The Gun­ston Phase III

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle Maniac -

Last is­sue’s fo­cus on the South Africanassem­bled Fair­mont GTs brought to our at­ten­tion a cou­ple of GT-HOs that headed to the Dark Con­ti­nent when brand new. Ac­cord­ing to the Fair­mont GT Reg­is­ter, two new Aus­tralian-built and com­pli­anced XY Ford Fal­con GT-HO Phase IIIs made their way to South Africa in 1971. One, a Monza Green ex­am­ple, was soon de­stroyed in a mo­tor ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dent, while the other long ago re­turned to Aus­tralia and sur­vives to­day.

This Raw Orange painted Phase III rolled off Broad­mead­ows’ pro­duc­tion line in June 1971 with black trim, a sun­roof and a 240km/h speedome­ter in­stead of the stan­dard 140mph type. It had ‘For Ex­port’ marked on its wind­screen as it was sent to Ford South­ern Africa for sales and mar­ket­ing direc­tor, Dennis Smith. He chose Raw Orange as it re­sem­bled the Gun­ston cig­a­rette-backed Fords that had long been part of the lo­cal rac­ing scene. Here’s where this story takes a dra­matic twist. In­cred­i­bly, Dennis Smith was found mur­dered in Port El­iz­a­beth while the Phase III was en-route by ves­sel to the Repub­lic of South Africa…

Upon ar­rival it be­came the com­pany car of Spence Ster­ling, Ford’s lo­cal prod­uct en­gi­neer­ing direc­tor. Ster­ling handed it back a few months later as he found it too dif­fi­cult to drive in traf­fic. He did, how­ever, help a mate of his, An­drew Cave, be­come the car’s first pri­vate owner when Ford off­loaded the car for the less than princely sum of R4600 (about A$1000 at that time).

Cave used the car for quar­ter mile sprints (pic­tured below), a task for which the ve­hi­cle was far more suit­able than ev­ery­day driv­ing. He also raced it at the sea­side East Lon­don cir­cuit.

After about a year Cave sold the car to a used car­yard and it was pur­chased by Jack Mey­ers, who re­tained it un­til 1980. At that point it was pur­chased by its fi­nal South African owner, Arthur Fotiu of Cape Town. Fotiu says he saved the car from be­ing used in stock car rac­ing - which likely would have been the end of it for this unique Phase III.

Fotiu cleaned it up and joined a band of own­ers who dubbed them­selves the ‘Aus­tralian V8 Own­ers Club’ and who of­ten hit the high­way to­gether. Along with the GT-HO, there was a Holden Monaro GTS, a pair of Chev SSs, two XY Utes (badged Rancheros) and a Fair­mont GT.

Fotiu ad­ver­tised the car for sale in the mid ‘80s in Road and Track mag­a­zine. A keeneyed Aus­tralian, John Smith, saw the ad and pur­chased the car and thus, after 15 years on a con­ti­nent some 10,000km away it re­turned by ship to Aus­tralia. Not re­turn­ing with the Phase III was its orig­i­nal en­gine, which had parted com­pany from the Raw Orange XY early in its life.

Vic­to­rian Smith held onto the car for 14 years, us­ing it spar­ingly, be­fore it was sold to South Aus­tralian Jack Darzanos, who pieced to­gether much of the his­tory out­lined here. The car’s last change of own­er­ship oc­curred in 2004 when it was pur­chased by GT col­lec­tor Joe Barca. Joe has owned 15 Phase IIIs over the years.

Barca bought the car at the height of the mus­cle car boom, a time when many Fair­mont GTs were ar­riv­ing in Aus­tralia. One such Fair­mont GT that lobbed here in the ‘noughties’ (pic­tured on the flatbed truck) fea­tured a spe­cial GT-HO pow­er­plant and, to cut a long story short, Joe ul­ti­mately pur­chased this match­ing num­bers en­gine. So after some 35 years apart the en­gine was back in its right­ful place – pow­er­ing the Gun­ston Phase III.

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