When you think ‘Australia,’ utes are often one of the first things that come to mind. But Oz has a vibrant motoring culture beyond that, especially when it comes to muscle cars. It’s thanks to an Australian car, the Holden Commodore, that we briefly enjoyed a reborn Pontiac GTO, for example. And recently, another Aussie muscle car has been making waves: a 1972 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase IV. Not because of its performance, though, but because it just sold at auction for almost $1.5 million.
The Ford Falcon GTHO was an Australian homologated muscle race car for the street
First, a bit of clarification. In the 1960s, Ford sold a car in the US called the Falcon, which eventually underpinned the first Mustang. However, while the US Falcon petered out after 1970, the Australian version soldiered on. And just like the US Falcon and Mustang, Ford turned Australia’s Falcon into a muscle car. More specifically, the first Australian muscle car, MotorTrend notes.
The first muscle-ified Ford Falcon came in 1967 in the form of the four-door XR-series Falcon GT. It borrowed the Mustang’s 225-hp 4.7-liter V8 and offered stiffer suspension and bigger brakes than the standard car. Ford of Australia repeated this in 1968 with the XT-series GT, which had a 230-hp 5.0-liter V8. But it was overshadowed by what debuted in 1969: the first Falcon GTHO.
The ‘HO’ in ‘Ford Falcon GTHO’ technically stands for ‘Handling Option.’ However, it could’ve stood for ‘High Output’ just as easily. Instead of a 5.0-liter V8, the Falcon GTHO Phase 1 and Phase 2 have a 290-hp 5.8-liter V8. Yet the best was still to come, courtesy of the racing going on at Bathurst.
In 1971, Ford released the Falcon GTHO Phase III. Based on the XY-series car, this wasn’t just a muscle car, Silodrome explains—it was a homologation race car. Officially, Ford of Australia claimed the Falcon GTHO Phase III’s 5.8-liter V8 made 300 bhp. But it was really more like 350-380 bhp. Combined with a four-speed transmission, limited-slip differential, upgraded brakes and suspension, as well as a rear spoiler, the Phase III could run the ¼-mile in under 14 seconds. And with a top speed of over 140 mph, it was the fastest four-door production car in the world, Hemmings says.
This 1972 ford Falcon XA GTHO Phase IV is now the most expensive Australian car ever
Unfortunately, that speed and power brought some consequences. In 1972, right before the XA-series Ford Falcon GTHO Phase IV was about to debut, an Australian newspaper heralded its arrival with a “160mph Super Cars” headline, Hemmings explains. Only unlike what happened with the Suzuki Hayabusa, the government directly got involved, as did Australia’s racing sanctioning body. The new regulations spelled the end of homologation muscle cars like the GTHO.
However, before Ford shuttered the Falcon racing program, four GTHO Phase IVs made it out. One was a road car, while the other three were racing prototypes. And the 1972 Falcon GTHO Phase IV pictured above is one of those three, CarsGuide says. Furthermore, the seller, Australian Muscle Car Sales, claims it’s “the only unrestored Phase [IV] remaining.”
While the Phase IV program was canceled, the final Ford Falcon GTHO was well underway at the time. And being essentially a turn-key race car, this example is in race-ready condition. Besides the 5.8-liter V8 and four-speed transmission, the Falcon GTHO Phase IV packs upgraded suspension and brakes compared to the Phase III. This car also has a full roll cage, Bathurst Globe alloy wheels, and a seam-welded body. And it only has 4,698 miles on the clock.
That low mileage, combined with its racing credentials, rarity, and condition, undoubtedly contributed to this 1972 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase IV’s price. Or rather, its record-setting price. A Sydney-based buyer just bought this car for “just under [AUD] $2 million,” making it the most expensive Australian-made car ever. That’s roughly the equivalent of $1.46 million.
Was this ultra-rare muscle car worth it?
Given how few Ford Falcon GTHO Phase IVs remain, their market value is difficult to estimate. However, the earlier Phase IIIs are almost as expensive. In fact, this 1972 Phase IV took the ‘most expensive Australian-made car’ title from a Phase III that sold for AUD 1.15 million in February 2021.
That being said, there is a cheaper alternative to the Phase IV. Even after the program was canceled, Ford of Australia still wanted to race. So, it created the Ford Falcon RPO 83, which bundled some racing features—aluminum spoiler, Phase IV headers, the LSD—with luxury options such as A/C and power windows. These RPO 83s aren’t as extreme as the GTHO cars, but they’re significantly more affordable. A barn-find example sold in July 2020 for $215K, The Drive says.
But what about the $1.5 million Falcon GTHO Phase IV? Again, it’s difficult to assign a specific value to such a rare car. However, it’s worth noting that this same 1972 Falcon almost sold in 2018 for AUD 2 million, Hemmings says. So, in a way, the current buyer got a slight discount. Plus, how many people can claim to have a muscle car so extreme, it essentially shut down the competition?
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