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Ford Falcon Phase IV that killed Australian muscle nearly becomes most valuable Oz car sold at auction

Published in blog.hemmings.com

Photos courtesy Lloyds.

No country’s performance-car market collapsed nearly as fast and dramatically as Australia’s. Within a week of a blockbuster 1972 headline decrying supercars capable of 160 MPH, the country’s three automakers scuttled their hi-po development plans. Just four of the Ford Falcon XA GTHO Phase IVs mentioned in the landmark article survived the so-called “supercar scare,” one of which sold at auction this past weekend for AUS$2 million.

Demand for fast cars reached a fever pitch in Australia in the early 1970s. After Ford’s domination at Bathurst with its XY GTHO Phase IIIs in 1971, Ford, Holden, and even Chrysler of Australia laid plans to nuke the field in 1972. Holden’s plans called for dropping a V-8 into its six-cylinder-powered LJ Torana XU-1; Chrysler intended to replace the E49 Hemi six-cylinder in its VH Charger R/T with a 340-cu.in. V-8; and Ford meant to continue development on the Phase III’s 351 Cleveland for the new, more aerodynamic XA Falcon.

Ford’s engineers apparently had yet to pin down exact specifications for the Phase IV. The race versions were to use stock body shells stripped of sound deadening materials and reinforced with additional welds and roll cages, of course. The Clevelands were supposed to receive manual-choke Holley 780 carburetors atop Shelby intake manifolds, high-lift camshafts, larger valves, headers, and winged-sump oil pans. Four-wheel disc brakes were to be made available on Phase IVs as well. Of course, Ford had Allan Moffat and Fred Gibson tapped to drive it at the 1972 Bathurst race that October.

To enter a car in Bathurst at the time, the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport required carmakers to homologate their racing machines with a production run of 200 cars. So when reporter Evan Green approached Milton Morris, then the minister for transport in New South Wales, for a Sunday story discussing the Phase IV and its pending competition for the Sydney Sun-Herald, Morris responded by condemning the cars as “bullets on wheels.” Green declared Morris “horrified” at the prospect of such cars – even in limited numbers – making their ways to Australian streets.

Almost immediately, the CAMS dropped its homologation rule, and Holden and Chrysler scrapped what cars they had built for their programs. Ford agreed to cancel its Phase IV program, but let four Phase IV XA Falcons slip out the door: three of them racing versions, one of them a production version. Of the former, one went to rally driver Bruce Hodgson (and was subsequently destroyed), one went to rally driver Keith Goodall, and one went to race driver John Goss.

(Ironically, the “production” version of the Phase IV was licensed for the street, as were the 250 or so RPO83 XA Falcon GTs that Ford released in 1973 to use up the no-longer-needed Phase IV parts. No word on whether Morris got wind of their existence.)

Goss never raced his car, however, and the Ford fan to whom he sold it (serial number JG33MC78489K) subsequently preserved it until the early 2000s, when he sold it to collector Paul Carthew, who kept the mileage to less than 5,000. Carthew, who had previously tried to sell a Phase III for $1 million, said in 2012 that the first $1 million Australian car would be a Phase IV.

He ended up off the mark by a bit. The first Australian car to sell publicly for $1 million was another Phase III, which sold in June for AUS$1.3 million. Carthew’s Phase IV, which was the first Phase IV to sell at auction, handily beat that price, hammering for AUS$2 million (about USD$1.4 million). However, it fell short of the $3 million that auction house Lloyds expected it to sell for as well as the current record price for an Australian car at auction, set earlier this month by Peter Brock’s Bathurst-winning Holden VH Commodore SS at $2.1 million.

A handful of other Phase cars joined the Phase IV at Lloyds’s “Ford’s Finest Phases” auction this past weekend, though none of the three met their reserves.