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Ford Falcon GTHO car of the week

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    The Phase III GTHO was Australia’s fastest four-door production car, reaching top speeds of around 227km/h. Photo Gallery

Arguably the first real Australian muscle car, the Ford Falcon GT was introduced in 1967 as a variant of the XR range.

It featured a 289 cu in (4.7-litre) Windsor V8 engine that pumped out 225 horsepower (168kW). The engine was sourced from the Ford Mustang - the car that inspired the production of the sporty GT.

The XT Falcon range updated the GT visually and gave it a slightly larger engine, but it wasn’t until 1969 with the XW that Ford got a bit more serious about its performance hero.

In August 1969, Ford introduced the legendary GTHO specification. Built for homologation, it looked almost identical to the GT, but under the bonnet things were different. The ‘HO’ stood for ‘handling option’ but there was more to it than that. The Phase I GTHO used the GT’s now larger 5.8-litre V8, and gained larger Holley carburettors plus other performance tweaks. But it was soon upgraded for the Phase II version, which used a 351 cu in (5.8-litre) Cleveland engine that produced 300hp (224kW).

With the introduction of the Falcon XY model range in 1970 came the Phase III GTHO. The most sought-after of the GTHO cars, the Phase III produced a whopping 385hp (287kW) from its upgraded Cleveland V8. It got bigger Holly carburettors and, again, more performance upgrades. It also received exterior updates like racing stripes, sporty wheels and a plastic front spoiler.

The Phase III GTHO was Australia’s fastest four-door production car, reaching top speeds of around 227km/h. Alan Moffat had great success with the Phase III in the early 1970s, including wins at Bathurst, Oran Park and Phillip Island.

In 1972, the XA Falcon was born and -- as a result of the Falcon not being produced in America anymore -- Ford Australia had a lot more input into Falcon design. Unfortunately, changes to production racing regulations meant that the GTHO was no longer required and production was stopped, but not before four examples were produced. Three of those became race cars and one was sold to a member of the public.

Given their demand and rarity, Phase III GTHOs can now fetch in excess of $600,000 and this has had a flow-on effect to GS and GT Falcons of the same era. In 2007 a mint Phase III sold at auction for $683,650.

 

Comments on this story

Displaying 3 of 10 comments

  • GTHO NOT "world`s fastest 4-door" Big block Mopar 440 cop interceptor was tested for the C.H.P. `69 1/4 & top speed bettered those of the HO, a fully police equipped automatic at that. Also Mercedes 6.3 & Jag V12 4Drs would give the H.O. a hurry up on the autobahn..

    Reality Check of Melbourne Vic. Posted on 16 February 2012 12:46pm
  • To Andrew Watkins: Chrysler's first Australian Production V8 was not the 1965 Valiant AP6 V8 (which used an imported engine) but instead the Australian-unique 1957 Chrysler Royal AP1, which also offered an imported V8 engine. And while I'm at it, let me tell you that Australia's first production V8 car in reality would be a pre-war Ford V8 (circa 1932 or so) constructed in the Ford plant at Geelong in Victoria

    TMB of ACT Posted on 16 December 2009 2:11am
  • Flix Swisse......back then they were the norm in handling braking......not as bad as you make out. So why is it that nowdays the majority of cars that are smashed into poles and trees are Holden Commodores? Shouldnt they handle better than a car from the 1970's? They have killed more people than the GTHO. My mate in the police force calls Commodores "tree magnets" !! Anyway ....why were kids driving a car with so much raw power? Just how many kids would have owned a GTHO? There was not alot of them made.......

    Leigh Harris of Victoria Posted on 10 September 2009 11:59am
  • I think some of you guys may be confusing a GT with a GTHO. They are very differnet animals. It's like comparing an XR6 to a Typoon in modern terms. GTHO easily accounted for any series production Australian built car up until about the time the HDT Commodores arrived on the scene. Valiants dont come any where near the GTHO. Charger E38/E49 Track Packs, yes, may be; Valiants no..lol. News flash! Leo Geohagen wins Bathurst in a AP5..ha...ha! Who cares about safety..lol..you're talking about a 1970's car. GTHO had better primary and secondary safety than almost anything else on the market at the time. Take ESC, ABS and air bags out of modern cars and see how many die!!! As far as prices go post GFC, for a good Phase 1 about $170K, Phase 2 about $250k and Phase3 about $500k. Yes, some sellers, if you can find one, will be making a loss, but thats the way the cookie crumbles. To get into a car that has most of the GTHO cache for not many dollars at all check out the Fairmont GT from South Africa. These are bargains starting at about $35k and Going up to about $80k for an exceptional example. Go on, you know you just want one.

    Kevin of Brisbane Posted on 09 September 2009 6:02pm
  • Chrysler Australia also made the first Australian production V8 in '65 with the 273 being a factory option on ap6's!

    Andrew Watkin of A.C.T Posted on 09 September 2009 10:43am
  • Those Fords handeld? Over powered barges with faulty suspension, inadequate brakes with an indifferent steering.Countless were wrapped around trees and power poles and a lot of "kidds" lost there lives.

    FlixSwisse Posted on 09 September 2009 1:45am
  • We had a lovely white XT that sounded great and you could kick a football inside of [ just about] - BUT dad sold it in 80s *cos it was taking up space in shed* -- for $900 [sigh ...] An ice flow for you dad is looking good right about now if your reading this..

    nathan of Adelaide Posted on 08 September 2009 3:50pm
  • GTHO Phase 3 was fastest 4 door sloon in the world not just Aust. And both the 5 slotters and the 12 slotters were steel not alloys. And if this writer can get $600k+ for a Falcon after the GFC he is better than most salesmen. Journos who try to rewrite history while people who were there at the time are still alive should postpone their career choice.

    Dave of Tasmania Posted on 08 September 2009 1:22pm
  • GT Ford was not first Aussie Musclecar there were many before it. In 1961 Valiant R series had a 225 Slant when Holden only had a 138 and Ford had a 170. Valiants are often over looked until the RT Chargers but there were many tough & fast Vals before 1971.

    Colin Plymouth of NSW Posted on 08 September 2009 1:06pm
  • Loved blowing the doors off 351GTHO's in my modified 1964 AP5 Chrysler Valiant out at Calder Park in the early 70's. GTHO=14.2sec 1320 AP5=14.00 secs (twin 4bbl Holleys, Extractors, EH Holden Pistons, balanced, 225ci Slant Six!) OK so it was modified but still ate them! AND handled better!

    TurboX of www.TurboClub.com.au Posted on 07 September 2009 5:13pm
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