A restored 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III set an auction record for $1.15 million earlier this year. So how much would an immaculate, unrestored example with just 12,800 original miles on the clock be worth?
This could be the most valuable Australian-made road car to date, except there is just one catch. It’s not for sale, so its price for now is anyone’s guess.
A restored 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III set an auction record earlier this year after being bought by a Sydney art collector for $1.15 million.
Now an immaculate, unrestored example of the breed – with just 12,800 original miles on the odometer, believed to be the lowest mileage, road-going 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III still in existence – has been unearthed by an Australian automotive historian who estimates it could be worth in excess of $2 million.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if this car was worth more than $2 million,” said Ross Vasse, who has been a professional valuer of classic and collectible cars for 30 years.
“You can’t buy another GTHO Phase III like this car, there isn’t another one,” said Mr Vasse. “This is the lowest mileage unrestored vehicle of its type. No others come close.”
Mr Vasse says there is a small number of GTHO Phase III sedans with about 20,000 miles showing on their odometer, but some have had minor work. And there is a 4000 mile example, however that was converted to a race car.
“Based on my research, this is the lowest mile, unrestored, road-going GTHO Phase III in existence,” said Mr Vasse.
Furthermore, this example is one of the few fitted with a factory-blueprinted “QC” V8 engine that had been developed for racing at Bathurst.
It is build number 199 of 300. Numbers 198 to 205 were destined to go to Ford racing teams.
The car was in a Ford dealer’s workshop undergoing some early preparation for the 1971 Bathurst endurance race, but instead found its way into a customer’s hands.
A man who had bought a regular Ford Falcon GT a week or so earlier had spotted the GTHO Phase III in the corner of the workshop – and insisted he be sold the faster and more powerful model.
After scrambling to secure another Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III with a QC engine to race at Bathurst that year, the dealer sold the in-stock example to the eager buyer.
Build number 199 was ordered from the factory without stripes – to allow space for sponsor logos and race numbers – so the customer had the dealer fit gold ‘351’ stripes along each side.
After a bit of a runaround, the car was bought new in the south Sydney suburb of Miranda in 1971 for the $5250 sticker price (plus on-road costs), and the owner later bought the optional Globe racing wheels and larger rear drum brakes.
The five-slot wheels and Globe wheels still have the original factory-fitted tyres. Neither spare wheel (one five slot, one Globe) has ever been on the car.
Having clocked up about 9900 miles between 1971 and 1979 the original owner listed the car for sale in a newspaper classified advertisement. The asking price of $14,850 was almost three times more than its RRP when new.
In addition to inflation, the price climbed as the reputation of the 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III had taken off.
Allan Moffat won Bathurst four times in the 1970s (1970, 1971, 1973 and 1977) – including in the Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III in 1971 – and Ford’s reputation was on a high.
After Ford axed plans for a Falcon GTHO Phase IV due to the “supercar scare” of 1972, the remaining examples of the Falcon GTHO Phase III shot up in value.
The original owner was a hard negotiator and didn’t need the money. He advertised the vehicle for sale in 1979 but declined the offers of tyre kickers who tried to low-ball him or wanted to buy the spare set of wheels.
About a year later, the car sold for $15,000. The original owner had not only refused to budge on the selling price, but asked for more than the advertised amount from a year earlier, as its value climbed.
In late 1980 the car was sold as you see it in these photos, and also came with the original five-slot wheels and tyres.
Given the car was such a target for thieves (the original owner chased away a group of would-be crooks who tried to steal it in broad daylight while parked out of the front of a friend’s house), a key-based alarm system was fitted to the vehicle.
It was advanced technology at the time, but it involved two key holes being drilled into the front fender on the driver’s side of the car. It’s the only non-genuine aspect of the vehicle.
Today, the car smells like new and the back seat has hardly been sat in, says its current owner – the son of the person who bought the vehicle from the original buyer in 1980.
When his father passed away in the early 2000s, Michael (surname withheld for privacy reasons) says the 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III stayed in the hands of family members.
Although the vehicle has not been registered since the early 1990s, Michael says the car is usually started up and driven once a month on their long driveway, to keep critical components operating smoothly.
Most of the 3000 or so miles added to the odometer since Michael’s family bought the car in 1980 have been accumulated only a few miles at a time – or even less.
So, would Michael ever sell the car?
“That’s a difficult question,” Michael told CarAdvice. “I don’t have any plans to sell it at this stage but I guess it will happen one day. I might consider it one day, but it would have to be a serious and genuine collector.”
Has anyone offered to buy the car?
“To be honest, not many people know it exists,” says Michael. “Some people have heard about it but probably don’t think it’s true. Not many of our friends even know about this car.”
Would Michael like to register it again so it can be driven on the road, even on historic plates?
“I’d be nervous to drive it,” says Michael. “It’s got the original front spoiler on it and there wouldn’t be many GTHO Phase IIIs with the original front spoiler. They were renowned for breaking or scraping after hitting something because they’re positioned so low.”
Michael says the interior “smells like new” and he believes fewer than half a dozen people have driven the car in 50 years.
“When you open the door it’s like walking into a showroom in 1971,” says Michael. “The whole car, everything’s original. And even though we don’t move it very far, it still feels brand new.”
The car has every original document, including the dealer sales docket and owner’s manual.
Automotive historian Ross Vasse unearthed the car while researching his new book, the 1971 XY Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III Register, which lists and accounts for every GTHO ever built.
The book will be released later this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the mighty 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III.
Mr Vasse says final orders for the book close at midnight tonight (30 June 2021) and will not be available after this date.
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Most valuable Australian-made road car? 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III discovered with 12,800 original miles