An Australian automotive historian has unearthed what is believed to be the last one-owner example of a 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III, one of the most collectible Australian muscle cars of all time.
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EXCLUSIVE

When a scruffy 20-year-old turned up to a Perth Ford showroom to kick the tyres on a brand-new 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III, the dealer refused to let him test drive it.

Instead, Mike – then an apprentice chef – was given a test ride from the passenger seat.

“The dealer must have been keen to sell it, because he tried to scare the life out of me and show me how fast it was,” recalls Mike who, 50 years later, still owns this exact car (the sole photograph shared with CarAdvice is pictured below).

“It sounded awesome as we roared up the street. The sound of the V8 echoed off the buildings, but it felt like it was shaking them.”

As it turned out, Mike didn’t need much convincing to buy the 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III.

Once the dealer noticed Mike had driven to the dealership in an earlier Ford Falcon GTHO Phase II (pictured below), the sales staff knew Mike was serious – and, clearly, a good money saver.

After negotiating the $5250 purchase price and other dealer charges and on-road costs, Mike was forced to wait for a month before he could take delivery of his latest high-performance Ford.

Police – who vetted new vehicle registrations back in the day – said the car didn’t pass a decibel test.

A quieter, modified exhaust system with resonators was sent from Ford in Broadmeadows to Perth by air freight.

“The TAA stickers were still on the pipes when I picked up the car,” recalls Mike.

Speaking with CarAdvice almost 50 years after he took delivery of his Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III in September 1971, Mike revealed he never expected to keep the car this long.

“When I bought it, I thought I would drive it for a while and then buy the Phase IV whenever it came out,” said Mike, who has declined to share his surname for privacy reasons.

“But when the Phase IV was axed I just figured I might as well keep this one, and now it’s become a part of my life.”

While Mike’s Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III was used as a daily driver for the first six or seven years, it has been in storage for more than 40 of the past 50 years.

Mike used his Phase III as his wedding car in the 1970s and, decades later, the car was pulled out of storage and given a once-over so his two sons could also use the family Ford for their marriage ceremonies.

The odometer of Mike's car is showing 66,000 miles (106,000km) and the vehicle has never been restored.

The engine is original but the car has had a few sets of tyres and brakes over the years.

Mike has the original five-slot wheels – and red-wall tyres – but stores the car on the optional Globe alloys.

So would Mike ever sell his pride and joy?

“That’s a difficult one,” he told CarAdvice. “On the one hand I want my sons to have the car and share it. On the other hand, it’s probably worth quite a bit of money now, and it could end up being part of my retirement fund.”

Mike says his sons are “afraid” of driving the car, but not because of the sheer power of the 351 V8.

“They said to me ‘it’s your windfall, you’ve locked it away all these years, you should get any money that comes from it’,” said Mike.

“They’re concerned about what it’s worth now. So they’re afraid if they drive it, something could happen to it. I don't think they want that responsibility.”

When asked if he would sell the car if someone offered him decent money today, Mike said: “Eventually, yeah. But I’m not in a hurry. I’m still very much attached to it.”

The one-owner 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III (pictured in white near the top of this story, other images have been used for illustrative purposes) was unearthed by automotive historian Ross Vasse who has been researching Ford Falcon GT cars for the better part of 30 years and is a collector himself.

Mr Vasse has put his life’s work into a detailed register of every 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III built and, with Ford’s help and support from the Falcon GT community, has documented the colours and options of each example ever made, as well as the unique stories that accompany individual cars.

Based on his extensive research conducted over three decades Mr Vasse believes Mike’s car is the only one-owner example of a 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III left in existence.

“There are unfounded rumours of one or two other one-owner examples, but they have never been substantiated,” Mr Vasse told CarAdvice.

“Many of the other claimed one-owner cars were found to have had very long-term ownership, but they were not the first owner. I’ve left no stone unturned in seeking the facts,” said Mr Vasse.

In the meantime, orders for the 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III Register (pictured below) are about to close.

After the first three volumes sold out, orders for the final Blue Edition will come to a close on 30 June 2021.

“The official cut-off date for the 1971 Falcon GTHO Phase III book will end on 30 June 2021,” said Mr Vasse.

“After this, this book will become unobtainable – the title no longer available and we will print no more. This is not a John Farnham farewell tour. There will be no encore.”

For more information about the 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III Register, click here.