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Booming nostalgia

With recent auction prices exceeding $200,000, long-time owners are discovering their purchase many years ago, and for a much lower price, was a worthy investment. And of the models that made their mark in Bathurst in this era, the most valuable today is probably the Ford GTHO Phase III.

Car enthusiast Angelo Sarigiannis is one lucky owner who has seen the value of his car shoot through the roof. He bought his GTHO Phase III 11 years ago for $42,000.

Sarigiannis is now knocking back offers as high as $500,000. And there's one thing stopping him taking up the offers.

"My kids won't let me sell it," he says.

Sarigiannis doesn't take his Ford out very often, but when he does his four sons, all aged under 12, love to go for a spin with dad.

And while it may be worth a lot of money, Sarigiannis says it's not the most comfortable car to drive — far from it.

"There's no airconditioning, it's heavy on the steering, the clutch is heavy, it doesn't stop well, it doesn't corner well but I wouldn't swap it for the world," he says with great pride.

"You can't compare it to the new Commodores and Falcons, it's a different feeling of driving it. But you expect that. That's why you only drive them three or four times a year."

Owning a valuable muscle car also means extra security precautions. As Sarigiannis says, you have to "lock it down".

"It's not at my house. Where it's kept, I make sure no one's following me, it's locked up, with bolts and screws and an alarm and bits of the motor are pulled out so it doesn't start," he says. "It's worth it, people will try to pinch it if they can."

According to the Ford fanatic, the reason these vehicles have become so highly sought after is their limited numbers. Sarigiannis says they built 300 Ford GTHO Phase III's in 1971 and there are probably only 120 to 130 left. His model is standard without any modifications, just as it was built more than 30 years ago. And he gets plenty of attention when he drags it out, mainly on club runs.

"Every time I take it out to a show, to the Shannons day and All Ford Day, I get offers, or people call with an offer," he says.

"Every year, it's going up. Five years ago, it was worth $100,000 and that was a big thing. Year after year, it's going up because they're rare these days, collectors are into them."

When first released, the Ford GTHO Phase III cost $5300. Now, as the cashed-up baby boomers reclaim the muscle cars of their youth, they fetch between $250,000 and $350,000 at auctions, sometimes even more.

Sarigiannis says the publicity the cars are given also adds to the hype and ridiculous figures people will pay for a piece of history.

Sarigiannis has another GT Falcon, a 1969 model. It has increased in value from the $18,000 he paid for it 15 months ago, to the $50,000 it is now worth. Other GTs, Mustangs and what he calls your "average family cars" have also parked in his garage.

Sarigiannis says it's great to be able to call these classic models your own. But he offers some worthy advice to anyone considering jumping onboard the muscle car trend.

"Definitely get someone to verify it's a GT and hasn't been rebodied," he says, listing the GT Club as a possibility. "They're very expensive to get now, these cars. But if they like it, they're definitely not going to lose investment wise, it's good."