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Ford Falcon GTHO car of the week

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.