XY Ford Falcon GTHO Phase 3 (1971)
Ford Australia released the Phase 3 XY GT-HO Falcon in May of 1971. The car was built for homologation and consequently a very limited number of units were actually produced and sold. The Confederation of Australian motorsport rules at the time dictated that a production run of at least 200 cars was required to enter vehicles in Manufacturers Championship races, such as the Hardie-Ferodo-500. This essentially kick started the Australian supercar boom with a few manufacturers building street-legal and track-ready, high-performance race cars.
The major Australian car makers of the time, GM-Holden, Chrysler and Ford were in a constant battle for dominance, on the race track and in the showroom. Success on the race track was a key marketing tool for all three companies and considered paramount to achieving higher sales. Ford built just enough cars for homologation and sold them at only a fraction more than their stock GT counterparts. This is why the production run of the Phase-III GT-HO was so low with only 300 units compared with the standard GT model’s total units of 5,000.
At the time of its release, the Phase-III was considered the fastest production four-door car in the world, with automotive reviewers claiming it an instant classic. The GT-HO Phase-III has since been referred to as Australia’s greatest muscle car, and over the years its collectibility and market value certainly supports this. Surviving examples when brought to auction have been known to sell for upwards of $500,000 AUD. Even with such great reviews and popularity, this would be the last GT-HO Falcon model to make it to market. Its successor, the XA Falcon Phase-IV GT-HO was designed and brought to the testing phase, but its development was scrapped by Ford Australia due to the supercar scare of 1972, which brought about a great deal of negative publicity.
Based on the XY GT model, the Phase-III GT-HO looked almost identical to the GT, except for the addition of a rear spoiler. There were however heavy modifications under the bonnet.
Almost all major internals of the 351 cu Cleveland engine fitted to the standard XY GT were upgraded for higher performance in the Phase-III. It had a more stress resistant Mustang camshaft with a larger vibration damper, as well as bearing upgrades. There were cooling modifications also with a heavy-duty 3 core radiator and baffled sump, as well as a modified filter to reduce air temperature. For an extra $250 on top of the original price of $5,250 for the Phase-III, Ford offered a quality control option on the already super high-spec Cleveland 351 engine. The QC option meant that for a little extra money, the engine was almost entirely hand-built and this offered a race-ready engine straight from the factory.
The Phase-III was fitted with a rev-limiter, keeping engine speeds at a controlled maximum of 6,150 rpm though the engines were capable of 7,500 rpm with the limiter disabled. The modified 351s fitted in the GT-HO had significantly increased power over the standard GT model, with Ford stating official performance figures of 300 bhp. However estimates suggest they were actually somewhere closer to the 350bhp-380bhp range. This was a move by Ford to ensure the cars were insurable.
The Phase-III had a four-speed toploading transmission and wider rear brakes than the GT and additional heavier anti-roll bars to counter the oversteer. The shaker-style scoop protruding through the bonnet, whilst not functional, is a unique feature of the GT and GT-HO.
Ford Australia built 300 XY GT-HO Phase-III’s between May and November 1971. Many of them haven’t survived the half-century since leaving the factory and It is thought that there are less than 100 original examples left. Because of its scarcity, the Phase-III GT-HO has become one of the most collectible, not to mention most valuable vehicles within Australia.