Australian Muscle Car

50 Rea­sons

The XW Phase II turns 50 this year. To cel­e­brate, AMC presents 50 rea­sons to love the ‘sec­ond phase’ GT-HO.

- Story: Luke West Im­ages: Au­, Hugh Prim­rose, Clay Cross, Pro­ject Pic­to­ri­als, Chevron Archive

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.

Mortein prin­ci­ple

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.

Those stripes

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.

Those black­outs

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.

Cleve­land stocks

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.

Sus­pen­sion as­cen­sion

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.

Phase 1.5s

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.

Press car

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!

Solo man

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…

Sweet 16

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.

Se­cretly squir­relled

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.

Aero pho­tog­ra­phy

# 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.

Easter ris­ing

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.

Fred’s suc­cess

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.

Ex­port qual­ity

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.

Rhino stam­pede

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.

Value propo­si­tion

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.

Golden cel­e­bra­tion

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.

Build­ing block

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.

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