Australian Muscle Car

A new Phase in rac­ing

- Story: Steve Nor­moyle Im­ages: Ray Berghouse, Chevron Archive, Pro­ject Pic­to­ri­als Sports · Cars · Windsor · Melbourne · Goodyear · Holden Monaro · Championship · Chevrolet Camaro · Chrysler · Simca · Surfers Paradise · Holden Dealer Team · Peter Brock · Australia · American Motors Corporation · Allan Moffat · Plymouth Valiant · Simca Aronde · John French · VF · William Clay Ford, Jr.

The Fal­con GT-HO Phase II didn’t have a long com­pe­ti­tion ca­reer but while it was on track it en­joyed plenty of suc­cess - and it avenged Ford for the Bathurst em­bar­rass­ment of ‘69

Ex­ter­nally, the XW Fal­con GT-HO Phase II is al­most in­dis­tin­guish­able from the orig­i­nal GT-HO model. The only vis­ual dif­fer­ence is in the wheels: the orig­i­nal model’s 14 x 6-inch wheels had 12 slots, the Phase II’s are ve-slot. But un­der the skin a lot had changed. The up­grades were sub­stan­tial, many of them a di­rect re­sponse to the orig­i­nal GT-HO’s hu­mil­i­at­ing fail­ure at Bathurst the pre­vi­ous year.

Of course, the big ticket change was the switch from the Wind­sor 351 V8 to the Cleve­land ver­sion – although this had noth­ing to do with what had hap­pened on the Moun­tain in ’69. The Cleve­land en­gine had been a part of Al Turner’s vi­sion for the GT-HO se­ries right from the start – be­fore the Amer­i­can had even ar­rived in Mel­bourne in late ’68 to take over Ford’s down un­der mo­tor­sport op­er­a­tions. It was only the slow mov­ing wheels of the Ford sys­tem that pre­vented the orig­i­nal XW GT-HO from be­ing Cleve­land pow­ered.

The other big one was the rear axle. Gone was the ‘trac­tion-lock’ clutch-type lim­ited slip diff, re­placed by new, stronger rear axle assem­bly with new 31-spline axles (Phase I had 28-spline), a ‘Day­tona’ diff cen­tre and, im­por­tantly, an op­tional Detroit Locker.

It was the old trac­tion-lock lim­ited slip diff that had proven the GT-HO’s Achilles Heel at Bathurst in ’69. Un­der race con­di­tions, the diffs loos­ened up to the point where they even­tu­ally stopped work­ing, leav­ing the GTHO driv­ers help­less against ex­ces­sive, tyre-smok­ing wheel­spin. It was a par­tic­u­lar prob­lem up through Griffins’ Bend, where the right rear was un­loaded un­der heavy power for a lengthy spell. It was too much for the spe­cial soft com­pound Goodyear rac­ing tyres Turner had cho­sen, with two of the three works cars suf­fer­ing right rear tyre fail­ures.

That kind of thing wasn’t go­ing to hap­pen with a Detroit Locker, although cop­ing with that diff’s ag­gres­sive lock­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic pre­sented Phase II driv­ers with an en­tirely new chal­lenge. Some liked the ‘locker,’ oth­ers hated it.

The Top Loader gear­box was up­graded with a longer ex­ten­sion hous­ing, which al­lowed for a shorter tail­shaft in the in­ter­ests of re­duc­ing tail­shaft ‘whip’ at high speed. The tail­shaft it­self was also thicker. Of more signi cance, though, were the new close ra­tio gear set. The heavy dual plate clutch and high 2.32:1 rst gear might have meant the Phase II was a bit of a don­key around town in gen­eral traf­fic, but on the track (and es­pe­cially on the Moun­tain) the close ra­tio ‘box made it a real thor­ough­bred per­former.

The Phase II had big­ger front and rear roll bars, longer front springs with in­creased rate, and the slightly stiffer driver’s side spring now tted to the pas­sen­ger side.

In all, a sub­stan­tially im­proved car that ad­dressed all of the orig­i­nal GT-HO’s main short­com­ings (ex­cept the brakes, which apart from nned rear drums were un­changed), cou­pled with an all-new, more pow­er­ful Cleve­land V8 en­gine.

Any V8 Monaro of­fer­ing from Holden was go­ing to nd it tough match­ing that – ex­cept that there was no V8 Holden that year. Holden had dra­mat­i­cally changed tack with its rac­ing ef­fort, es­chew­ing the big coupe de­spite its huge run of suc­cess, and opt­ing in­stead for a smaller, lighter, six-cylin­der pow­ered Bathurst chal­lenger in the LC model To­rana GTR XU-1.

So all that stood in the way of Ford’s po­tent new race ho­molo­ga­tion 5.8-litre V8 Fal­cons on the track were ‘mere’ six-cylin­der ma­chines. On pa­per, in Se­ries Pro­duc­tion rac­ing from Au­gust and on­wards into the en­durance races, the new GT-HO looked set to clean up. The re­al­ity, though, was far from as sim­ple as that.

The Fal­con XW GT-HO Phase II boasted sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ments over the orig­i­nal XW GT-HO. But that only in­creased the pres­sure on Ford to de­liver at Bathurst, given how spec­tac­u­larly the GT-HO had failed the year be­fore. Mak­ing the stakes even higher in 1970 was the fact that were the new Ford to go down at Bathurst again, this time it would have been de­feated by a six-cylin­der op­po­nent.

Bat­tle of the Big Three

The pe­riod from mid-1970 to the end of 1972 re­ally was a won­der­ful time in our tour­ing car rac­ing his­tory. In the Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship it was the peak of the heavy metal mus­cle car era: leg­endary ma­chines like Bob Jane’s Ca­maro, the Al­lan Mof­fat and Ian Geoghe­gan Mus­tangs (and the fac­tory-built ‘Su­per Fal­cons’), and Norm Beechey’s Monaro. But at the same time in the Se­ries Pro­duc­tion ranks, there was the emerg­ing bat­tle of the ‘Big Three’: Ford, Holden and Chrysler all striv­ing for suc­cess at Bathurst, with three very dif­fer­ent ma­chin­ery of­fer­ings.

The new model GT-HO made its race de­but at Oran Park on Au­gust 9, lit­er­ally days af­ter it went on sale. Pos­si­bly the req­ui­site ho­molo­ga­tion pa­per­work for the Phase II hadn’t been com­pleted by then, be­cause rather than run in the Se­ries Pro­duc­tion Toby Lee Se­ries round (won by Fred Gib­son’s Phase I), Mike Gore en­tered his new Phase II in the Divi­sion Two Sports Sedan races. It was not an aus­pi­cious de­but: in the main Div 2 race (inset left), Gore was ght­ing for the lead with a Valiant-en­gined Simca Aronde when the new Fal­con’s en­gine blew.

It was left to John French to notch up the new model’s rst race win, at Surfers Par­adise on Au­gust 30 with a pri­va­teer Phase II en­tered by lo­cal Ford dealer, McCluskey Ford. In a fairly thin eld, French won both races on the day, de­feat­ing John Har­vey in Bob Jane’s HT Monaro GTS 350 on each oc­ca­sion.

Just as Mike Gore had given the Phase II a low key de­but, so it was for the new LC model To­rana GTR XU-1, with George Geis­berts

nish­ing an al­most un­no­ticed third at Surfers in his brand new XU-1. But a week later the true na­ture of Holden’s dra­matic de­tour into six-cylin­der ter­ri­tory would be re­vealed as Harry Firth un­leashed the Holden Dealer Team’s rst XU-1 at War­wick Farm. There were no top line Phase IIs present, but aboard the new To­rana Colin Bond did man­age to ac­count for all of V8 op­po­si­tion put in front of him.

What was clear from that War­wick Farm meet­ing was that the new Phase II was go­ing to need to live up to its per­for­mance ex­pec­ta­tion if it was to counter this smaller, more nim­ble Holden. While sheer grunt was on the side of the Fal­con with the new Cleve­land 351 en­gine, the big, heavy Ford was no match for the To­rana un­der brakes or through the cor­ners – and the V8’s thirst meant more fuel stops than the Holden over the 500 miles at Bathurst.

The new Chrysler Pacer, too, loomed as some kind of threat. The VG model Pacer up­grade was a much dif­fer­ent propo­si­tion from the toe-in-the­wa­ter ex­er­cise that the orig­i­nal VF Pacer had been. Gone was the old 225-cu­bic inch ‘Slant’ six in favour of the big­ger, bet­ter and more pow­er­ful

245 Hemi, which came in two and four­bar­rel car­bu­ret­tored ver­sions. That made the Pac­ers con­tenders in classes C as well as D, but ei­ther ver­sion was also a po­ten­tial out­right chance.

The Sandown Three-Hour was the rst (and only) time the ‘Big Three’ would square off, all at full force, be­fore the Bathurst race. The fac­tory Ford team had a trio of new Phase IIs for Al­lan Mof­fat, Bruce McPhee and Fred Gib­son/Barry Se­ton. The HDT had new XU-1s for Colin Bond and Peter Brock; Chrysler had 4BBL Pac­ers for Norm Beechey, Des West and Leo Geoghe­gan, with Doug Chivas and Gra­ham Ryan shar­ing Geoghe­gan’s 2BBL – which proved quicker in qual­i­fy­ing than the four-bar­rel Pac­ers.

The Chivas/Ryan Valiant looked about on a par with the pace of the HDT XU-1s, but that was no great claim to fame given that Mof­fat’s pole lap was nearly ve sec­onds quicker!

And that told the story, with Mof­fat win­ning the

Sandown race at a can­ter, lap­ping the en­tire eld. Bond’s XU-1 was sec­ond and Beechey was third, but if the To­ranas found it tough go­ing match­ing the new Fal­con’s speed, the Pac­ers were in even more strife. On the sur­face of the Sandown re­sult, a GT-HO Phase II white­wash at Bathurst looked a mere for­mal­ity.

And yet… some wor­ry­ing cracks were show­ing in the Ford ar­moury.

Mof­fat’s was the only one of the fac­tory cars to com­plete the three hours with­out drama. Gib­son/Se­ton placed sixth, six laps down, but McPhee had a par­tic­u­larly fraught run into a dis­tant 10th place. Early in the race the har­monic bal­ancer ei­ther failed or failed to re­main at­tached to the Cleve­land 351, the re­sult­ing shrap­nel blast not only dam­ag­ing the car’s body­work but also hol­ing the ra­di­a­tor of Gra­ham Rit­ter’s Phase II which had been close be­hind at the time, and which re­tired as a con­se­quence.

If the new Phase II had shown it­self to be some­what less than bul­let­proof at Sandown, how would it fare around the much tougher Mount Panorama cir­cuit, in a race twice the dis­tance of Sandown’s?

On the sur­face of the Sandown re­sult, a GT-HO Phase II white­wash at Bathurst looked a mere for­mal­ity. And yet… some wor­ry­ing cracks were show­ing in the Ford ar­moury.

Bathurst

Head­ing into the Great Race there was some dis­quiet among the pri­va­teer Phase II run­ners. The chat amongst some was that the Cleve­land en­gine’s 10.7:1 com­pres­sion ra­tio was too high for the avail­able fuel in Aus­tralia. There was cer­tainly con­cern over the en­gine’s lu­bri­ca­tion sys­tem, with Rac­ing

Car News re­port­ing that at least three new GT-HOs ran bear­ings in the week or two prior to the Sandown en­duro. The Hans Thol­strup/ Bill Ford Phase II blew its en­gine on the drive up to Bathurst!

Some also weren’t im­pressed that while the Phase II had more power and han­dled bet­ter than the orig­i­nal GT-HO model, the brakes had been largely left un­changed. Brakes were an is­sue for some at Sandown just as they would also be at Bathurst.

As for the en­gine dra­mas, ac­cord­ing to Al Turner they’d all been ad­dressed by the works team – and the in­for­ma­tion had been duly passed on to the pri­va­teer Phase II en­trants. As he ex­plained in AMC #52, the is­sue was mainly to do with in­ter­nal clear­ances in the en­gine:

“What we (Ford Spe­cial Ve­hi­cles) found was that [with the Cleve­land] ev­ery­body was in­creas­ing bear­ing clear­ances, pis­ton clear­ances and all the rest of it but we’d al­ready worked out that that was the wrong way to go. The way we solved it was by go­ing the other way and de­creas­ing clear­ances ev­ery­where. We tight­ened ev­ery­thing up and we gave those guys [pri­vate Phase II en­trants] the ex­act same di­men­sions we were us­ing.

“We also tried to im­prove the sur­face nish on the cranks. The prob­lem with those crankshaft­s was that they were nodu­lar (iron) cranks and when they’d get re­ally hot you’d end up with these lit­tle barbs stick­ing up on the bear­ing sur­faces. That would chew out a set of bear­ings in no time and that was a big prob­lem for some of those guys, too.

“The main prob­lem there was that be­cause of the prob­lems they’d [the pri­va­teers] been hav­ing with the Cleve­land en­gine early in the piece, they all went off, took their en­gines apart and did their own lit­tle things to them.

“We sup­plied them with ev­ery­thing they needed; it was in Ford’s best in­ter­ests to do that be­cause we didn’t want to see any of our cars stopped on the side of the track, but if they chose not to fol­low our in­struc­tions then I couldn’t help that. It’s like that old say­ing - you can lead a horse to wa­ter, but you can’t make it drink!”

There were two signi cant changes to the Bathurst race for 1970. One was the ditch­ing of the old three-two-three grid in favour of rows of two. The other was the re­lax­ing of the twodriver re­quire­ment: en­trants were free to drive the race solo, should they wish. Mof­fat took this op­tion, as did McPhee, the ser­vices of Barry ‘one-lap’ Mul­hol­land thus longer be­ing re­quired. But Gib­son and Se­ton would share the third works car – mak­ing it their third Bathurst in a row to­gether in a fac­tory Fal­con.

De­spite ques­tions over the Phase II’s dura­bil­ity, Ford went to Bathurst as the hot favourite. With 14 GT-HOs en­tered (plus an­other two listed as re­serves), it surely was go­ing to take a cat­a­strophic at­tri­tion rate to pre­vent a Ford

win. Not that num­bers were com­pletely on their side, as the XU-1 eet was 12-strong, with the Pac­ers half that num­ber.

Mof­fat took pole to lead a Ford works team one-two-three in qual­i­fy­ing (sadly, the ax­ing of the three-two-three grid for 1970 de­nied us the pow­er­ful spec­ta­cle of the three works Phase IIs lin­ing up on the front row).

The two HDT To­ranas (Bond driv­ing solo and Brock paired in the other car with Bob Mor­ris) and pri­va­teer Don Hol­land XU-1 were the only non-GT-HOs in the top 10 on grid. And the best of them, Bond, was the best part of ve sec­onds slower than Mof­fat.

Be­hind the scenes, though, things didn’t look any­where near that com­fort­able for Ford, though. Mof­fat’s car had lunched its en­gine in the rst qual­i­fy­ing ses­sion af­ter a dis­trib­u­tor drive fail­ure, ne­ces­si­tat­ing an en­gine change. And it was far from the only Phase II to suf­fer pre-race drama. Tony Roberts’ en­gine failed on Satur­day and had to be re­placed, while John Goss had to re­build his overnight. The Bob Beasley/Bob Muir car was over­heat­ing, David McKay’s car was mis ring. The Trevor Mee­han/Peter Wher­rett car was run­ning out of brakes.

The Great Race has seen some amaz­ing open­ing laps over the years. Of course, what­ever tran­spired in 1970 was never go­ing to top the Sky­line wipe­out of the pre­vi­ous year, but we did see some­thing you don’t see ev­ery day at Bathurst, when Colin Bond out­braked not one but two Phase IIs into Mur­ray’s Cor­ner to take the lead as they com­pleted the open­ing lap.

It was nice piece of show­man­ship, but Mof­fat was un­moved and sim­ply stuck to Ford’s lap time game plan. Be­fore long he and Se­ton were back ahead of the To­rana, and then Mof­fat steadily pulled away.

If only the rest of the Phase IIs were do­ing it so ef­fort­lessly. Rit­ter was an early pit vis­i­tor with loose tap­pets, while the Beasley, Hodg­son, McKay and Aunger cars all had en­gine fail­ures. Then the Se­ton/Gib­son works car was in the pits with a bro­ken diff, the re­sult of a failed rear axle seal. A bit later on Rit­ter’s car ran out of brakes, as did the Mee­han/Wher­rett Phase

II – the lat­ter to drop a heap of time in the pits when run­ning as high as third due to a dis­trib­u­tor points fail­ure.

Even be­fore mid­day, with four hours still to run, as the Fords started fall­ing one by one the race was poised in the bal­ance. Mof­fat was lead­ing and the re­main­ing fac­tory Fal­con of McPhee was fourth – but be­hind both HDT XU-1s. The To­ranas ap­peared to be well placed to put the pres­sure on later in the race and maybe break what re­mained of the Phase II eet.

The race looked like it might cul­mi­nate in a fas­ci­nat­ing David-vs-Go­liath ght to the nish – un­til the two HDT To­ranas went down with valve fail­ures. There went any chance Holden had of a sur­prise vic­tory with the six-cylin­der XU-1. At the same time it pro­vided some wel­come re­lief from Bathurst tended to fol­low the Sandown script - lots of Phase IIs had lots of prob­lems, but up front Mof­fat and Bruce McPhee in the works cars were un­trou­bled.

De­spite ques­tions over the Phase II’s dura­bil­ity, Ford went to Bathurst as the hot favourite. With 14 GT-HOs en­tered (plus an­other two listed as re­serves), it was go­ing to take a cat­a­strophic at­tri­tion rate to pre­vent a Ford win.

the pres­sure on the Ford fac­tory team – even if Al Turner claimed later that things were al­ways well un­der con­trol.

But then, even while Mof­fat seemed in cruise mode and headed for an easy win, the lead Fal­con be­gan to trail whisps of smoke. This con­tin­ued for some time, not that it had any ef­fect on Mof­fat’s pace. It may sim­ply have been, ac­cord­ing to Al Turner, that the en­gine had a small oil leak, and that a crew mem­ber had been a lit­tle over zeal­ous when top­ping it up at a pit­stop.

With the last stops com­pleted, Mof­fat led McPhee by half a minute, with day­light back to third place. That looked likely to be lled by Tony Roberts, which would have made it a Phase II one-two-three. But just af­ter Roberts had over­taken Chivas’ Pacer for third place, with only

ve laps to run, the pre­vi­ous year’s race win­ner (with Holden) mis­cued over Sky­line, the big Ford hit­ting the fence and bar­rel rolling down the moun­tain. The car was de­stroyed but Roberts was un­hurt.

McPhee du­ti­fully held sta­tion be­hind Mof­fat to com­plete what in the end was a com­fort­able one-two for Ford. Leav­ing aside the heavy at­tri­tion rate that saw more than half of the 14 Phase IIs re­tire due to ei­ther me­chan­i­cal fail­ure

A job well done... Mof­fat scores his first Bathurst win and the new Phase II proves its worth as it makes amends for the night­mare of the orig­i­nal GTHO at Bathurst 12 months prior. or ac­ci­dents, things had gone to plan. Mof­fat’s

rst win in only his sec­ond Bathurst start made amends for the em­bar­rass­ment Ford had suf­fered the year. And the Phase II ul­ti­mately had de­liv­ered as in­tended. Af­ter some­thing of a false dawn with the orig­i­nal GT-HO, the Cleve­land­pow­ered ma­chine laid the foun­da­tions for a fu­ture that would start with the fol­low­ing year’s Phase III.

Of course, it didn’t go on much fur­ther from there, with the Su­per­car scare killing off the planned Phase IV in 1972 and then Ford pulling the pin on its rac­ing ef­fort at the end of ’73.

But Mof­fat’s win in the Phase II in 1970 did set the scene for some­thing that would be more long-last­ing: the be­gin­ning of the ri­valry be­tween him­self and Peter Brock. Be­tween them, they would win no less than eight of the 10 Great Races of the 1970s.

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 ??  ?? Al­lan Mof­fat might have been un­fussed in coast­ing to vic­tory in the Sandown 3 Hour by a full lap, but else­where in the Phase II fleet at Sandown there was all man­ner of strife.
Al­lan Mof­fat might have been un­fussed in coast­ing to vic­tory in the Sandown 3 Hour by a full lap, but else­where in the Phase II fleet at Sandown there was all man­ner of strife.
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