Bathurst Legends Pt.2: Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III

By: Scott Newman, Photography by: Ellen Dewar, Nathan Duff

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Bathurst legends: Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III Bathurst legends: Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III Bathurst legends: Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III
Bathurst legends: Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III Bathurst legends: Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III Bathurst legends: Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III
Bathurst legends: Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III Bathurst legends: Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III Bathurst legends: Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III
Bathurst legends: Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III Bathurst legends: Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III Bathurst legends: Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III
Bathurst legends: Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III Bathurst legends: Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III Bathurst legends: Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III
Bathurst legends: Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III Bathurst legends: Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III Bathurst legends: Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III

Bathurst Legends: Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III. Part 2 of our series on Mount Panorama hero cars

Bathurst Legends Pt.2: Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III
Bathurst legends: Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III

 

Ford Falcon XY GT-HO Phase III

It's very possible that XY Falcon Phase IIIs are now more famous for what they are worth than for why they are worth what they are. In production-based touring car terms, they were unbelievably fast, faster than anything Australia - and most of the world - had ever seen. The engineers at Ford's Broadmeadows Lot 6 skunkworks created a car that decimated its rivals.

Phase IIIs filled eight of the top nine positions on the 1971 Bathurst starting grid, the only interloper the Leo Geoghegan/Peter Brown Charger R/T E38 in eighth. Pole-sitter Allan Moffat explains the magnitude of the gain Ford had made in just 12 months. "The time difference between my pole position in 1970 to my pole position in '71 was 11 seconds. Eleven seconds! It's the only time I've ever seen grown men wearing red [Holden] shirts
cry in the pitlane."

Moffat's 1971 pole position time of 2:38.9sec was also 24 seconds faster than Ian Geoghegan's effort in the XR GT just four years earlier. To put that in perspective, when McLaren-Mercedes ran its Formula 1 car around Bathurst in March 2011, it improved on the V8 Supercar lap record by only 18 seconds. The GT-HO Phase III was a fast car.

"It was the pinnacle of Series Production racing, the ultimate homologation special," says JB. "I spent a lot of time with [Ford team boss] Howard Marsden in the Tickford days and heard some great stories about all sorts of wonderful skulduggery that would give them better performance."

The Phase III may have blown the competition away in 1971, but Ford's path to this point had been a rocky one. Following Harry Firth's defection to run the Holden Racing Team at the end of 1968, American Al Turner took over as Ford introduced the XW GT-HO. Its 1969 debut was hampered by severe tyre troubles - Turner had decided to run an untested construction of tyre in the race and they soon disintegrated, as did Ford's pre-race confidence, under the weight and power of the new HOs.

Things improved the following year (1970), with Ford securing a one-two finish with the upgraded Phase II GT-HO. This result overshadowed the fact that 10 of the 16 Phase IIs entered failed to finish and were spared any real challenge when the Holden Dealer Team's new LC Torana GTR XU-1s also struggled with engine gremlins.

Nothing could stop the Ford juggernaut in 1971, however. "That particular day the Holden blokes said, 'Well I guess we might as well just come in for pit stops, have a cup of tea and some croissants and just try and come second'. That was the only place they were going to come," remembers Moffat.

Phase IIIs finished the race first, second, third, fifth and sixth. Colin Bond in the HDT XU-1 was the only man able to prevent a complete whitewash. Moffat showed why he was one of the world's best touring car drivers, winning by over a lap from the second-placed pairing of Phil Barnes and Bob Skelton.

Anyone who has driven an XY Falcon on the road will know how difficult it would be to wrestle one for 500 miles around Bathurst, yet Moffat is adamant that driving solo was his preferred option.

"I was very happy to do it at the time because Bathurst is the kiss of death with co-drivers that aren't 'in sync' with the lead driver, if that isn't being too rude. I won't say I wasn't tired after six hours and 40 minutes but it was a big help to know that it was only my application on the brakes, only my foot on the clutch, and only my alertness."

Sitting where Moffat sat during those 500 miles is not only an immense privilege, but a stark reminder of what constituted 'safety' in the early-'70s. The rudimentary rollcage is predominantly bolted, rather than welded, together, and for some reason the left-hand-side A-arm disappears between the legs of my imaginary passenger, like the roll protection was intended for a much narrower car. A crotch strap pokes its way out of the comfortable but unsupportive seat cushion and a pipe from the quarter vent provides fresh air to the driver.

But JB gets out impressed; "It feels much nicer than I expected it to. It's not as heavy in the steering as I expected, the gearchange is nice. But the brakes! How Allan Moffat kept those brakes going for all that time, he had a very gentle foot I would say."

"The brakes would last if you didn't jump on them," explains Moffat. "You picked your braking point so that by the time you got to the corner the car had stopped. It's amazing how you can drive quite quickly without burning them up. It had a good gearbox but if you slapped it over into second too fast, you landed in the reverse channel. When you went for second down through The Dipper you wanted to make sure you got it, otherwise the only thing you were going to get was the fence."

Moffat went on to race this Phase III at Bathurst '72 and also capture his first Australian Touring Car Championship in 1973, the first year that Bathurst-spec cars were able to compete for the title. But the Phase III legend was born on 3 October 1971, a day when Ford owned Bathurst.

"It was a great car on the open road," says Moffat. "It was one of the fastest, if not the fastest, mass-produced touring cars in the world. And for $5200 off the showroom floor! Why didn't we buy 10 of them?"

They are worth what they are. In production-based touring car terms, they were unbelievably fast, faster than anything Australia - and most of the world - had ever seen. The engineers at Ford's Broadmeadows Lot 6 skunkworks created a car that decimated its rivals.

Phase IIIs filled eight of the top nine positions on the 1971 Bathurst starting grid, the only interloper the Leo Geoghegan/Peter Brown Charger R/T E38 in eighth. Pole-sitter Allan Moffat explains the magnitude of the gain Ford had made in just 12 months. "The time difference between my pole position in 1970 to my pole position in '71 was 11 seconds. Eleven seconds! It's the only time I've ever seen grown men wearing red [Holden] shirts
cry in the pitlane."

Moffat's 1971 pole position time of 2:38.9sec was also 24 seconds faster than Ian Geoghegan's effort in the XR GT just four years earlier. To put that in perspective, when McLaren-Mercedes ran its Formula 1 car around Bathurst in March 2011, it improved on the V8 Supercar lap record by only 18 seconds. The GT-HO Phase III was a fast car.

"It was the pinnacle of Series Production racing, the ultimate homologation special," says JB. "I spent a lot of time with [Ford team boss] Howard Marsden in the Tickford days and heard some great stories about all sorts of wonderful skulduggery that would give them better performance."

The Phase III may have blown the competition away in 1971, but Ford's path to this point had been a rocky one. Following Harry Firth's defection to run the Holden Racing Team at the end of 1968, American Al Turner took over as Ford introduced the XW GT-HO. Its 1969 debut was hampered by severe tyre troubles - Turner had decided to run an untested construction of tyre in the race and they soon disintegrated, as did Ford's pre-race confidence, under the weight and power of the new HOs.

Things improved the following year (1970), with Ford securing a one-two finish with the upgraded Phase II GT-HO. This result overshadowed the fact that 10 of the 16 Phase IIs entered failed to finish and were spared any real challenge when the Holden Dealer Team's new LC Torana GTR XU-1s also struggled with engine gremlins.

Nothing could stop the Ford juggernaut in 1971, however. "That particular day the Holden blokes said, 'Well I guess we might as well just come in for pit stops, have a cup of tea and some croissants and just try and come second'. That was the only place they were going to come," remembers Moffat.

Phase IIIs finished the race first, second, third, fifth and sixth. Colin Bond in the HDT XU-1 was the only man able to prevent a complete whitewash. Moffat showed why he was one of the world's best touring car drivers, winning by over a lap from the second-placed pairing of Phil Barnes and Bob Skelton.

Anyone who has driven an XY Falcon on the road will know how difficult it would be to wrestle one for 500 miles around Bathurst, yet Moffat is adamant that driving solo was his preferred option.

"I was very happy to do it at the time because Bathurst is the kiss of death with co-drivers that aren't 'in sync' with the lead driver, if that isn't being too rude. I won't say I wasn't tired after six hours and 40 minutes but it was a big help to know that it was only my application on the brakes, only my foot on the clutch, and only my alertness."

Sitting where Moffat sat during those 500 miles is not only an immense privilege, but a stark reminder of what constituted 'safety' in the early-'70s. The rudimentary rollcage is predominantly bolted, rather than welded, together, and for some reason the left-hand-side A-arm disappears between the legs of my imaginary passenger, like the roll protection was intended for a much narrower car. A crotch strap pokes its way out of the comfortable but unsupportive seat cushion and a pipe from the quarter vent provides fresh air to the driver.

But JB gets out impressed; "It feels much nicer than I expected it to. It's not as heavy in the steering as I expected, the gearchange is nice. But the brakes! How Allan Moffat kept those brakes going for all that time, he had a very gentle foot I would say."

"The brakes would last if you didn't jump on them," explains Moffat. "You picked your braking point so that by the time you got to the corner the car had stopped. It's amazing how you can drive quite quickly without burning them up. It had a good gearbox but if you slapped it over into second too fast, you landed in the reverse channel. When you went for second down through The Dipper you wanted to make sure you got it, otherwise the only thing you were going to get was the fence."

Moffat went on to race this Phase III at Bathurst '72 and also capture his first Australian Touring Car Championship in 1973, the first year that Bathurst-spec cars were able to compete for the title. But the Phase III legend was born on 3 October 1971, a day when Ford owned Bathurst.

"It was a great car on the open road," says Moffat. "It was one of the fastest, if not the fastest, mass-produced touring cars in the world. And for $5200 off the showroom floor! Why didn't we buy 10 of them?"

Thanks to the Bowden Family, Terry Ashwood, and Lakeside International Raceway

1971 XY GT-HO Phase III career highlights

· 1971 Hardie-Ferodo 500 - 1st (Allan Moffat)

· 1972 Hardie-Ferodo 500 - 2nd (John French)

· 1973 ATCC - 1st (Allan Moffat, 5 wins)

 

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