September 24, 2023

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Mysterious 1970 Ford Falcon XW GTHO Phase 1.5 unearthed in new book

Mysterious 1970 Ford Falcon XW GTHO Phase 1.5 unearthed in new book

Two new instalments of the Ford Falcon GTHO register fill in more blanks in the storied history of one of Australia’s most iconic muscle car series. 

More missing pieces in the stories behind the Ford Falcon GTHO – one of the most iconic muscle car series in a golden age of Australian motoring – are set to be unearthed in the latest editions of historically-significant books.

Following the sell-out success of the 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III Register – which documented every model built – automotive historian Ross Vasse has gone further back in time to the 1970 Ford Falcon GTHO era.

Back then, Australia’s top motorsport category required race cars to be representative of road cars, which sparked a performance war and a showroom battle between Ford, Holden and – eventually – Chrysler.

But it was Ford that dominated motor racing in the early 1970s, in the process creating a series of road cars that are today deemed priceless – and some of which have sold for in excess of $1 million.

However, as unearthed by the latest books in the series – which document every model assembled, down to every last detail – Ford had to quickly produce a limited run of cars to make up sufficient numbers to be eligible for the 1970 Bathurst motor race.

Which is how the little-known Ford Falcon GTHO Phase 1.5 was created in 1970, after the Phase 1 was built in 1969.

“The Phase 1.5 ran the all-new high performance 351 HO V8 Cleveland engine with a hydraulic valve-train, as opposed to the Phase II which had running gear such as a solid mechanical lifter valve-train, close-ratio gearbox, and a Detroit locker rear axle, which brought it closer to the Phase III.

“Ford was forced to build these 110 special units otherwise they couldn’t go motor racing. The full story of how all this all unfolded is included in detail within the Phase 1.5 book.”

The first 351 hard-cover examples of each new book – each at a cost of $351, a nod to the cubic capacity of the V8 engine – sold out online within 15 minutes back in April.

In response to that demand, soft-cover ‘Blue Editions’ of the Phase 1.5 and Phase 2 books are now available to order ahead of delivery this November – in the same way soft-cover ‘Blue Editions’ were offered to the broader public once the limited-edition hard-cover editions of the 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III register sold out last year.

As was the case with last year’s 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III register, the ‘Blue Editions’ of the latest books will be printed to order and will themselves become collectible because the author has pledged to not produce reprints.

To preserve the historically significant information in the books, based on decades of research, copies of each are donated to National and State Libraries around Australia.

“Once we close off the orders, as was the case with the 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III Register, we will never do a reprint,” said Mr Vasse.

“As with last year’s book, once they’re all sold out that’s it. There will be no encore, this will not be another Johnny Farnham ‘Farewell Concert Tour’.”

The first hard-cover copy of the 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III Register – donated by the author and signed by racing legend Allan Moffat, who drove the car into Australian folklore and into the history books with his Bathurst wins – recently sold for $16,000 to raise money for Dementia Australia. 

Former Wheels magazine editor Peter Robinson said of last year’s 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III Register: “This is not the first book devoted to a single car model, but I’ve never seen a one-model volume that matches Vasse’s effort in terms of completeness, background knowledge and thousands of facts. It is truly encyclopaedic in its coverage.”

The new books include the complete Ford GTHO Phase 1.5 and Phase 2 factory production records, which are revealed publicly for the first time.

Mr Vasse completed the “forensic” research for the books over more than three decades, and has unearthed many “never-before-seen period photographs.”

“Inside each reference book you’ll find the build specification details for every single 1970 Falcon GTHO built, including each car’s paint colour and trim combination, the factory options each was fitted with, the final assembly and retailed dates, unusual build anomalies and one-off Falcon GTHOs,” said Mr Vasse.

“Turning each page is like watching a kaleidoscope of GTHOs on the production line, as each of the 287 Phase 2s file past one by one. Even the production specifications for the one-off GTHO Phase II made in Fanta orange is included.”

Mr Vasse says each book contains “information known previously only to insiders” and that “mysteries are solved, myths are busted, and secrets are revealed.”

“Also included are the Ford dealerships where every single 1970 Ford Falcon XW GTHO was assigned to, decades of resale value trends, and first-hand ‘memory lane’ accounts from original and previous owners,” he said. 

‘Blue Editions’ of the two books – on the Phase 1.5 and Phase 2 – are available separately for $275 each, or bundled as a pair for $499.

“On Good Friday we announced the individually numbered one-to-351 faux-leather covered limited edition Falcon GTHO Phase 1.5 and Phase 2 books, and even though they were priced at $351 each, they still sold out in a record 15 minutes,” said Mr Vasse.

“With hundreds of Ford fans on a waiting list hoping for a cancellation, we thought we better release a soft-cover ‘Blue Edition’.

Mr Vasse added: “After writing the GTHO Phase III bible last year, many readers asked us for a book on other HOs like the Phase II, Phase I and even the Phase IV.”

The release date for the two new books – officially endorsed by the Ford Motor Company – is scheduled for 30 November 2022, with deliveries due in time for Christmas.

And for fans wondering about the 1969 Ford Falcon XW GTHO Phase I Register: “This book is scheduled for release in 2023, though we’ve not opened up orders as yet,” said Mr Vasse.

Joshua Dowling has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years, spending most of that time working for The Sydney Morning Herald (as motoring editor and one of the early members of the Drive team) and News Corp Australia. He joined CarAdvice / Drive in late 2018, and has been a World Car of the Year judge for 10 years.

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