Bathurst Cobra hiss-teria
the number of surviving ‘Bathurst Special’ 351ci XC Falcon Cobras lower than a snake’s belly, hardtop enthusiasts stand up, forked tongues wagging, when a genuine example is advertised for sale. Such was the case when Rhett Polley put car 031 on the market in January – an ‘option 97’ Cobra that he’d owned since 1984.
It had been parked in the same spot in his carport since 1998.
The South Australian came to the realisation last year that, for reasons including his health, his long-planned restoration of the Cobra just wasn’t going to happen. So he popped it on the market with an asking price of $120,000 and couldn’t believe the response.
“I truly am surprised at the interest shown. I must have had over 50 inquiries. Some were people who had a Cobra who just wanted to talk to someone else who had one. Lots of stories of people searching for a Cobra like the one their Dad had. It has been an eye-opening experience for me.
“I agreed to have people come and inspect it. One person flew in from Melbourne and another purchaser from Perth organised some expert from Adelaide to verify that the car was genuine. Someone else offered me the asking price sight unseen after talking to me on the phone. Having agreed to let people come and inspect it, I was not prepared to accept any offers until after they had seen the car. I did not expect all of them to be willing to pay my asking price. So I wanted to make the best choice at getting the car a good home, where it would be used and cared for.
“I then had people offering me more than my asking price – I had 3 offers for $125,000 – but that did not feel right to me.
“Anyway, I spoke to all three people who offered me my price and tried to work out who I thought would cherish, use and enjoy the vehicle. I made a decision to offer it to a gentleman from Perth and I hope that it is a good decision.”
As AMC closed for press, the purchaser was sorting his finance with pick-up just days away.
When Rhett outlines his ownership history, it’s easy to understand his desire to see the car go to the best possible home.
“The car is number 031 – the last of the ‘Bathurst Specials’,” he tells us. “The car is as I bought it used from a Ford Dealer in Mildura in 1984. The previous owner had put a Holley 750 on it and some minor cosmetic things. All the numbers on all parts still match up.
“I first saw my Cobra when it was advertised in the Saturday paper at a Ford dealership up at Mount Barker in South Australia. I raced up there to buy it but it had already been sold when I got there. In January 1984 I happened to be driving past the Ford dealership in Mildura, just when they were first putting it up on a raised stand.
“I went back in my lunch break to discover it was the same car I had missed out on in 1978. So I bought it during my lunch hour and could not believe my luck.”
Rhett sent us shots (above) from his Cobra’s heyday, taken at Marino, SA circa 1986.
“They bring back more than a few memories,” he says today. “There were not too many places where you could let the car stretch out its legs to 170mph! It used to get a fair amount of attention from the police even when I was being good.”
Thirty of the 400 XC Cobras – JG65UM00002 to JG65UM000031 – were built as Bathurst 1978 homologation specials. These 5.8-litre Option 97 cars had a number of modifications to suspension and cooling over the other 370 5.8 and 4.9-litre cars, intended to provide more reliability for the rigours of racing. See AMC issue #8 and the Cobra and XB GT special magazine (the latter is available as a back issue from mymagazines.com.au).
Less than half of the 30 Bathurst Specials are believed to live on today, hence the hiss-teria when Rhett placed his advertisement.