The Gunston Phase III
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.