Ford Falcon Phase III sets new Australian auction record

Incredibly rare Falcon once owned by cricket star Jeff Thomson becomes first Australian car to breach AUS$1million mark during public sale

Described by auctioneer Lloyds as ‘the holy grail of Aussie Fords’, an all-original Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III has broken the Australian seven-figure auction record. Hammered away for AUS$1.03million, the 1970s V8 cruiser pipped some of Australia’s most prominent vehicles to the coveted achievement.

The Falcon Phase III arrived in 1971, at a time when automotive war was breaking out on Australian forecourts. In what could have been the real-life inspiration for Mel Gibson’s Mad Max, Ford and Holden battled to cement their market dominance during the annual Bathurst 500-mile endurance race.

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Churning out 400bhp from a 351ci Cleveland V8, Ford’s Phase III destroyed the quarter-mile in little under 14 seconds. Top speed was claimed to be in excess of 140mph – a remarkable achievement for the time. The insanely powerful drivetrain propelled the Falcon into the record books as the fastest four-door production car in the world, making it the pin-up motor for the young and the young at heart.

It was this comfortable ability to destroy all competition that kept the Phase III deep within the winners’ circle for three further years, including victory at Bathurst in 1971 with Allan Moffat at the wheel. Further wins included the Australian Manufacturers’ Championship series in both 1971 and 1972, and the Australian Touring Car Championship series in 1972 and 1973.

Costing AUS$5000 each, far more than for a typical Falcon GT, around 300 examples of the Phase III were sold. However, time has seen a large number off to the scrapyard, suffering terminal rust. Already rare and eye-wateringly expensive, the model’s ownership is now granted to only the privileged few. Fewer than 100 examples are thought to still remain, making for strong demand on the contemporary collector market.

By the turn of the new millennium, GTHO Phase IIIs were already commanding six-figure prices. June 2007 saw one example selling for AUS$750,000. While private sales did find asking prices exceeding $1million, it was a different story come auction time – apparently no one in the audience was ever willing to rehome such a model.

The specimen sold recently – a four-speed Track Red Phase III (serial number JG33LS88404k) – was largely original and unrestored, and boasted little over 20,000km on the clock. Its full documentation revealed that celebrity cricket player Jeff Thomson was custodian for about a decade.

Previous attempts at breaking AUS$1million

Lloyds auction house promoted the Phase III as a potential candidate to smash the AUS$1million barrier prior to the June 16 sale, held at Mount Panorama. Audiences were sceptical, however, as Lloyds and other auctioneers had predicted such an event before.

The first was a Holden Dealer Team 1969 Monaro GTS, which in the end sold for AUS$500,000. The second was an eagerly awaited sale for the first Australian-built Holden in 2013, expected to sell for over $2million. The final hammer price instead sat at a ‘lowly’ $672,000.

However, it’s finally happened! For conversion’s sake, the sale price amounts to US$675,000. For all that heritage and racing pedigree, it’s far more exciting and far less money than any Ferrari 250 GTO.

What happened to the Phase IV?

The car’s hotly anticipated Falcon Phase IV successor was developed and ready to go, but contemporary press coverage sent Ford into a tailspin. Realising automotive journalists were heralding the next generation of performance vehicles capable of breaching 160mph, Ford retired the lineage to secure the model’s iconic status rather than try to make it compete with newcomers. The concept of seeing its breadmaker trounced in public found no favour in the boardroom.

Pictures courtesy of Lloyds Auctions Australia

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