Phase 6:

Wayne Draper's HO Legacy

Australian Muscle Car - - Front Page -

The pass­ing of Wayne Draper in 2012 was the loss of one of Aus­tralia’s great au­to­mo­tive de­sign­ers. While you might think the story of such a char­ac­ter would be of end­less hours scrib­bling de­signs and sculpt­ing clay, Draper’s story is of a man ob­sessed by his pas­sion. He broke the rules and risked his ca­reer to pre­serve an era of mus­cle cars that would have oth­er­wise been lost.

In his later years Draper would be hit by a string of tragedies and chal­lenges, but dur­ing his early time at Ford he took his luck and wasn’t afraid to risk it all.

Straight out of school Draper stud­ied in­dus­trial de­sign at RMIT Mel­bourne with a tal­ent for de­sign and a love of cars. His men­tor en­cour­aged him to ap­ply at Ford, and although he was knocked back at first, Draper put in an­other year of study and was of­fered a role as a ju­nior de­signer the fol­low­ing year.

The de­sign depart­ment at Ford when Draper started in 1970 was bo­hemian and all rules were off the ta­ble.

“The thing dur­ing that golden era of de­sign in Aus­tralia is that they were all cow­boys,” says Rob Draper, who has con­tin­ued the legacy of HO Phase Au­tos since his father’s death. “They could do what they like, it was chaos equals creativ­ity… they were loose and they would have these wild ideas and it was a real cre­ative hub. Dad would come home with all sorts of dif­fer­ent cars; he would say he wanted this en­gine with this and this paint and later that week he would have it.

“Dad was crazy about cars; he al­ways was,” says Rob, pic­tured sec­ond from right on pre­vi­ous page. “He had a Dat­sun rally car and loved driv­ing it hard, but even in the work cars he’d take home he was on the limit all the time.”

His daily com­mute to work with fel­low de­signer Peter Ar­cadi­pane was in twin black XB Fal­con GT 427 coupes. “When we were both a cou­ple of very young de­sign­ers at Ford we got up to a lot of mis­chief,” says Ar­cadi­pane. “We used to blast through the up­per north­ern sub­urbs at full trot and time our­selves. Al­ways try­ing to outdo the other. But we never hit or wrecked any­thing.

“One day the in­evitable hap­pened. Straight out of the clas­sic road movie The Van­ish­ing Point, the po­lice put up a road­block on Syd­ney Road, up near Ford. They had ob­vi­ously been get­ting nu­mer­ous com­plaints about these two ma­ni­acs in their evil devil-ma­chines! They were wait­ing for us one morn­ing ‘guns raised’. As Lady Luck would have it, we had to stop for fuel and our friend who worked there in­formed us that some­thing was up.

“We got in our Mad Max ma­chines and very gen­tly bur­bled up to work, ex­actly on the speed limit. We got a lot of an­gry and frus­trated looks from the boys in blue. But they could do noth­ing.”

Some of Draper’s great­est luck came when he took the then Ford boss Ge­off Po­lites’ LTD for a spin. Draper rolled the car eight times!

He es­caped un­scathed and promptly trot­ted out to or­der Po­lites an­other one.

When you ask any­one who knew Draper to tell you about him you get the im­pres­sion he was a man without fear. It was an at­tribute that would pro­vide him the au­dac­ity to con­tinue the HO name after Ford dropped it in face of the su­per­car scare of 1972.

Draper joined Ford as a de­signer when the GT-HO Phase II was in the lat­ter stages of its de­vel­op­ment and it was the old mus­cle cars like it that Draper most had an affin­ity for.

Left: Wayne Draper (in skivvy) fear­lessly used Ford’s fa­cil­i­ties to press ahead with de­signs the com­pany’s head hon­chos would never ap­prove – or, at one stage, ap­prove of. Bot­tom left: Draper sur­veys the re­sults of a very dif­fer­ent re-de­sign ex­er­cise.

When Ford axed pro­duc­tion of the GT-HO Phase IV in 1972 and sub­se­quently with­drew from rac­ing, Draper’s cre­ative en­er­gies were just get­ting into gear. For a petrol­head like him it was hard to stand by and see the dy­namic, per­for­mancedrive­n car com­pany slowly de­cline into a cardi­gan­wear­ing maker.

When the XD model was in de­vel­op­ment in the mid to late 1970s, he penned a ver­sion he called a ‘Phase 5’. Not only did Draper find a way to bring this de­sign to life, as a sec­ondary man­u­fac­turer, he did so while help­ing get XD Fal­cons onto the race­track, de­spite Ford Aus­tralia’s top brass flatly re­fus­ing to ho­molo­gate a rac­ing ver­sion of the model, as out­lined in AMC #50.

The sub­se­quent Phase cars after the GTHO Phase IV are a po­lar­is­ing point for some en­thu­si­asts, who dis­miss the cars as they’re not fac­tory-built Ford pro­duc­tion ve­hi­cles. But for many blue­bloods these ma­chines – and Draper’s de­signs gen­er­ally – are laced with the Blue Oval’s own DNA as he ac­tu­ally worked there. They are con­sid­ered ve­hi­cles that Ford should have pro­duced. And if it weren’t for Draper and some

others, the re­al­i­sa­tion of the orig­i­nal XD Phase 5 and XE Phase 6 de­signs would have been buried un­der a pile of E se­ries Fal­con draw­ings.

“Even though Ford weren’t chang­ing their mind [about not mar­ket­ing per­for­mance cars like the GT-HO],” Rob Draper con­tin­ues, “there was one de­signer there who thought, ‘Stuff it, I’ll do it on my own.’ And the guys there and on the scene – Dad, (au­to­mo­tive fi­bre­glass sup­plier) Bob McWil­liam and Mur­ray Carter – did it without Ford and they made sure these cars, in some form, got on the race­track and road.”

This is a ref­er­ence to the clan­des­tine ef­forts of Wayne Draper and other Broad­mead­ows in­sid­ers in help­ing Ford pri­va­teers in­clud­ing his mate Mur­ray Carter ho­molo­gate the XD and XE model rac­ing Fal­cons of the late Group C tour­ing car era. What Carter and Garry Willm­ing­ton started, Dick John­son took to a whole new level, win­ning three Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onships in four years, as well as the 1981 Bathurst 1000.

“So, in a way, the spirit of the fans who worked within Ford is in these [Phase 5 and 6] cars,” Rob Draper con­tin­ues. “To me they are bet­ter than a pro­duc­tion Fal­con, be­cause Ford didn’t care and these guys did. They are pure en­thu­si­ast cars.”

Ford dropped its trade­mark for the HO (Ho­molo­gated Op­tions, the orig­i­nal mean­ing of HO) after can­celling Phase IV pro­duc­tion and Draper was canny enough to pick it up. He sub­se­quently started Phase Au­tos with Bob McWil­liam, at first de­sign­ing spoil­ers for the XA, XB and XC Fal­con tour­ing cars. The dilemma for Wayne Draper was keep­ing his side busi­ness a se­cret from Ford, a chal­lenge when Draper was us­ing Ford’s mod­el­ling clay, test­ing Phase 5 pro­to­types in its wind tun­nel and get­ting Mur­ray Carter to test the cars without Ford’s knowl­edge.

In 2010 Wayne Draper told AMC the fol­low­ing: “Bob and I es­tab­lished a new com­pany ‘Phase Au­tos Pty Ltd’. We were equal part­ners in the busi­ness, but I had to re­main a silent part­ner if I wanted to keep my job at Ford.

“The idea was that Phase Au­tos would de­sign and man­u­fac­ture the (CAMS) ap­proved bodyk­its for the XD race­cars and pro­duce the min­i­mum num­ber of road cars needed for ho­molo­ga­tion, which I think was 25 units.”

Not that a full 25 com­plete cars rolled out of Phase Au­tos in the tra­di­tional sense. Some com­plete cars were pro­duced, but many were sim­ply kits sold to in­di­vid­u­als or Ford deal­ers for fit­ment. In any case, near enough was good enough for a govern­ing body des­per­ate for the new Fal­con to hit the track.

“I think we just had to show a gen­uine in­tent to build them. It was all smoke and mir­rors,” Wayne Draper told AMC for is­sue #50.

Son Rob is to­day im­mensely proud of his father’s ef­forts to find a way for­ward and pres­son even when Ford’s head hon­chos cot­toned on to Wayne’s in­volve­ment.

Ul­ti­mately, John­son and the other Fal­con rac­ers were gen­er­at­ing pos­i­tive press for the XD range and Ford’s cor­po­rate aver­sion to the rac­ing pro­gram dis­si­pated.

“Ford did even­tu­ally catch wind of it,” Rob says. “As I un­der­stand it, a mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tive at Ford named Rick Jarvis con­vinced man­age­ment that what was go­ing on was a way to still be in­volved in mo­tor­sport without them hav­ing to do any­thing or pay for any­thing.”

It’s been dif­fi­cult for Rob Draper to piece to­gether de­tails of Phase 5 and 6 road car pro­duc­tion and where the cars were sold. This is due to poor, pa­per-based 1980s-style record­keep­ing, the loss of sur­viv­ing records in re­cent years and the pass­ing of both orig­i­nal part­ners. Com­ing up with a to­tal num­ber is tricky also due to the fact that some left the work­shop as com­plete cars, while others were sold as kits. It’s also pos­si­ble that no two cars pro­duced were the same.

“I’m told Phase Au­tos did an early run of cars and shipped them to deal­ers,” Rob Draper says. “Pub­lic­ity in mag­a­zines and the XD’s suc­cess on the race­track con­trib­uted to peo­ple walk­ing into Ford deal­er­ships and want­ing to or­der them. Some cus­tomers wanted the big­ger guards and some peo­ple didn’t. That’s why all the cars pro­duced are slightly dif­fer­ent. Cus­tomers had an op­tions list. There was never an ar­range­ment with spe­cific deal­er­ships.”

One knowl­edge­able en­thu­si­ast told AMC that the to­tal num­ber of cars pro­duced in the 1980s was around the 30-mark, com­pris­ing ap­prox­i­mately 26 XD-based Phase 5s and as few as four XE Phase 6s. The small num­bers high­light how that this was very much a part-time side­line busi­ness for both part­ners.

Rob says there’s a steady flow of own­ers com­ing out of the wood­work claim­ing to have an

orig­i­nal Phase 5 or 6, and while there wasn’t any stamp­ing, there are a few par­tic­u­lar al­ter­ations McWil­liam made to the Phase cars that makes iden­ti­fi­ca­tion easy.

Through the 1980s, as the E se­ries of Fal­cons were re­leased, Draper moved away from de­sign­ing Phase ve­hi­cles and fo­cused on reach­ing his goal of be­com­ing Ford Aus­tralia’s chief de­signer. The op­por­tu­nity never came at Ford, and it was a bit­ter­ness Draper held onto, but he did get the op­por­tu­nity at Nis­san in 1991. Then, three years later Nis­san closed down lo­cal op­er­a­tions and Wayne went on to teach de­sign at RMIT, while con­tract­ing one-off projects through the HO Phase Au­tos name.

Bob McWil­liam and Draper even­tu­ally parted ways. McWil­liam was keen to ex­pand in other di­rec­tions, such as boats and car­a­vans, but Draper had big­ger ideas for HO Phase Au­tos.

“Bob wasn’t as keen to think as big as Dad was. Or so I’m told by a few past em­ploy­ees. I know the last de­sign Dad did as part­ner to Bob was the po­lice divvy van in the early to mid1990s,” says Rob.

In 2008 Draper re­lo­cated Phase Au­tos to Strath Creek, 90 min­utes drive north from Mel­bourne’s CBD. He con­tin­ued de­vel­op­ing de­signs for HO and met Deni­son Phillips, who took on the task of pro­duc­ing and fit­ting the body­work for cus­tomers un­der the Phase Au­tos name. The busi­ness was just start­ing to build mo­men­tum when tragedy struck in Fe­bru­ary 2009. When the Black Satur­day bush­fires, that claimed 173 lives in re­gional Vic­to­ria, ripped through the small town, Phase Au­tos’ work­shop was com­pletely de­stroyed.

Phillips re­mem­bers the loss well, not just for

HO Phase Au­tos but also for all its cus­tomers who had lost cars.

“There were a lot of up­set cus­tomers and most of the cars were unin­sured. We’re still deal­ing with peo­ple who blame us for their loss, but then there are some peo­ple who re­ally helped. We had peo­ple do­nat­ing cars and money to help get ev­ery­thing back up, it’s amaz­ing how help­ful peo­ple can be and it shows the pas­sion and sup­port for the cars we build. I’d re­ally like to thank those peo­ple,” Phillips says.

It was a hard time for Phillips and Wayne Draper and they had to re­boot the busi­ness in a shed on a prop­erty Phillip’s mother owned in the same re­gion.

Loss of the work­shop paled into in­signif­i­cance when in the same year Wayne Draper was di­ag­nosed with can­cer. But it didn’t stop him. He con­tin­ued to de­velop Phase de­signs and was more de­ter­mined than ever to see the com­ple­tion of his ul­ti­mate cre­ation, an XE Phase 6 Se­ries II – a mod­ern build of his eight­ies cre­ation.

The base for the car was a sil­ver-coloured 1982 Ford Fair­mont XE. As the orig­i­nal Phase 6 moulds had been lost in the fire, Phillips de­vel­oped a new mould with Draper that was re­designed slightly and one-piece – ba­si­cally an im­proved ver­sion for the Se­ries II.

“We have cus­tomers now who give us a car and say ‘do ev­ery­thing’, but we also get peo­ple who don’t have that sort of money but have al­ways wanted a Phase. Be­ing able to DIY and use some parts of our kits makes it a re­al­ity for them and that’s what keeps the spirit of these cars alive.”

As Draper’s can­cer be­came more ag­gres­sive, Phillips and a small team of fam­ily and friends worked around the clock to get the car ready in time for Vic­to­ria’s All Ford Day in early 2012. While the XE Phase 6 wasn’t run­ning, it was pre­sentable and had its first out­ing, gar­ner­ing much at­ten­tion from Blue Oval fans. Draper then pushed Phillips to fin­ish the car and have it run­ning, be­cause he be­lieved there was noth­ing more im­por­tant than for a car to be run­ning.

“Dad al­ways said that cars are alive,” Rob con­tin­ues. “They’re like an an­i­mal and peo­ple re­act to things that are alive. He said the car has to have a heart; it’s its pulse. The thump of that V8 en­gine is the heart­beat.”

It took an ex­tra­or­di­nary ef­fort, but Draper had many friends and Blue Power Rac­ing De­vel­op­ments were able to get the en­gine run­ning in just a few days.

The en­gine it­self is a re­built 351ci Cleve­land with a 650 Hol­ley and elec­tronic ig­ni­tion. The sound­track is rich and am­pli­fied via 4-2-1 ex­trac­tors and a three-inch stain­less steel ex­haust. Power is con­trolled via a T5 gear­box through an 8¾-inch dif­fer­en­tial.

Wayne Draper de­signed the orig­i­nal XE Fal­con range for Ford Aus­tralia and ini­tially spec­i­fied door trims and side mir­rors that, due to bud­get con­straints, were pushed back un­til the XF model’s re­lease. He was fi­nally able to get these on the Phase 6 Se­ries II that came to life in 2012.

While a beauty to see and hear when driv­ing, in re­al­ity this par­tic­u­lar car is re­stricted to ap­pear­ing at car shows – the im­prac­ti­cal­ity of its 18-inch 335/30 rear and 265/35 front Pirelli P-Zero tyres means they are just a fin­ger width away from the be­spoke Phase 6 wheel-arch flares.

Out in day­light for the AMC shoot the car feels as alive as Draper in­tended, and its PPG red paint with 17.5 per cent flu­oro pig­ment mix has a bril­liant lus­tre un­der full light.

“We were on dis­play in­side a build­ing for three days at our last car show,” says David Wyles, Draper’s step-son and owner of the XE Phase 6 Se­ries II ‘demon­stra­tor’ shown here. “On the last day of the show we wheeled it out­side and ev­ery­one was ask­ing if it was the same car – the paint comes alive in the day­light.”

Wayne was too ill to drive the re­al­i­sa­tion of his dream, but Rob, Phillips and Wyles took the car around the back of the house where Draper was bedrid­den so he could see the pin­na­cle of his HO Phase Au­tos legacy.

Phillips, who is cur­rently build­ing a sim­i­lar Phase 6 for a client, says that even in his fi­nal days Draper was re­lent­less in his de­sire for hav­ing

Dad al­ways said that cars are alive. They’re like an an­i­mal and peo­ple re­act to things that are alive. He said the car has to have a heart; it’s its pulse. The thump of that V8 en­gine is the heart­beat.

the Phase 6 project com­pleted.

“I went around to see him for the last time,” Phillips re­calls, “and he opened his eyes and all he said to me was ‘Just get that car fin­ished.’”

Although Wyles, who helped Draper in the work­shop when he was younger, isn’t as in­volved with the busi­ness now, Rob Draper and Deni­son Phillips have taken the reins.

“I look after HO and a lot of the busi­ness side of things,” Rob ex­plains, “while Denno man­ages Phase Au­tos and work­ing with clients to build their cars.”

A se­ri­ous car ac­ci­dent last year has left Rob Draper bat­tling in­juries but he’s de­ter­mined to con­tinue his father’s legacy.

“There are plans for some one-off Phase cars based on newer Fal­cons, but we’re still at the pro­posal stage, for the mo­ment were do­ing a lot of the early Phase kits.

“Although busi­ness has been grow­ing, I was in a bad car ac­ci­dent 18 months ago and it has just been an­other set­back to deal with, but we’re get­ting there now and I’m do­ing much bet­ter than the early days.

“When I bought the car (that was in the crash) Dad said it was so well de­signed, and that it would save my life one day… and he was right.”

For the mo­ment Phase Au­tos is based in Broad­ford, although as it expands and takes on more clients there are plans to re­lo­cate again. The cur­rent project tak­ing up most of Phillips’ time is a com­plete re­build of a red XE Phase 6. It’s one of the big­gest projects to date.

“There’s not one part of this car that won’t be re­fur­bished or new,” says Phillips, pic­tured third from right on the open­ing page of this story. “The in­te­rior was in great con­di­tion, but even that is be­ing com­pletely re­placed to fac­tory, it’s a huge job, but it just shows how much pas­sion and en­thu­si­asm there is for these cars and how much peo­ple are willing to spend to have the car they’ve dreamed of. They’re a spe­cial car to a lot of peo­ple, the Phases.”

The lat­est project com­ing to re­al­ity at HO Phase Auto is on the ex­treme side of what can be done. Draper’s Phase de­signs lives on through the en­thu­si­asts, no mat­ter if they want a com­plete re­built or a DIY kit. In other words, the ap­proach in the 1980s – i.e. low-run, com­plete build or sup­ply of kits – is still the go to­day.

The op­er­a­tion has brought half-a-dozen XE Phase 6s to life in the last three years, plus two XD Phase 5s. A fur­ther 30-odd kits have found cus­tomers in a sim­i­lar pe­riod.

“We do pro­vide dif­fer­ent ser­vices,” Phillips says, “and although we can look after a com­plete build, we get a lot of cus­tomers who want to do most of it them­selves. The only dif­fer­ence between a 100 per cent DIY kit and hav­ing us fit it is that we will pro­vide a com­pli­ance plate if we do it our­selves. It’s just that we know it will be done to the ex­act spec­i­fi­ca­tions. But we’re happy to pro­vide a cer­tifi­cate of au­then­tic­ity with kits.”

It’s by no means a big op­er­a­tion and the cars will never be fac­tory Ford ve­hi­cles, but they do fill a gap in the Blue Oval’s sto­ried mus­cle car his­tory. The rein­car­nated Phase ma­chines only ex­ist to­day due to de­mand from en­thu­si­asts and a lot of hard work from the young guys quoted in this story.

“Dad had a lot of road­blocks put in front of him, but he worked tire­lessly to cre­ate his dream. The Phase cars live on through the en­thu­si­asts that share his pas­sion.”

Above: Al­lan Moffat ul­ti­mately raced RX7s against the XE Falcons, but Wayne Draper worked on a con­cept to keep him in Fords. Be­low: HO Phase Au­tos’ work­shop was de­stroyed in the Fe­bru­ary 2009 bush­fires, but it’s since risen from the ashes.

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