Bathurst Co­bra hiss-teria

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle maniac -

With

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.

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