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Bathurst, MANCHAMPS and ATCC – The mighty Phase III

It’s safe to say the Ford Falcon GT-HO Phase III changed the game and blew Holden into the weeds.

As The General went down the nimble route by making the Torana GTR XU-1 its racing model, Ford went all out with the Phase III in 1971.

Regarded as the holy grail of Australian muscle cars, the Phase III was built with one intent only, win the Hardie-Ferodo 500.

At the time of launch, the Phase III was the fastest four-door sedan in the world as a homologated special to appease CAMS.

Ford’s racing versions were built in the fabled Lot 6 Mahoneys Road factory, where work was overseen by Competitions Department leader Al Turner (who recently passed away) as 300 rolled off the production line at nearby Broadmeadows.

Following tweaks at Lot 6, Phase III’s debut occurred at the traditional Sandown warm up event, which was a 250-mile event.

It was far from a dream for Ford as the two factory entries for Allan Moffat and John French retired as a majority of the GT-HO fleet followed allowing Colin Bond in the Holden Dealer Team Torana GTR XU-1 to take the win.

Ford privateer Murray Carter did break the trend at Sandown by finishing runner up

At Bathurst, Moffat set the tone in qualifying by setting a staggering time 13.2s quicker than the previous year.

Not even a stray beer carton placed on the grill could stop the Canadian’s charge towards his second Bathurst victory in as many years.

However, Bill Brown in a similar GT-HO Phase III failed to make the finish after a spectacular roll at McPhillamy Park caused by a front-right tyre blowout. A black eye, cut and concussion were his injuries, but he later drove home to Sydney that night.

In a classic David vs Goliath battle Ford won out as power proved quicker than nimbleness during the Australian Manufacturers’ Championship and the 1972 South Pacific Series courtesy of John Goss.

After a mixed 1972 MANCHAMP title to that point, Ford entered Bathurst on form after a Sandown victory and Moffat emphasised this confidence by going a further 3s under his 1971 time in qualifying.

However, a wet race suited the Toranas and Peter Brock took his first victory at the Mountain.

Moffat scored the final two victories in the MANCHAMPs to give the title to Ford for the second year running.

With the change to Group C regulations for 1973, the Ford Falcon GT-HO Phase III contested the Australian Touring Car Championship.

In turn Moffat won that too, his first although his race car was stolen ahead of the round at Adelaide International Raceway where Carter loaned his car enabling the Canadian to score valuable points.

Unfortunately, Moffat was an early retirement in the Phase III’s last appearance at Warwick Farm as the XA GT Hardtop came for the first 1000, which he won with Ian Geoghegan.