$1M BABIES!

THE FORD THAT MADE A MILLION - GT-HO VALUES ACROSS THE AGES

WORDS * CLIFF CHAMBERS * GUY ALLEN *

For most of Australia’s automotive enthusiasts, GT-HO Phase III Falcons are unobtainable and irrelevant. Even if buyers find a legitimate car, the money required has risen beyond the means of almost everyone. If money isn’t an issue then practicality might be. What appeal does a car hold when no longer be driven in the way its designers intended and needs an armed guard whenever there’s a need to park the thing?

However, every time a gavel clunks down and the auctioneers cry of ‘sooolllddd’ rings out across the turret of a Phase III, eyes and ears whirl in the direction of that Cleveland rumble.

GT-HOs are the canary in Australia’s classic-car coalmine. When they are high on the perch and chirping all tends to be right with the rest of the market. However the moment one ‘drops off the twig’ as it were, gloom settles, hands remain clamped over wallets and ‘Passed In’ becomes a common result for enthusiast car sales the length and breadth of the land.

When Australia’s fastest Ford was new there was no shortage of potential buyers. While a Phase III at $5250 wasn’t within the scope of everyone’s budget it still cost $500 less than a 1.7-litre Alfa GTV.

With limited numbers of cars being built and strict allocations between Head Office and dealers there were more than a few heated exchanges over availability. Talk at the time that XW HOs were being sold only to people who held competition licences was just that. However some prominent drivers certainly were heading up the queue of hopeful GT-HO owners.

Among them was Bruce McPhee, who had won the 1968 Bathurst 500 in a Monaro but couldn’t get support from Holden to run an HT in 1969. With help from Newcastle-based Kloster Ford, he found his way into a Phase I HO; finishing second and splitting the Monaros of Colin Bond and Peter Brock.

Identifying a genuine GT-HO is a specialised task. It demands very specific knowledge and an element of intuition because not all ‘100 per cent genuine’ GT-HOs are as portrayed.

So many people and internet sites can now describe in such detail the components, numbers and identifying marks that denote a ‘real’ car that the process of producing a virtually undetectable replica has become frighteningly simple.

Flipping to the other side of that same coin it must be emphasised that sneaking a ‘ringer’ into the GT-HO community would also be almost impossible. Every car known to survive has been photographed, documented and to some degree had its provenance tested. One organisation has even established a comprehensive GT and GT-HO data-base and for a fee will supply history for any car a buyer might contemplate.

TOTAL BUILT 375

1969 XW GT-HO PHASE I

“THE 1970S AND 1980S SAW THEM SOLD FOR LITTLE MORE THAN A GT”

The Phase III was not the first Falcon to come to market wearing spoilers, a big carb and with its boot crammed full of fuel tank. The first GT-HO was derived from the XW GT and set just one task; to win the annual Bathurst 500 race for Series Production cars.

Finishing second didn’t count and lack of competition success did influence the Phase I’s survival prospects.

Combined production of 1969 and 1970 (Phase 1.5) cars made them the most commonplace of GT-HOs, however the 1970s and 1980s saw them sold for little more than the price of a standard GT and treated with scant regard for increasing scarcity. Cars that had been written off in crashes or recovered after being stolen could often expect to end their existence on a local speedway.

Values during the 2006-08 price boom peaked at $250-300,000 but the cost of an average car was considerably less. Phase Is offered for sale during 2017 showed values holding steady in the vicinity of $250,000 however that could be set to change for the better.

PHASE I THE FACTS

AS IS OFTEN the case with iconic muscle cars, the development path was anything but straight and narrow. For example, one of the options Ford toyed with, when it was looking for a high-performance successor to the XR GT, was a two-door American market Falcon body. A mockup, possibly with a 427 under the bonnet, was displayed at the 1969 Melbourne Motor Show. Meanwhile an Australian car was air-freighted to Dearborn and fitted with a 428 CobraJet powerplant (plus some Mustang-inspired components, such as the ‘shaker’), and returned here, ending up in the hands Ford Australia exec Bill Bourke.

In the end, the company opted for a warmed-up version of the Windsor 351, for the first ‘Handling Option’ of the GT.

Thanks to owner George Papadopoulos for the use of the car.

1969 FORD XW FALCON PHASE I

ENGINE Windsor 5894cc pushrod V8

POWER 224kW @ 5400rpm

TORQUE 515Nm @ 3400rpm

GEARBOX 4-speed all synchro or 3-speed auto

BRAKES Discs (f), drum (r)

SUSPENSION Independant coil springs(f), live axle, leaf springs (r)

PERFORMANCE 0-100km/h – 6.4sec Top Speed – 220km/h

TOTAL BUILT 287

1970 XW GT-HO PHASE II

“BUYER RELUCTANCE TO SPEND UP BIG ON A PHASE II WAS INEXPLICABLE”

Acknowledged even by owners as the least tractable of the ‘Phase’ Falcons, it’s reasonable to guess that Phase IIs bought as regular transport didn’t fulfill that role for very long.

They did boast a decent competition pedigree though, being the first 351-engined Fords to record consistent race wins and a Bathurst victory. Those achievements alone plus their status as the least common of the XW-XY HOs should have exerted a greater influence on value and sent them considerably closer to Phase III money. Buyer reluctance until quite recently to spend up big on a Phase II is inexplicable.

Then came 2017 and two reported sales of exceptional cars in unique colours. Both sold at or above $500,000 which sets a new but not indelible benchmark for cars in superior condition. Those of lesser quality will still sell at $150-180,000 less.

PHASE II THE FACTS

BY THE TIME the Phase II rolled into production, the HO series had already been through two iterations: the Phase I with the Windsor engine, and the ‘Phase I.5’ with a Cleveland. There were however significant differences between a 1.5 and II cars and their Cleveland powerplants. For the Phase II, Ford opted for a giant 750cfm Holley carburettor, twin ignition points, solid lifters, stronger conrods - it’s a long list of upgrades. Matched to that was a comprehensive strengthening of the driveline, all the way through to the diff. Brakes too were upgraded, while the entire chassis was reviewed. Ford’s power claims for this and its successor were modest, but it was clear the Phase II was a more race-oriented piece of kit than its predecessor. Thanks to musclecarsales.com.au

vital state

1970 FORD XW FALCON PHASE II

ENGINE Cleveland 5752cc pushrod V8

POWER 225kW+ @ 5400rpm

TORQUE 515Nm @ 3400rpm

GEARBOX 4-speed all synchro or 3-speed auto

BRAKES Discs (f), drum (r)

SUSPENSION Independant coil springs(f), live axle, leaf springs (r)

PERFORMANCE 0-100km/h – 6.4sec Top Speed – 220km/h 69 TradeUniqueCars.com.au

TOTAL BUILT 300

1971 XY GT-HO PHASE III

Whatever the reason, GT-HO Phase IIIs have always captivated Aussie car enthusiasts. Values by 1980 had doubled but it wasn’t until the late 1980s that prices of $70,000 were being confirmed and $100,000 believed possible.

By 2008 when the generalised jitters took control of the market, GT-HO values had become seriously large. $750,000 was paid in a private sale and $683,000 at auction and one hopeful individual was keen for his car to become the first to crack the $1 million barrier.

In favour of owning a Phase III is scarcity. Only 300 were made, and fewer than half that number of authentic cars are thought to survive. Every car that comes into the market will be known and documented and there are people who can meticulously inspect a prospective purchase to ensure all of the unique and significant Phase III components remain in place.

Sales during the past few years have been sparse and values below expectations. A recent hammer price of $1,030,000 will almost certainly change that. During 2017 there were sales that were recorded at around $500,000, with nothing to suggest the market was ready to more than double its best previous offer.

So why did one GT-HO reset the record books? Was it really twice as good as those that had gone before it?

In truth probably not, but this car’s appeal was heightened by extreme authenticity and celebrity ownership. Not to mention some very effective marketing that ensured anyone not buried under a road would have been aware of the auction house’s expectations.

Now a new benchmark has been set and the door is open to cars of equal and perhaps greater appeal.

(1985 & 1990 Values From 'Making Money From Collectable Cars' Marque Publishing Company, 1995-2017 Values From the Unique Cars Value Guide & Unique Cars Muscle Car Guide)

PHASE III THE FACTS

BY NOW THE gloves were truly off when it came to the showroom muscle car sales battle, and the all-important annual showdown at Mount Panorama. Ford knew it had to up the ante from the previous year and it succeeded. While the company was coy about the actual power output (300hp was still claimed, but it was more like 350-plus), there was no question it was chasing more performance. The stock carb had gone up to 780cfm, cam profiles were more extreme, while brakes and handling were a major focus. And it did the job, with Phase IIIs taking the top three places. Of course there was a successor – the XAbased Phase IV, but that project was stillborn, with just one proof-ofproduction car built (still around) and three racers. Thanks to musclecarsales.com.au

Vital stats

1971 FORD XY FALCON PHASE III

ENGINE Cleveland 5763cc pushrod V8

POWER 260kW @ 5400rpm

TORQUE 515Nm @ 3400rpm

GEARBOX 4-speed all synchro or 3-speed auto

BRAKES Discs (f), drum (r)

SUSPENSION Independant coil springs(f), live axle, leaf springs (r)

PERFORMANCE 0-100km/h – 6.4sec Top Speed – 230km/h