 examples of the Phase III. As you can see in this photo, the Falcon was ordered with the optional GOLDE sunroof. This is the rarest option that you are likely to see on a GTHO, as only 21 cars were ordered with this feature. Adding to this rarity is the fact that only four cars received this option, and wore the iconic Vermilion Fire paint. This is the only one of those four vehicles that is known to exist today. Now to the details, and the presentation of the Falcon is faultless. The car has just come off the back of a full nut-and-bolt restoration. This process is said to have cost the owner over $300,000, and the result of this work is a car that looks like it has just rolled off a showroom floor. The panels are laser straight, while the Vermilion Fire paint has a beautiful shine and depth of color. Unsurprisingly, the trim and chrome are perfect, and the glass is flawless. The underside of the vehicle presents just as impressively. I have included a video at the bottom of this article. This shows some of the progress shots taken during the restoration. It also shows the car’s underside in some detail, and it is absolutely perfect.

What made the GTHO Phase III so special? The “standard” Falcon GT was fitted with a 351ci Cleveland V8, producing 300hp. The Phase III also received that engine, but it featured a few upgrades. What was known in Australia as the “Shaker” scoop directed air into the engine via a 780cfm Holley carburetor. Other changes included a more aggressive camshaft, an 11.5:1 compression ratio, a twin-point distributor, a larger harmonic balancer, along with headers and low-restriction dual exhaust. The fruit of all of this labor was a claimed power output of 300hp. Well, that was Ford’s official line! The truth was that power had shot up to somewhere in the region of 380hp. This power was then fed to a 9″ Detroit Locker rear end via a 4-speed Top Loader transmission. Was it fast? You bet it was. With the standard 3.25 rear end ratio, this was a car that was capable of demolishing the ¼ mile in 14.2 seconds. Slot the optional 3.9 rear end in, and that figure dropped to 13.9 seconds. Brute acceleration wasn’t the sole aim of this classic. The Mount Panorama circuit’s main straight, fittingly called Conrod Straight, was over a mile in total length when this car was produced. That meant that the ultimate top speed was also a consideration. The Phase III was capable of topping 142mph in standard trim. At that time, that made the Falcon GTHO Phase III officially the fastest 4-door saloon car in the world. The 351 was limited to 6,150rpm, but removing the limiter would see the engine spin past 7,000rpm with ease. An engine like this is going to drink pretty heavily, so the GTHO came fitted with a 36-gallon fuel tank. This reduced the number of pit stops during the Bathurst race, saving further time on the track. Suspension and brakes didn’t escape the attention of Ford engineers, with upgraded shocks and sway bars, while the front brakes had the dust shields removed to improve cooling. Ford claimed that the “HO” in the GTHO model name stood for “Handling Option.” Yeah, right! As befits a car that has undergone a restoration like this, the presentation is impeccable. All of the correct stickers and decals are in place, while all of the hoses and clamps are NOS items. The fan-belt has the correct Autolite branding, but it is the battery that steals the show. Batteries have always been classed as a consumable item. However, the owner managed to source an original Autolite “tar top” battery. He has had this reconditioned, and it has been installed using NOS battery cables and clamps.

When you opened the door and slid behind the wheel of a Phase III, there wasn’t a lot to tell you that you were in anything but a standard Falcon GT. If you looked carefully, you could spy a GTHO decal in the timber trim on the glove compartment. You got gauges for fuel, water temperature, and oil pressure. The tach read to 8,000rpm, while the speedometer read to 140mph. You also received a clock, and a “Super Fringe” AM radio. Production Touring Car regulations meant that the car had to front at Bathurst exactly as it rolled off the production line. That meant that the radio and clock had to stay, as did the carpet. To reduce racing weight, this was as luxurious as life got inside a standard GTHO. This interior is spotless, and it looks like the car has done very little work since it was restored. It is less than a year since the work was completed, so the condition is easy to understand. Once again, the restoration was completed using a high number of NOS items, and there have been no aftermarket additions made to the interior.

The Falcon GTHO Phase III was a brute of a car, and it was designed with a single mission in mind. It is doubtful that anyone realized what was being unleashed when this car rolled off the production line. Some people will criticize it for having too many doors, but it was a car that was built to fulfill a specific purpose. Like the Mustang Boss 302, it was built to comply with a set of racing rules. In racing, performance improvements are generally measured in tenths of seconds. When Allan Moffat set his qualifying time at Bathurst in 1971, he had improved on his previous year’s benchmark by a whopping 10 seconds! The Phase III didn’t win Bathurst…it dominated. Falcons filled 5 of the top 6 places at the end of the 500 miles, providing Ford with an advertising and sales bonanza. In the early 1980s, it was possible to buy a spotless Phase III for under $25,000. Today, prices have skyrocketed. The amount that the owner is asking for this car isn’t unprecedented. If you look at recent sales history, then it might even be considered to be on the conservative side. Australia’s “homegrown” car industry is now extinct. That raises the real prospect of cars like this experiencing further significant value increases in the coming years. It isn’t a cheap car, but what price can you put on a car that is classed as a legend in its own country?

Auctions Ending Soon


  1. Moparman MoparmanMember

    This is really cool! Performance cars with four doors wouldn’t have worked for Americans in 1971 (IMO), but clearly it didn’t matter to the Australians. I’m not sure that I’d ever get comfortable shifting with my left hand, LOL!! Not to mention that it is priced WELL out of my budget, even if I was considering buying it!! :-) GLWTS!!

    Like 6
  2. RayT

    That’s an eye-watering price, to say the least. But where would you find a better one?

    Leaving aside the Sticker Shock, I’m no stranger to left-hand shifting, or RHD for that matter, though it has been a few years. Can’t think of a better way to get my chops back!

    Like 4
  3. Keith

    Nice car but $850k? Uhmmmmmmm No!

    Like 2
    • Marko

      That’s $895,000.00 Australian dollars. Equals $642,341.38 is US currency.

      Like 0
      • ELJ

        Big money for a 4 door Falcon! Pass!

        Like 1
  4. flmikey

    I had often wondered why Australian super cars are usually, but not always, 4 doors…was it a requirement in racing these cars you had to bring 3 of your friends with you?

    Like 7
    • Stu

      We don’t have the population of the USA so it wasn’t worth the financial effort to produce a 2 door variant in many cases. We did have local 2 door muscle from the big 3 (Mad Max interceptor) but mostly just hot family sedans……..

      Like 1
  5. 433jeff

    Umm I can get a real 66 charger Hemi , A 70 chevelle ls6, and maybe build a Cammer, and still put money in the bank, umm I will have to think about it. Ummm no

    Like 6
    • 8thNote 8thNote

      None of the cars that you listed are nearly as rare, nor do they have the racing pedigree of this Falcon. Aussie muscle cars of this era were far better all around performers than their American couterparts. Bathurst is a road course, which requires a much more agile car than a banked oval or a dragstrip.

      Like 17
      • TC Oztralia

        And to all of the US naysayers on this car all you have to do is watch and LISTEN to one of these on full song around a road course with the bends and dips, etc. and you’ll be convinced it’s the only car for you, you don’t actually hear the sound of these, you feel it and it’s a feeling you’ll never forget. (been there done that, magic stuff)! I’ve seen one of these fighting it out with a full blown race prepared Mach1 Mustang on the race track and it left the Mustang in it’s dust. The Australian government considered only allowing drivers with a special license to own and drive these things when they first came out, not something for the feint hearted.

        Like 1
      • 433 jeff

        Wow very grateful to have been born here in the US. I love the falcon, mostly because of the Mad Max solenoid actuated supercharger. After reading the comments, days later, what stays with me is that this 4 door ford powered by a 351 is equivalent to the our Hemi Cuda!?!There was a super bird outside for the longest time 25 mins from here. I bought my first 70 ss chevelle 1/2 hour in the other direction at the top of the street was a corvette late 50s tires sunk into the ground . An hour away is a 69 trans am the list goes on and on. So I guess I’m just another spoiled American , our 50 states are chuck full of garages sheds lean toos with rare and average muscle cars. Money only comes into the picture for cars, usually because I don’t have enough. But the way I see this 685k falcon days later is, put 1/2 mill in the bank and with the remaining 185 k I can get a nice Hemi for 85 grand 65-71 . And with the remaining 100k for 50 k I can get a Ss454 a clone is fine, and the remaing 50 I will settle for a single 4 bbl 427 ford, Fairlane or comet body. Each one of these cars bringing much more excitement.

        Like 1
      • Stevieg

        I agree with 433Jeff in that I am glad I am in America, where the A merican counterpart would be a fraction of this price. That said, if I had Leno money, I would buy this! Come on lottery, time to pay out!

        Like 0
  6. Dave Rhodes

    need videos ! ! ! ! ! !

    Like 2
    • PeterfromOz

      Go onto YouTube and find a video a few years old where one of the well known US oval course ex-racers now turned race compare is taken for a lap around the Mount Panorama course. He is screaming all the way. He thought he was going for a demonstration ride but the Aussie driver wanted to show him what race speed was like.

      As it is a road course you can drive around it when there is no racing. Even at the designated road speeds of 30mph & 50mph you can’t imagine driving it at race speeds. It has blind corners; a downward s-bend dip and a steep hill. With the blind corner you select a marker before the bend, turn the wheel to the right, accelerator pedal foot flat to floor and hope no one has hit the wall in the bend now in front of you. Next is turn is the same but steering wheel to the left. Also, don’t forget that you have to dodge the occasional kangaroo!

      Like 5
  7. Dickie F

    I like your comment Dave. Please add that you want to see videos that shows the road ahead, and not just the dash and gauges.
    But I digress..
    When I was 17 years old, my cousin had one of these, I doubt it was the Phase 3. But almost identical to this one, in gold, without the sunroof.
    It was fast, yet he had no problem allowing us to borrow it. That showroom exhaust sound, was pure music.
    I would say it was quicker than running a 14 second quarter, but I was smaller then, and everything was bigger.

    Like 4
  8. David Ulrey

    I have never really had a problem with 4dr cars. Still love them actually. I also live 2dr and station wagons. To me, the number of doors does not define most cars. The Australians had some pretty wicked cars that I would be proud to own. They had some blah cars but so did we in the States.

    Like 3
  9. DayDreamBeliever DayDreamBeliever

    500 Miles?

    Nah, 1000 Kilometers.
    Technically, The Bathurst 1,000 is a 1,000.293-kilometre (621.553 mi) Touring Car Race.

    Like 2
    • PeterfromOz

      It was 500 miles then but changed later to 1000km.

      Like 2
  10. angliagt angliagtMember

    I can’t imagine anybody spending $850,000 on a Falcon.
    I think this proves the point that some people have WAY to much
    money to spend on cars.
    If you bought this,what would you do with it?Too nice & way
    too expensive to drive on the street.

    Like 4
    • Steve R

      It’s $895,000 Australian, not USD. They are selling it into their market, not ours. I have friends from Australia, to them this is equivalent to a Hemi Cuda convertible, when it comes to desirability. No other muscle car produces for their market comes even close. Comparing it to a US Falcon does it a disservice.

      Steve R

      Like 7
      • Davr Mazz

        As was already pointed out, $895,000 Aussie is around $$642.000 US dollars. But that’s still a lot of money for all but the richest of car collectors. Steve R. correctly points out that this car priced for, and is being pitched to, the Australian market. Here in the USA I doubt if many weekend car-show buffs would have any idea of this cars history or value, and I doubt of many US collectors would think it’s worth $642,000 US dollars. That said if an American *does* buy it, he can confidently say it’s the priciest Falcon on the block!! :-) :-)

        Like 2
  11. Bathurst 1972

    A tarted up Fairmont. With a crate motor. Over rated new, over priced now. Pass. And it got handed its **** at Bathurst 1972. By a 202 cube six.

    Like 2
    • Davo

      It wasn’t Un-beaten but it did dominate easily, the occasional holden got lucky

      Like 1
  12. TimM

    Crazy money for this car!! I think I would much rather buy a used ford GT and one of the new rear engine corvettes and use the rest of the money to buy a condo in Florida!! Sorry just to much money for a car that has the steering wheel on the wrong side!!!

    Like 0
  13. steve smith

    it’s the pinnacle of ford performance in Australia and as others mentioned was built to suit the racing regulations of the time in Australia
    personally i missed one in Sydney in the late 80’s for what would now be a song but like USA they weren’t that easy to sell back then.

    Like 0
  14. Troy s

    It’s very rare, it’s a true performance car if there ever was one, and yes the entrance fee is extremely high. So what’s new,
    only serious collectors will even make an attempt at it anyway and this Ausies days of roaring down the road Cleveland style or even sitting in a driveway are long gone. Soooooo,,,
    It’s got something korny going on with the spoiler and shaker hood scoop along with the sun roof….it looks tacked on to me. I see it with no sun roof, a Boss 429 style hood scoop the same color as the car, and wide Torque thrust d wheels all four corners. Spoilers I’ve never liked anyways but I get their importance in racing. Oh yeah and straight pipes to let the bored over Cleveland scream bloody all hell,, four doors two doors who really cares when you’re hanging on for mercy! Nice.

    Like 0
  15. Len Burke

    The before mentioned US race talking head was Darrell Walltrip. The Aussie Supercar driver was Jason Bright. Being an Aussie I know what happened.
    The boys figured lets give this Yank the full Monty. I don`t believe it was staged.
    Add to the fact that DW was used have a steering wheel where he was sitting.
    Just google Darrell Waltrip Aussie Supercar ride, it`ll make your day.
    They took off like a brides nightie.

    Like 2
  16. OzyJohn

    Although I’m not a Ford man, I cry every time I think about not taking the opportunity to buy one of these, Electric Blue with Bathurst mags. The price … $5,800.
    Mind you, at the age of 22,
    I probably would have killed myself. 😁

    Like 1
    • Dave Mazz

      OzyJohn, Can I interest you in a time machine I may have stashed away in my barn?? :-) :-)

      Like 0
  17. Rj

    Staged, yes everything that Wall-Drip does is staged, he is the most annoying paint sniffer in nascar. I can’t stand listening to him or his asinine brother Michael. I watched nascar via tv and listened via MRN radio.

    It is rather funny how the glorious GTHO had it’s 9inch rear handed to it by the GM Holden Torana and it’s 3.3 L/202 cubic inch in-line 6 with Peter Perfect behind the wheel.

    Like 1
  18. sw2cam

    ps: Wall-Drip desperately seeks attention no matter what kind of fool he makes himself out to be.

    Like 0

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