XW Ford Falcon GTHO Phase 1 (1969-70)

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Vehicle Overview

The XW Ford Falcon GT-HO or Phase I, as it has come to be known, was built to race. In 1967, two years before the release of the Phase I, Ford produced the XR GT, its first high-performance model Falcon. The XR GT would take multiple race victories at Bathurst with GT drivers taking first and second place that year. The Ford Falcons victory prompted GM-Holden and Chrysler, Ford’s biggest competitors in the Australian market, to respond with their own performance model vehicles. The GT set the standard for what was to come in Australian car production and the competition to build ever more powerful production cars was on.

The Falcon GTs biggest rival at the time was the Holden Monaro. Following defeat at the Hardie-Ferodo 500 in 1968 due to a string of technical issues, Ford was determined not to leave anything to chance in the coming 1969 race season. Not content with the high performance GT model, Ford decided to create an even higher output race-ready model. This began the development of the GT-HO, the HO being short for handling option. The original meaning of HO was in fact high output, but in an effort to evade the additional insurance costs related to high output cars, it was decided that handling option would be a better choice.

The Phase I was a modified version of the XW Falcon GT built by Ford’s special vehicles operation, headed by drag-racing guru Al Turner. It was a homologation special, which means that to enter it in production series races, it must first be produced in a certain quantity and made available to the public. The car had to be raced in its stock form to compete in production car races. The Phase I, like its Phase II successor, was built on the XW Falcon sedan body.

The first 260 units of the Phase I to be produced were fitted with a 5.8L Windsor (351cu) V8 engine. They had some modifications over the stock GT models, including a Holley 600cfm four-barrel carburettor, instead of the 450cfm stock unit, larger capacity fuel tank, improved brakes and beefed-up suspension. A second batch of 115 units were fitted with a 5.8L Cleveland (351 cu) engine. These have come to be known as the Phase 1.5 models.

When asked in an interview if the Phase I was a car specially built to win at Bathurst, Al Turner said, “We (at Ford) consider it a normal progression in what we term a performance vehicle.” In 1969, there were 14 Phase I GT-HOs entered in the Hardie Ferodo 500 at Bathurst with three from the Ford Works factory team. Many considered that their closest competition was from the Holden Monaro GTS models entered by the Holden Dealer Team. Although the Fords were considered favourites to win, it wasn’t an overwhelming success due to tyre problems and technical difficulties during the race. The Ford team’s highest placing GT-HO driven by Canadian Allan Moffat took fourth place. However, a privately entered Phase I driven by Bruce McPhee and Barry Mullholland took second place. A GT-HO Phase I driven by Allan Moffat would take victory at Sandown in October of the same year.

The GT HO Phase I was the first of three GT-HO models to see production by Ford Australia. The Phase I had the longest production run of the three GT-HO models but surviving examples are rare. This makes the car increasingly collectible, with examples in good condition often selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Between June 1969 and June 1970, Ford Australia produced only 375 units of the GT-HO Phase I before it was replaced with the Phase II model.