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XA Falcon GTHO - The Entire Story ?

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  • XA Falcon GTHO - The Entire Story ?

    I've discovered an article published in 1987 which delved into the history of the four known examples of the XA GTHO, more commonly referred to as the Phase IV.

    It's a twenty page article from defunct magazine Super Ford, the researcher and writer (and magazine editor ) being John Wright.

    John Wright ( JW ) interviewed Howard Marsden and other involved persons in 1986 and obtained copies of various Ford Sales Company of Australia bulletins, and he also tracked the ownership history of each car at that time.

    Ford company documents refer to the cars as the "XA Falcon GTHO". JW confirms what most articles have said, in that only one "production" XA GTHO was built by Ford, a Calypso Green car with white interior trim. The three Brambles Red/black trim cars were handbuilt prototypes destined for the 1972 Hardie-Ferodo race at Bathurst. Two of the red cars were to be raced by Allan Moffat and Fred Gibson, with the third kept as a spare.

    The Calypso Green machine featured many many factory options which included laminated windscreen, stereo/cassette player, electric windows, and a sliding steel sunroof.
    Ford records revealed this car's identity as SIDO #648771, Chassis #JG33MC83054K, and eventually invoiced to Jack Brabham Ford Sales P/L on 17/01/73 in the amount of $4220.07.
    The first private owner was John Hemphill who didn't like the colour, so had it resprayed another Ford colour, Zircon, with silver accents; he also had aftermarket airconditioning installed.
    In 1984 or thereabouts, the car, with around 67,000 miles on the odometer, was purchased by the often referred to "anonymous Sydney dentist" who said in 1987 that he had no intention of ever selling it and intended carryoing out a full restoration of the car.

    The Brambles Red cars were delivered to Ford Special Vehicles operation then located at Lot 6 Mahoneys Road, Broadmeadows.
    None of these cars had the option code 01H stamped on their compliance plates, but they did apparently feature variations to the normal production XA GTHO, including hand finished "QC" (quality control) engines. It was not intended that these three cars be sold for road use as they were to be stripped down for race preparation.

    When Ford made the decision to cancel the HO option in July 1972, Howard Marsden's team simply "downed tools" on the three XA race cars and turned their attentions back to preparing the old XY Phase III's for the Bathurst race.

    Apparently, only one of the three XA's was actually completed at the Marsden workshop.
    As the cars could not be raced as production touring cars, it was decided they should be sold "as is" for other motorsport use.

    Chassis # JG33MC76429K is the Goodall/Mann/Bowden car which has been well documented in recent times, and which bears Queensland rego plate "GTH:04". This was the Marsden team completed car and was virtually race ready.
    It was sold to Ford privateer rally man Keith Goodall, and then purchased by Bowden - for the first time - in 1973. At the time of JW's article in 1987, Bowden had sold the car to Rod Mann, who subsequently sold the car back to Bowden who still has it today.

    Chassis # JG33MC78488K was sold to another rally campaigner in Bruce Hodgson. This car went straight into rally competition in Victoria and NSW, and was later fitted with rear disc brakes.
    The car finished third outright in the 1973 Australian Rally Championship. Hodgson sold the car in 1975, but ended up with it again in 1984 when repurchased as a roll-over wreck. Regettably, at the time of repurchase the car was without it's original engine and Hodgson thereafter sold off most of the remaining good bits.

    Chassis # JG33MC78489K was the most incomplete car which was sold to Max McLeod of McLeod Ford, coincidentally the workplace of John Goss. It was Goss who finished building this car but he never raced it. This car was eventually sold by McLeod to a private buyer in 1974. JW's article states the 1987 owner as John "H", a used car dealer. JW obtained and published detailed photos of this car in SUPER FORD and as the odometer showed only 3,884.3 miles, the car still wears it's original Olympic Reflex red wall tyres. For anyone of an investigative mind, this car was wearing NSW rego "HO:344".

    As to what happened to the stockpile of HO components, it is said they went anywhere they could. Many Detroit Locker diffs were sold "aftermarket", and others parts found their way onto the 1973 XA GT Special, the RPO83 mentioned on previous Forum threads. Other items, including the Globe alloy wheels, ended up on XY Phase III cars.

    A final item of interest.....

    JW's article also included reprint of a Ford "Dealer Confidential Bulletin" ( Volume 72, Number 15 ) dated June 20th 1972.
    I won't go into it totally verbatim, as most of the mechanical package has been discussed on previous Forum threads. Otherwise, the most interesting aspects to me are quoted as follows :

    " The XA Falcon GTHO is now in production. "

    " The exterior appearance of the XA GTHO will be similar to the current XA Falcon GT with the exception of unique wheels and tyres. "

    " The 36 gallon tank will be carried over from the XY Falcon GTHO."

    " A new cut and sewn boot carpet will cover the large tank. "

    " An HO decal will be mounted on the sports console."

    " The front and rear fender flanges have been modified to accept the wider section tyres."

    " ....the XA GTHO, as previously, will not be offered with air-conditioning, automatic transmission or power steering. The front and rear deck lid spoilers are to be offered as a dealer fitted accessory and not as a regular product option. "

    " The XA Falcon GTHO option will be priced retail including tax at $740 over the basic Falcon GT manual price."

    ....... so said D.M. Morgan, Vehicle Marketing Manager, Ford Sales Company of Australia Limited.

  • #2
    Thanks Graeme for posting this summary. First time I'd heard of the road car being repainted. I presume that the dentist's restoration included repainting it calypso green?

    Does the article mention our mythical hardtop at all? If Marsden only completed two of the cars (I am confused as to whether Marsden did the road car at Broadmeadows as well), then downed tools then he could not have worked on a hardtop.

    As you have pointed out in other threads, the hardtops were not produced until later in72, probably after Marsden was instructed to abandon the 3 race cars.

    So, which car was featured in the Oestler piece, the Bowden car or Goss's (owned by John H in 86/7)?


    • #3
      Yeah, Wombat, it's not really the entire story is it ? The history of the race prepared HO's seems clear, but the Calypso Green car still raises many questions.

      It seems clear to me from photo evidence in the magazine article that the Marsden-managed Special Vehicles team only existed to prepare the factory team race cars, and provide services for the racing privateers, eg engine preparation.

      It's a safe bet that the XA GTHO was to roll off Ford's production line much as the XY GTHO was produced, and I confess I don't know Ford's 1970's production practices. Perhaps it was a similar situation to the Torana "specials" from Holden, the XU-1, L34, and A9X.

      The confusing thing is why only one production HO exists, when Wheels magazine suggested that the first one hundred cars had been built in June 1972 and the remaining two hundred were scheduled for the end of July 1972. We also have a Ford Bulletin document dated June 20th advising " the XA Falcon GTHO is now in production ".

      Ford decided in early July to cancel the HO program. For those who love "conspiracy theories", maybe one hundred HO's were built in June, but subsequently converted to standard GT specifications. That would require a lot of work and you'd have to question the value or need in reconfiguring items like the large fuel tank. There again, maybe Ford company Bulletins are prepared in advance of production line happenings, and the so-referred one hundred June HO's weren't actually screwed together at the time of this announcement to the dealer network.

      Any 70's Ford production line whistleblowers out there ??

      As to the Hardtop, there is no mention of any forecasted 2 door HO program in any article I've read. The HO for all intents died in July 1972 and the Hardtop body shape was not in production at that time.

      Wombat, the Oestler story was based on the David Bowden car, the only ( nearly fully ) completed race car, # JG33MC76429K.
      This is the only car that appears in public these days; the other two surviving XA GTHO's are hidden away.


      • #4
        Biante re-releases the XA GTHO

        With the development of the Biante XA prototype model, wouldn't it be nice if they had a go at producing the XA GTHO ?

        I wouldn't mind a 1:18 Calypso Green with sunroof, or a 1:18 Brambles Red with integral roll cage.

        Might just visit that Biante Wish List.


        • #5
          Fascinating info Graeme, as usual! One thing I'm puzzled about is the b&w photo of all 3 race GTHOs in the workshop, apparently fairly complete. It's a quite well-known picture, but I can't scan it here - it appears in the book "Spotlight on Falcon GT and GTHO", page 62. It's certainly possible that production stopped soon after the photo! And only the car numbered "1" is sat on its wheels, so that may have been the only one completed. As for the hardtop, Howard Marsden said it was full-house HO, so if the hardtop body wasn't a pre-production one (the XA sedan was signed off in 1968!) then it must have just had the leftovers fitted after the event. I wish I had more to go on - production date etc, but if it hadn't been for Howard Marsden saying it, I too would have dismissed it as just another "pub story".


          • #6
            And yes, I'm also hanging out for a model of the green one....


            • #7
              XA GTHO photographic evidence.

              Nick, the magazine article I have is twenty pages worth, including photographs. I don't yet have a scanner, but some day soon.....

              The photos are quite comprehensive; all up there are 33 photos of the cars of which four were taken inside the Marsden team workshop. There are also photos of two Ford company documents and of various newspaper clippings.

              Of the workshop photos, three appear to have been taken on the same day, the fourth is an ominous one taken on a later date:

              1) This photo, I figure to be the one referred to by Nick Short, shows all three XA's from a right/rear perspective, the two closest to camera on jack stands marked by numbers 2 and 3 on the 'C' pillar, with #3 closest to camera. #3 is shown minus rear axle/spring assembly and whilst it appears to be the most incomplete car, JW says this is the Goodall/Mann/Bowden car. #2 in the photo is said to be the car that was later rallied by Bruce Hodgson. The other XA in the photo, without an identifying 'C' pillar number, but with all four wheels fitted and looking complete, had apparently received the least attention in the workshop. If JW's story is accurate then this car may well have been scheduled as the race team spare and it would follow that this is the car sent to McLeod Ford / John Goss for completion.

              2) This photo shows more detail of car #3 from the driver side, and appears to be a same day photo. The right rear car door is open showing the roll cage with seats removed. There is also evidence of mud splatter on the lower front right fender and driver's door and obvious deletion of wheel arch dress trims found on stardard XA GT's.

              3) This photo shows cars #2 and #3 again on the same day, but from a view to the left rear of car #2. You can see the fuel flip cap missing on car #2 and two tanks sitting on the workshop floor, one compact tall tank (36 gallon ?) and one flatter (standard ?)unit with spare wheel cutout.

              4) The ominous photo - taken from a similar position to photo 3 - it shows car #3 in the background with it's bonnet hinged up as in the other photos, but with car #2 missing and in place of the other parked XA, there sits on stands the Fred Gibson signwritten XY Phase III race car and to the left of that another (partially obscured) XY with boot open and obvious roll cage. JW suggests this photo illustrates the sudden abandonment of the XA GTHO race program.

              As for the Hardtop, we all know that Moffat and the gang ran two factory team XA GT Hardtops at Bathurst in 1973, and it's quite possible that a special Hardtop with Phase IV bits was built for Bob Stillwell, he being a notable Ford dealer and racing identity. If the car was built, maybe it was done late in 1972 or maybe sometime in 1973, but whatever, nobody needed a Phase IV to go racing in 1973.

              As I've mentioned before, the touring car racing rules changed for 1973 and new freedoms were allowed which meant none of the manufacturers needed to build "showroom special" race cars.
              As to why nobody raced an XA four door GT at Bathurst in 1973, the logical reason relates to how much rubber you could fit under the rear wheel arches ...all part of the new rule changes.

              One more mystery matter ....JW's story doesn't confirm initial Ford Company sale dates of any of the cars except for the production Calypso Green machine which was invoiced to Jack Brabham Ford in January 1973. One wonders what was done with this car in the six months or so prior ???


              • #8
                I have grabbed some of the articles that I have seen and converted the photos into jpeg's (from pdf format).

                I think that these are from the Super Ford article, some of which is on the 4 onthefloor site. I think that these are the ones that Nick and Graeme are refering to. I will send them one at a time so that Admin can scrutinise and pass.

                Attached Files


                • #9
                  second photo
                  Attached Files


                  • #10
                    third photo
                    Attached Files


                    • #11
                      and 4th
                      Attached Files


                      • #12
                        and lastly, what appears to be a genuine pic of a phase IV race engine.
                        Attached Files


                        • #13
                          Why don't Biante make the race car that is currently owned by Dav Bowdin?


                          • #14
                            A question asked many times in many threads SWRT!!

                            Perhaps a little more consideration??..........

                            One more pic, how the model would look (hint hint)
                            Attached Files


                            • #15
                              Thanks Wombat for posting the photos in order of the ones referred to by me as photo 1, photo 2, and photo 3.

                              Your additional posting of the photo of two XA's on stands, but with wheels in place, is interesting in that it indicates the cars were delivered to Marsden's team wearing standard GT rims with dress trims. Maybe the reason why these three cars don't have HO compliance plates is because they came of the production line as pretty much standard production XA GT's ?

                              The photo of the engine is that of the McLeod/Goss car as owned by "John H." in 1987. This car at the time had only 3,884 miles showing on the odometer.