2019 GT NATS

THE CARS WERE THE STARS AT THE 9TH FALCON GT NATIONALS HELD IN ADELAIDE DURING THE EASTER BREAK

WORDS DAVE CAREY

Easter in Adelaide heralded the rumbling of Windsor and Cleveland V8s, with just a dash of Boss thrown in for good measure, as the city played host to the 18th Falcon GT Nationals. Cars attended from across the country to celebrate 50 years of Phase Falcons, represented by big-dollar restos, freakishly clean survivors and rough-and-ready workhorses. It was an amazing display of Australian automotive history, all under cover at the Adelaide Showgrounds.

Those expecting a Diamond White-wash of primped and preened trailer queens were sorely disappointed; sure, a GT Nationals contains plenty of that, but the number of vehicles that proudly displayed histories in dirt was astounding.

Ford collector Parry Bitsikas was only ever going to have cars fitting the former; his RPO83 sedan took out Best Original Restored XA, while his RPO83 coupe landed Runner Up in Original Unrestored XA. At the opposite end of the spectrum stood KAG003; the beaten-but-not-broken XT Falcon GT that achieved a laudable sixth outright in the 1968 London to Sydney Marathon.

Similarly, the Phase III Odyssey boys drove a pair of the irreplaceable supercars anticlockwise from Melbourne to Adelaide, raising money for a trio of charities along the way. David Frake and Leo Khouri displayed their GTHOs with 16,953km worth of Aussie dirt and bugs intact, along with their swags, kit bags and tools required for their epic adventure.

Although David and Leo got to drive their cars every day for over a month, it was the Willunga Hillclimb where the big Falcons were able to properly clear their throats and bellow. Despite some wet spots on the track, the Hillclimb was devoid of incident, with 1967 Bathurst winner Fred Gibsonís beaming smile almost outshining the cars. ďThese guys are sprinting to the top of the mountain on a closed road, then driving back down the main highway for another run,Ē he said with enthusiasm.

ďThis would never happen in Victoria.Ē

With the biennial event set to run on the Gold Coast in 2021, it will be another decade before it lobs back into SA, regardless, the 2019 event will certainly be remembered as a highlight in the Nationalsí 18-year history.

It's mineÖPERRY BITSIKAS 1973 FORD RPO83 SEDAN & COUPE

MY FRIEND Guy Shepherd bought the black four-door from Narrogin, WA where it had been sitting under a tarp for years. It was stripped with all the bits sitting in hubcaps in his open shed. That owner had it since 1982 and it had been sprayed yellow since before he bought it.

I bought it off Guy and did a full, nut-and-bolt restoration; I worked full-time for two years on this car. Thereís not one aftermarket bit in it, everything is newold stock. Even the tyres I display it on are original 1973 Olympic Reflexes. The Onyx Black-with-black-vinyl-roof manual is a one-of-one combination; it came without any blackouts, except around the doors and bootlid. Someone must have ordered this combination especially.

The yellow coupe is another level again above a regular RPO83 as it was ordered by drag racer Des Leonard with some extras such as 31-spline axles. He was open to racing at Bathurst but pulled out. Because of this, the car was spared a hard life; itís won four GT Nationals in a row for Best Unrestored.

The roof and one quarter panel have been painted and itís had the blackouts re-done, but overall, itís had less than 30 per cent new paint; I know because Iíve had it checked with paint depth meters. Oh, the other thing that spins me out about this car; factory power steering. Itís just another thing that makes it unique. I love unrestored cars and I love this car. (Ed: look for an upcoming feature.)

ďREPRESENTED BY BIG-DOLLAR RESTOS, FREAKISHLY CLEAN SURVIVORS AND ROUGH-AND-READY WORKHORSESĒ

It's mineÖBENNY GRYLLAKIS 1973 FORD XA FALCON GT

THIS CAR is the 10th-to-last off the production line before the XB came out and is one of three built in this combination; Wild Violet with saddle trim. Itís a Melbourne-built car but was delivered new to New Zealand and returned to Australia in 2007.

I bought it from the family of the late Mick Filmer who took great care of it, as you can see. Iíve also got photos of the car when it was in New Zealand; it always had the bump strips down the sides and the aerial in the right-hand guard was dealer-fitted. Strangely, it seems that in 1970s New Zealand, dealers always installed aerials on the right-hand side on any car, regardless of the factory-fitted position.

The president of the NZ Falcon GT club is here today, so Iíve passed the details of the car on to him. Iíve got original rego number, photographs and the NZ Warrant of Fitness, but I cannot find who actually owned the car. It would be nice to know who ordered it originally; it may go some way to explaining why itís survived in such good condition.

Believe it or not, itís an original, unrestored car; itís had minor repairs over the years, but the interior has never, ever been touched. Itís just clocked over 66,000 miles. My mate Jim and I drove it from Sydney, dodging dust storms and waving to a few emus on the way! (Ed: look for more owner profiles next issue.)