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Celebrating 40 years of Ford Autralia’s “Super Car” GTHO Phase IV

Submitted by on February 8, 2012

Open Day to Celebrate the Ford GTHO Phase IV Prototype’s.

The team at Bowden’s Own Car Care are running an open day tour of their impressive collection, this coming February 26th to celebrate 40 years of the Phase IV Falcon

It was back in December 1973 that Australian car collector David Bowden first acquired one of the corner stone’s for his famous car collection; the now infamous Ford GTHO Phase IV Race Prototype. After owning a succession of GTHO Phase III’s, he was to find that this Bathurst ready “super car” was a vastly different and more refined beast than any he HO he had driven before.  It was a love affair that has lasted almost four decades as he helped slowly piece together the now fabled story of the three unique Phase IV “Super Car” prototypes.

These cars have become icons for those into Aussie muscle cars and for Bowden it was the start of his car collection, giving him the foresight that was needed to save and preserve the many iconic  Australian racing beasts that now form a part of his extended family in the shed.

So this February, the first collection “Open Day” will be a special event celebrating the reclusive Phase IV’s, and a coming together of the former owners of the three race prototypes, including rally legend Bruce “Hoddo” Hodgson, the only man who drove one in anger, in the Australian Rally Championship. Bruce got his car direct from the Ford racing team boss Howard Marsden, and entered it in the Australian Rally Championship, coming a gallant 6th place that first year. He was to later to sell his car, where it was tragically written off in a road accident after surviving for years unscathed in rallying through the unforgiving forestry trails.

How to get on the entry list?

The Bowden’s Own Open Day is strictly by invite only. The free invitations are available inside two of their famous car care kits, the Super Size or Mother Bucket kit, both brimming full of the highest quality products, personally hand crafted by leading Australian chemists to care for the Bowden’s own cars many years ago. Each kit has a registration form for one person and their spouse/ partner/ son/ daughter to attend the full day tour.

History of the Ford Falcon Phase IV Race Prototype

The Phase IV story is the most celebrated story in GTHO folklore.

In 1972 the new XA GT model had been released and a GTHO model was needed to take over from the XY GTHO on the race track. Three XA’s were sent to Howard Marsden and his team at Ford Special Vehicles, Fords internal race division. These were to become new factory race cars. Four of these cars were built, one road car and three race cars. The car in our collection is one of those racers.

The racing rules at that time dictated that 200 standard Phase IV’s had to be produced before a race car could be eligible. Therefore all parts on the racing Phase IV had to be fitted to the standard road going versions. Those rules were to be the death of these mighty machines. In mid ’72 the media hit on a story of these 160 mph ‘Super Cars’ that were about to hit our streets. They gave the impression that these cars were going to be too dangerous for the general public to drive. This was the start of mass hysteria that eventually led to the government stepping in and demanding that all production cease of these road going race cars. The Phase IV project was axed and the cars were ushered out the back door to selected owners in Australia.

Our GTHO was shipped to Queensland rally driver Keith Goodall. It was the only car of the three racers that was completed; it had been tested at Calder, and was all ready to be handed to Fords top driver Allan Moffat. Having talked to Keith recently he was able to give me some insights into his ownership of the Ford racer. Keith raced a GTHO Phase I quite successfully, both at the circuit and on the dirt. He was approached by Howard Marsden during part of the Dulux Rally at Hume Weir and asked if he wanted to get one of the new Phase IV GTHO’s they were developing. Keith had never heard of the new car and asked how much it would cost, “around 2500 dollars” Howard replied. Keith was very interested, it seemed about time to replace the Phase I and the price was right.

Over the next few months Keith rang Howard to get information on the new cars progress. With every call the cars price seemed to be increasing. Howard told him that the factory race team would be attending an upcoming meet at Surfers Paradise raceway, so he travelled there with a bank cheque in hand for $3,500. This was presented to Howard ensuring he received one of the Phase IV GTHO’s. Once again some time passed, then out of the blue he received a phone call telling him to pick up the car immediately from Ford Special Vehicles. Unable to get to Melbourne on such short notice, he had his brother collect the car and organise it onto a boat bound for Townsville, Qld.

Once the car arrived in Townsville Keith was amazed at what he had been sent, a fully prepared race car all sign-written for none other than Allan Moffat! He had read all about the Super Cars and the pressure put on the manufacturers to stop building these machines, so it didn’t take long to put two and two together, and realise what he had in his hands! The HO didn’t come with a drivers manual (funnily enough) and there was a bit of trouble getting the beastie started inside the boat. After about a quarter of an hour they found the kill switch on the side of the console! They flicked it up and she burst into life. For those who have heard what a red-hot Cleveland sounds like, imagine it with a straight through exhaust in the bowels of a cargo boat!! It put the wind up everyone on board including it’s new, now somewhat shaken, owner. With it being a bit too raucous to drive on public roads, he trailered it back to his workshop just outside Townsville and wondered what to do next. Keith crawled all over the car and noticed the numerous modifications that had been made to it. Realising that it was too special for a race car he decided to make use of it as a road car. In order to have it road registered, a standard GT exhaust that came with the car was fitted. This entailed the removal of the panhard rod so the exhaust pipes could get past the differential. The suspension was also raised two inches, (North Qld roads weren’t the best back in ’72) these were the only modifications he made to the car.

Being a racer, Keith wanted to know exactly what this new HO was capable of. He took it on a number of long distance trips and found that it was a magnificently balanced piece of gear on the open road as well as through the twisty stuff. Its only short coming was driving around town, where the combination of a tall diff ratio, (3.00:1) close ratio gearbox and race spec engine made it almost undrivable. And how fast was it on those long country roads? Without giving too much damning evidence, both Keith and David Bowden agreed with Ford Special Vehicles foreman John Wynne, in that the race version was capable of an easy 175 MPH. The car was on the Ford display at the Townsville show and this is where next owner David Bowden first saw it. He just had to have the car, and eventually bought a property from Keith that included the Phase IV as part of the deal. David lived on a property some distance outside Townsville and used the car as quick transport between the city and home. He knew what the car was and was very reluctant to make any changes to it.

David has owned the car on and off throughout the last 30 odd years finally getting it back in 1999. He has now put the famous HO back to how it went out the back door of Ford Special Vehicles in late 1972. It now shares its deserved place in Bowden’s shed next to some famous brethren; the factory GTHO race Phase 1,2,3 and Group C Phase 3 which was built to race when the Phase IV project was abandoned.

Full details of the next Bowden’s Own Open Day can be found on their website by hitting this link . Likewise, you can see just a few of the iconic Australian race and road cars in their collection here.

Images: BowdensOwn.com.au





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