Australian Muscle Car
The XW Phase II turns 50 this year. To celebrate, AMC presents 50 reasons to love the ‘second phase’ GT-HO.
50 reasons to love the XW Falcon GT-HO Phase II
A new phase
The 1970 Ford XW Falcon GT-HO may not have been the rst GT-HO but it did introduce the now highly evocative word ‘Phase’ to the Australian motoring lexicon. What many soon came to call the ‘Phase 1’ was simply the ‘GT-HO’ in 1969. But then the Phase II came along and that all changed.
Yes, the rst GT-HO’s styling carried over to the Phase II, but the John Laws Mortein principle applies here: When you’re on a good thing, stick to it. The second GT-HO didn’t need visual changes when the original XW GT-HO (and the ‘regular’ GT on which it was based) looked so bloody good.
Ford’s designers nailed the styling of the XW GT’s and GT-HO’s horizontal side stripes. No subsequent GT striping has looked better given the way they end (or begin, depending on your perspective) with the Superoo decal located within the short vertical section on the front quarter-panel.
Substance over (re)style
The fact that the Phase II was nearly identical visually to its predecessor is a badge of honour. It rams home its homologation credentials and that the 1970 ‘upgrade’ was about improving an out-andout race homologation special. It’s a classic example of substance over style, as the changes were all under the skin.
Has anyone ever called the bonnet blackouts by their official name: anti-glare bonnet rally panels?
Those bonnet pins
Nothing said ‘racecar for the road’ more than bonnet pins and cables as tted standard.
GT-HO. Those four letters remain as emotive as ever. The GT-HO nameplate represents a short but glorious era not just in Ford Australia’s history but in the entire history of motoring in the country. Functional
Wand oh-so aesthetically pleasing. e quote from Ford’s dealer bulletin listing the GT-HO’s ‘content’: “The attachment of a front spoiler to the model to improve roadability at Race Track speeds. (This is similar to the spoiler tted to the 302 BOSS Mustang).”
The Phase II again had American performance pioneer Al Turner’s ngerprints all over it. His drag racing roots greatly in uenced its incredible straightline performance. But that wasn’t the biggest in uence from ‘Big Al’ on this 1970 beast.
The Phase II was largely the result of hard lessons learned from the humiliating loss in 1969 when the works team didn’t foresee the greater tyre wear of the Goodyear racing tyres that cost it the race to Holden’s Monaro GTS 350. Fixing the original GT-HO’s inadequacies resulted in a raft of technical changes to Falcon racecar designed to increase its speed up the hill, overall tyre wear and component reliability.
The rst major change Al Turner instigated was the homologation of the bee er Detroit Locker diff which stopped the wheelspin that contributed to excessive tyre wear in the ’69 race.
The Phase II introduced the 351ci Cleveland engine to frontline competition in Australia. It would continue to power Ford’s Bathurst challenges for 15 years, until the end of the Group C era and Dick Johnson’s Greens-Tuf XE Falcon. Turner had planned to use the Cleveland in the original GT-HO, due to its horsepower advantage over the 351ci Windsor, but its relative newness made sourcing enough engines for the road cars impossible.
Early reliability problems with the new Cleveland engine, that particularly savaged the dealer entries in 1970, were soon overcome due to the expertise of the Ford Special Vehicles team’s engine gurus. These guys, who joined FSV from the defunct Repco F1 engine program, fast-tracked solutions.
Power to burn
The Phase II’s engine was imported from Ford US as a complete ‘crate’ engine and featured mechanical lifters and adjustable rockers, dual-point non-advance distributor and a 55-amp alternator.
It breathed through a big
780cfm Holley four-barrel carburetor and had power to burn, with an advertised 300bhp (225kW) although experts say 330bhp-plus was closer to the mark.
Performance to burn
The Phase II could do 0-100mph in 17 seconds. This was a full 13 seconds faster than original XR GT!
100 hour test
The Cleveland V8 was subjected to 100 hours @5000rpm on a dyno. Several failures were experienced in the rst 30 hours, necessitating xes and upgrades, before the nal 70 hours were completed trouble free.
Ready to box
It featured a revised Ford ‘toploader’ four-speed gearbox with longer extension housing, stronger 31-spline output shaft (Phase I was 28-spline) and, most importantly, a new closeratio gear set better suited to Bathurst warfare.
Tale of the tailshaft
The Phase II had a stronger tailshaft assembly – thicker than the Phase I, but also shorter on account of the longer gearbox extension housing.
Tale of the rear axle
The Phase II gained a tougher Ford nineinch rear end (with 31-spline axles) and stronger ‘Daytona’ diff centre and optional (for racing, really) Detroit Locker.
The Phase II got slightly stiffer roll bars front and rear, increased-rate front coils and a slightly stiffer driver’s side rear leaf spring.
Them’s the brakes
Front brakes remained unchanged from the Phase I, but the rear drums were upgraded and featured ne cooling ns. Brake shoes were 2.5 inch-wide, compared to the 2.0-inch on its predecessor.
Ford produced a batch of 110 GTHOs between the ‘Phase I’ and the Phase II. These cars are referred to as Phase 1.5s. These were produced for two reasons. Firstly, there was the little matter of homologation; Ford needed to ensure they had enough road cars built in time for Bathurst 1970. And then there was the commercial reality of Ford being in the business of making cars for the purpose of making a pro t.
Bill Bourke Special
The seven-litre (428ci) machine is the only big block Falcon GT ever built, by Ford engineers in Dearborn, Michigan, for Ford Australia boss, Bill Bourke. It arrived back in Australia in 1970 and became Bourke’s company car. It survives today.
Another signi cant 1970 XW GT-HO survivor is the Phase II road test car – this edition’s cover car.
The French connection
The new Phase II scored its rst race win in a quick eight-lap sprint at Surfers Paradise International Raceway on August 30, 1970. At Surfers John French led home the John Harvey-driven HT Monaro GTS 350 owned by Bob Jane. French had combined with Allan Moffat to give the Phase II’s predecessor a win on debut 12 months earlier, in the 1969 Sandown classic. ‘Father’ French’s win came in a McCluskey Ford-entered, Jim Bertramprepared machine, that sadly wasn’t entered for Bathurst. Sad, as it would have likely been the best of the dealer entries.
Back-to-back Sandown victories
Aweek after Surfers Paradise, Allan Moffat drove the new Phase II to victory in the Sandown 250. Moffat, driving solo, lapped the entire eld on his way to a dominant victory.
Lakeside, Lakeside, Lakeside…
The Phase II scored a third pre-Bathurst victory, with French running away from the local XU-1 and Pacer opposition at Lakeside in the Brisbane meeting’s feature race, setting a new Series Production lap record in the process.
Orderly fashion 1
The three works-entered Phase IIs lined up 1-2-3 on the Bathurst grid. And we love the numeric quirk of them qualifying in reverse race number order – Moffat (#64E) on pole, from Bruce McPhee (#63E) and Fred Gibson/Barry Seton (#62E). You couldn’t have staged it better!
October 4, 1970
The GT-HO had legendary status bestowed upon it when it won the 1970 HardieFerodo 500, avenging the Ford
Motor Company’s shock loss the previous year.
Orderly fashion 2
The Ford Motor Company (Australia) missed a huge opportunity to stage a 1-2 formation nish ‘Kodak moment’ with Moffat and McPhee nishing rst and second and being on the same lap. Imagine that photo!
The Phase II was the vehicle, quite literally, through which Moffat posted the rst ever solo-driver victory in the Bathurst classic. For the 1970 race, drivers could elect to drive the entire 500 miles on their own, to control their own destiny, or share the car with a co-driver. Thus, Moffat did a continuous six hours 33 minutes behind the wheel. You’ve got to work hard to be a solo man…
They call me Bruce
It must have been satisfying for 1968 race winner Bruce McPhee to be called up to be a factory Ford driver after Holden it snubbed him post-’68. In 1970, for the second consecutive year, he nished as runner-up in a GT-HO, riding shotgun to team leader Moffat. Talk about pulling Holden’s pants down…
The three works cars were joined on the entry list by 13 dealer-entered cars. That includes two GT-HOs that were the ninth and 10th reserves and didn’t get a start. Can you believe that future Ford racing legend Murray Carter was ninth reserve upon his Great Race debut and only got to practice, as just three reserves were called upon to start.
Goss on the rise
The Phase II enabled a young John Goss to shine. He brought the McLeod Falcon he shared with Bob Skelton home ninth, accruing valuable experience of both the track and race management from the driver’s seat. It was experience that would serve him well.
Green and gold
If ever there was a colour scheme that screamed ‘Aussie Muscle Car’ it was the Reef Green with gold stripes of the Rowell-Thiele Ford-entered machine. This car, driven by Trevor Meehan and motoring scribe Peter Wherrett,
nished 18th overall after a troubled run. I’m a survivor
Every so often surviving Phase IIs are identi ed and resurface. A good example is the Brambles Red #57E car owned and driven by the late Kim Aunger and John Walker at Bathurst in 1970. The all-South Australian entry only lasted 18 laps before running its bearings and was soon returned to the road, its short racing life almost immediately lost in the sands of time. But then, less than 10 years ago, the then-owners put the pieces of the jigsaw together – with one puzzle piece supplied by AMC – and its Bathurst race history was con rmed. It returned to Bathurst in 2018 as part of the ‘Farewell to Falcon’ display, turning a parade lap of the track pre-race. Makes you wonder what other Phase IIs will resurface.
AMC knows of one Bathurst 1970 GTHO that survives and has remained tucked away for decades. What’s more, it’s a factory-prepped car. It’s the Southern Motorsentered #59 driven by the FoMoCo-connected Bruce Hodgson. It lasted just 16 laps in the race, but lives on, appropriately enough, in southern NSW. Flight 67E from Bathurst
Several aspects of the crash involving the Tony Roberts-driven Sinclair Ford #67E are truly remarkable and add to the Phase II’s mystique. Let’s start with the crash itself. The previous year’s race winner was in third place just ve laps from home when he spun coming over Skyline. When the Falcon hit the barriers, it was launched to such a height that it ew over that single row of Armco further down the hill, before crashing to earth and tumbling down the mountainside. We can’t think of another car that ended up in the same spot. Incredibly, Roberts, after his barrelrolling efforts, emerged largely unscathed.
# 67E crashed in such a unique manner that television camera’s only caught a short (middle) segment of it. Yet, spectator Hugh Primrose caught the exact moment Roberts leapt the barrier 1.5 to 2 metres off the ground. Without Hugh’s amazing efforts, no one would believe the manner – including the altitude attained – in which the Phase jumped the fence.
#67E lived on
Remarkably, the car that ew off the mountain in ’70 – a sizeable portion of the shell and chassis, at least – would live to race another in the hands of Wagga Wagga’s Denis O’Brien. What’s more, several parts (including the fuel tank) from that car survive today and, according to O’Brien, are tted to a recently restored XY Falcon he owns. The story of the crash, photo and the surviving parts was told in AMC #84.
GT-HO to paradise
The Ford/Moffat/Phase II steamroller continued at Surfers Paradise on November 1, 1970 when the combo won the Rothmans 250 Production Classic.
The Phase II won the rst ever Australian Manufacturers Championship race, held at Mount Panorama on Easter Sunday 1971. Moffat’s factory Phase II led home teammate French’s example. In later years the ManChamp would be held exclusively in the second half of the season, but the inaugural series’ rst two rounds were in April and May.
There was no national championship as such in 1970 for Series Production cars. But the Phase II did win a series in 1971 – the Grace Bros/Toby Lee Production Touring Car Series, with Fred Gibson capturing the veround Oran Park series held between March and September.
Origins of the Super Falcon
The works-initiated Improved Production Super Falcons may have raced as XY models, but the program began in 1970 with XWs as the starting point – and the cars were in XW trim when delivered to Allan Moffat and Ian Geoghegan.
Aussie-built XW GTs and HOs were exported to New Zealand, Fiji, Japan and the United Kingdom, among other countries. Our mind boggles at the thought of a survivor tucked away in a garage on a Pommie estate.
In 1970 Ford Australia began exports of XW GTs to South Africa in kit form where they were sold as Fairmont GTs. In Ford GT enthusiast circles they have long been known as ‘Rhino GTs’. Their full story was told in AMC #88.
According to Survivor Car Australia’s 2019 Classic Car Value Guide, a 1970 XW GT-HO Phase II in good condition is worth about $300,000. By way of comparison, the guide lists an original GT-HO (again in ‘Good’ condition) from 1969 at $215,000, and a Phase III at $575,000. These values were, of course, pre-COVID-19. At the height of the market one or two Phase II in exceptional condition, in unique colours, topped the $500,000 mark at auction.
Expect some big celebrations (the virus permitting) this October when GT enthusiasts mark the 50th anniversary of Moffat’s 1970 Hardie-Ferodo 500 win. Clubs or individual enthusiasts should drop AMC a line and let us know what’s being cooked up for Bathurst Sunday.
The Phase II was the launching pad for the Phase III that took the GT-HO legend to a whole new level.
When Peter Brock hatched his bold plan to race a BMW at Le Mans in 1976 it was partly predicated on it leading to a Team Brock antipodean BMW touring car racing team with factory assistance. A sudden change of course from BMW with its global motorsport plans put paid to that, but Brock went ahead with the Le Mans effort anyway (with fellow Aussie Brian Muir as co-driver). Brock’s ‘Australianised’ BMW 3.0 CSL ‘Batmobile’ gave a good account of itself in qualifying but the shoestring operation would be out of luck in the 24 hours proper.