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 Bowden 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 those 27 years earlier.