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

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.

    • 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!

    • EoinDS Eoin Member

      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.

  2. jimbunte jimbunte Member

    love this car.

  3. stillrunners lawrence Member

    wow….like !

  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.

    • 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

      • Adam T45 Staff

        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!

      • Hamish Gunn

        My uncle sold his 63 3.8 Jag (4 door ) for an Australian assembled Austin Cooper S with the twin tanks but had wind down windows in 65 . The speedometer showed 120mph , the needle stuck on it !
        My Grandfather was furious . I was 9 !

    • 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.

    • Adam T45 Staff

      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.

      Like 1
      • Brakeservo

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

    • 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.

      Like 1
  5. Adam T45 Staff

    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.

    • 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

  6. Phinias

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

    • Adam T45 Staff

      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.

  7. Danny

    Bathurst is on this weekend.

  8. Wayne

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

  9. Woodie Man

    Mad Max

  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!

    • 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!!

  11. Solosolo KEN TILLY Member

    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.

  12. Solosolo KEN TILLY Member

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

  13. Solosolo KEN TILLY Member

    Nice Mill

    • Brakeservo

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

      • Tricky

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

  14. Pa Tina

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

    • LAB3

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

      • Adam T45 Staff

        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.

      • Alan (Michigan) Member

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

  15. cudaman

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

    • Adam T45 Staff

      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.

      • 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.

      • Adam T45 Staff

        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!).

  16. Derek

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

  17. Sam

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

  18. supernova72

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

    • Pa Tina

      Six-speed?

  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.

  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.

  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.

    • Tricky

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

      • Kiwi Cortina

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

  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.

  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!

    • 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.

      • 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!

  24. ACZ

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

  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.

  26. Peter Boyle

    gib!!

  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.

  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.

    • 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.

  29. Pa Tina

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

    • Alan (Michigan) Member

      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.

  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.

  31. Car Nut Tacoma

    Sweet looking car. If I lived in Australia or New Zealand, this looks like a car I could buy and enjoy. I’m not interested in racing. I’d buy a standard production car, either an XY Falcon Futura, a Falcon 500, or a Fairmont.

    • Tony Oz

      Car Nut, Google XB GS Falcon, that’s one fine model of car with a few improvements over the run of the mill Falcons, it was one model down from the GT Falcon in that year, although a six it also came with the Cleveland V8, take your pick. I had one and it was no slouch, mine was maroon with a bone vinyl top and the ever important gold GS stripe along the side. Pity they all rusted badly in the doors and rear roof pillars.

      Like 1
      • Car Nut Tacoma

        The only problem I’d have is that the speedometer had been converted from MPH to km/h. If the speedometer showed both, I might be able to drive the car.

        Like 1
      • Car Nut Tacoma

        I know that rust can be a problem for cars of the 1970s. My stepdad had a 1978 Toyota Hilux truck back in the 80s. By the time he was done driving the truck, its body was rusted to the point where it was barely recognisable as a truck.

  32. Solosolo ken tillyUK Member

    @Car Nut Tacoma. So easy. A kilometre is 1.609 miles, so in round figures,
    30 mph = 50 kph. 40 mph = 65 kph. 50 mph = 80 kph. 60 mph = 100 kph.
    70 mph = 120 kph. 80 mph = 130 kph. 90 mph = 145 kph and 100 mph = 160 kph. If you are in a country that uses kilometres and you see a speed sign of 80 kph, just multiply the 80 mph x 6 and it equals 48 mph which is near enough 50 mph. If you think that’s difficult you should try working out your mpg when you have to buy fuel in litres, but your speedo is in miles here in UK.

    • Car Nut Tacoma

      All the cars sold in the United States (USA) have speedometers that read MPH, but they also read in smaller numbers km/h or kilometres.

      • TC Oztralia

        When I’m out in my 1962 Imperial keeping a check on my speed is a constant mathematical excersize, the speedo being in MPH and all the road signs in KPH. After a while you start to get a rough idea of the zone you’re in by keeping pace with the other traffic, but only the bunches of cars, not the odd one who is passing everything else. As far as left hand drive goes in a rhd country, try passing a semi when you can’t see what’s coming towards you, a passenger in the front right hand seat really helps, they are your eyes and you need to trust their judgement when to overtake or not. If they’re the careful timid type you’re in deep doo doo. Another problem is paying at the parking garage or the McDonalds drive thru, you’re on the wrong side of the bloody car!

        Like 1
  33. Brakeservo

    I have driven RHD in USA for nearly 35 years. I don’t have any of those problems – I think ahead. Passing trucks is no problem – if you stay back far enough to see around, you also have enough room to accelerate!

    Like 1
    • Solosolo ken tilly UK Member

      At last Brakeservo. Somebody other than me that has no problem driving with the steering wheel on the “wrong” side of the car for the country they are driving in. I used to do that when driving my Mustang on the back roads of South Africa. Hang back and when the road ahead is clear, floor it! Simples, as they say here in UK.

      Like 2
      • Brakeservo

        As I’ve said, for over 35 years I have sought out RHD cars here in USA even for my daily driver, and a number of times have encountered people who say “Oh, I could never drive that” so I want to say “Well then you shouldn’t drive LHD either because apart from having a passenger seat to your left, RHD is the same as LHD.” It has also surprised me that so many people assume that the arrangement of the pedals is reversed too! Then finally, there are those who proclaim that they could never shift gears with their left hand, but if you can scratch your . . . um, nose with your left hand, you can change gears too!

        Like 2
      • Todd Fitch Staff

        I’ve driven both, and agree the shifting happens automatically. I must admit to flipping the wipers on instead of turn signals occasionally, usually on day one of switching. I have never driven RHD on the right or LHD on the left. As a fan of twisty two-lane roads I don’t relish a driving position toward the edge of the road rather than near the middle. You’re giving up the site line around a corner, that extra half-second when someone is backing onto the road or a truck may be stopped dead waiting to turn. This is a physical limitation you cannot overcome with practice, something that demands a lower speed to achieve the same safety margin.

        Like 1
  34. Car Nut Tacoma

    I’ve never had an opportunity to drive a right-hand drive car. I’ve ridden as a passenger in several. Whilst my parents and I were visiting the UK, we stayed at a family member’s home. Whilst touring England, I got to sit in the front seat next to the driver during part of the drive. It felt weird at first, sitting where I normally would be driving, and I kept reaching where the steering wheel would normally be. It’s a good thing I wasn’t driving.

    • Brakeservo

      Yes, in my experience, it’s a greater adjustment to be a passenger, rather than a driver, when going from LHD to RHD (or vice-versa).

      Like 2
      • TC Australia

        You’re right Brakeservo, the passenger has all of the traffic coming straight at them and they can’t do a thing about it, you see it all the time on cruise nights, the passenger is leaning towards the driver in LHD cars, it’s called ‘the left hand lean’.

  35. Car Nut Tacoma

    I’ve seen RHD cars here in the USA before. They’re used by the US Postal Service (USPS). When I first moved from Kirkland Washington where I grew up to Gig Harbor Washington where I live now, I would see RHD Subaru Legacy (Liberty in Australia).

    Like 1
    • Brakeservo

      There are lots of RHD Bentleys and Rolls-Royces running around your part of Washington – I’ve bought and sold more than a few of them.

      Like 2
  36. Car Nut Tacoma

    I’ve seen my share over the years. As attractive as I find some of them, I don’t see myself driving one, never mind purchasing one.

    Like 1
    • B.J.

      AAAH Car Nut, go on you know you want to, time to start living life on the edge, try it you might like it!

      Like 1
      • Car Nut Tacoma

        I’d love to if I knew someone who had one.

  37. TC Australia

    Todd, when driving a LHD in a RHD country you stay as close to the left hand edge of the road as you can then you have plenty of clearance on the right, most times in the country there’s a white line on the left hand edge or small white posts, if you keep taking the posts out you’re over a bit too far, been there, done that, in old Studebaker and Rio Army trucks in the 60’s, they were left over in Oz after WW2.

  38. PeterfromOz

    Look at some car museums that have veteran cars (prior to 1918) and you find many of the US cars were RHD. For some reason, there was a change to LHD.

    • Brakeservo

      RHD was also common in Europe with high end cars, even for a number of years after WWII. The high end French cars such as Bugatti, Talbot Lago, Delahaye were all RHD, as were nearly all early Ferrari. Generally the classic early post war Alfa and Lancia were also RHD even though Italy, like France drove on the right side of the road as does USA. The cheap and ordinary Citroen, Simca and Fiat cars were LHD. No whining or fussing by the rich about their elite RHD cars in a LHD world.

      In Japan, a RHD country, most new Rolls-Royce and Bentleys are LHD because of the owner’s desire to stand out amongst the ordinary people’s RHD cars.

      I drive RHD in USA because I am totally deaf on my right side – I want to keep my passengers to my left so I can here them.

      I have had RHD Aston-Martin, Austin, Bentley, Citroen, Ferrari, Ford, Jaguar, Cobra, MG, Mercedes, Morris, Riley and Rolls-Royce cars in America with no problems driving them here.

      Drive up windows for banks and McDonald’s no problem – watch the incompetent and lazy people driving their LHD cars through a typical drive-through – they will be on the left side of their car yet so far away from the cashier that the person has to really stretch far to reach the customer’s open car window. I pull up close in my RHD car and am closer for service.

      Like 1

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