An old, banged up, barely drivable Ford Falcon found in a chicken coop in regional Queensland could fetch as much as $200,000 in an online auction that starts this Friday.
The 1973 Ford Falcon – dubbed the “Chicken Coupe” due to where it was stored for the last 32 years of its life – is being sold “as is, in ‘barn find’ condition, complete with flat tyres, cobwebs, dust and rat droppings,” says auctioneer Grays Online.
It was bought brand new in 1973 for $7000 but is likely to fetch significantly more than that, when the five-day online auction starts at 5pm Friday 24 July 2020.
A nominal starting bid of $9 has already been entered by organisers, but a representative for Grays Online said they have already received estimates of $200,000.
Muscle Car Sales expert Harry Christian estimates the vehicle could sell for $150,000 “as is”, and could be worth more than $250,000 once restored.
The car is expected to fetch top dollar – despite its run-down condition – because it is part of a batch of special limited edition models known by car enthusiasts as “the one that got away”.
Its official name is the Ford Falcon XA GT RPO 83, and is even more rare the mighty Ford Falcon GTs of the 1970s.
The Ford Falcon XA GT RPO 83 edition was created almost by accident. Ford had planned to build a Ford Falcon GT Phase IV – a successor to the race-winning Phase I, Phase II, and Phase III models.
However, plans to produce the Ford Falcon GT Phase IV were dropped after the car made front-page news following a public and political backlash.
Back in the day, race cars had to be based on road cars, so Ford and Holden tried to outdo each other with special showroom editions.
When the Ford Falcon GT Phase IV was touted, it got the attention of politicians and the media who thought it was too powerful for a road car.
So the Ford Falcon GT Phase IV was quickly canned, but Ford still had a handful of performance parts. Rather than dispose of them, Ford discreetly added the go-fast bits to a batch of Ford Falcon XA sedans and coupes.
Numbers vary, but historians estimate about 120 coupes and 139 sedans were built, for a total of 259. To comply with racing rules at the time, 250 examples of a car with the same modifications had to be built to be eligible for competition.
The model code RPO 83 stood for Regular Production Option, but the cars were far from oridinary. They got most of the Ford Falcon GT Phase IV performance parts, but not the recognition.
As Street Machine magazine and automotive historian Graham Smith reported in 2003, and republished online in 2018: “There was no fanfare when Ford unleashed its ‘special’ XA GT in 1973. No announcements, no press releases to the media, they simply slipped it out to dealers and told them to keep quiet about it.”
After the backlash to the Falcon GT Phase IV, Ford “didn’t want it widely known they were building a supercar”.
“The Regular Production Option 83 was essentially conceived to dispose of the bits and pieces left over from the Phase IV project, the components that Ford had bought in readiness for the Phase IV production build and found themselves stuck with,” Graham Smith reported in Street Machine.
“You needed a pretty sharp eye to pick an RPO 83 from the GT crowd, as there were no badges to identify them. The giveaways were in the detail, such as the choke knob on the dash. If you looked under the bonnet you’d most likely find a 780 Holley carb (the same as those fitted to the Phase III HO), Phase III extractors, a modified oil pan with additional baffles to prevent oil surge, and a modified clutch pipe to prevent overheating of the clutch fluid,” Street Machine reported.
Some examples of the RPO 83 editions were fitted with rear disc brakes, while others weren’t – it was an option at the time.
The car up for auction this weekend was recovered from the Darling Downs – a regional area between Brisbane and Toowoomba.
The original owner bought the vehicle new in 1973 and used it as his wedding car in 1974.
After 15 years – and 46,386 miles (74,651km) – the car became too costly to insure, so the owner parked the vehicle in a shed surrounded by chicken wire “to keep the pigeons out”.
With the recent passing of the owner – 32 years after the vehicle was left idle – the family has decided to sell it.
“This car is as Australian as it gets,” Rian Gaffy, the classic car specialist at Grays Online, said in a media statement.
“From its accidental birth after the supercar ban, to its decades in a shed surrounded by chicken wire, to its colour scheme that honours a local chocolate company, it’s a uniquely Aussie story surrounded by rumours and legend. We’re very proud and excited to offer it for auction.”
The example up for auction is said to be one of only two RPO 83 coupes painted in MacRobertson’s Old Gold (paint code Y157), a rich orange hue, and “a nod to the equally legendary and pioneering Australian chocolate maker, (the) inventors of the iconic Cherry Ripe and Freddo Frog.”
In 2003, Street Machine estimated the value of pristine examples to be worth between $50,000 and $100,000. Since then, however, production of Australian cars has come to an end, and many rare models such as RPO 83 editions are fetching even more than this, regardless of their condition.
Photo credit: Survivor Car. For more details on the auction, see the video below:
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