Driving the legends, GTHO Phase 1 2 3 & 4.
13 March 2010
We have a large number of famous cars our collection, but four of the best are our ex race GTHO, Phase 1,2,3 and 4. With the recent GT show at the Pacific Ford dealership, I had the rare chance to drive three of these down and back from the shed. People have always asked what the differences are when it comes to driving the cars. So here are my thoughts, plus I had to add in the Moffat Phase 3, from my track demo’s at different events, to round out the drive experiance of these 4 legendary Falcons.
With the Phase 1,2 & 4 are all built as series production racers, far evolved from the regular road GTHO's, but they can still easily be driven on the road with no threat to the motoring public, other than the odd neck injury when they cars can inflict when people see them driving past them. Moffat’s Phase 3 is another thing all together, it is an outright racing machine, it needs to be taken around on the back of the old Moffat F350 race transporter, which is very appropriate.. Driving them all over the course of a few days certainly showed each car's difference in personality, so here some insights on our GTHO family.
Phase 1 - Honey on a stick. This HO makes you fall in love with it after each and every drive. It is perhaps one of the nicest we own. With light precise steering, responsive 351 Windsor, heavy clutch and shift (it's a muscle car and they are supposed to be like that.) and subtle handling that never feels like it is going to get out of control. We have had a number of drivers in this car including Kevin Bartlett, Leo Geoghegan, John French and Chris "wap wap wap" Bowden. All comment on how great it is to drive on both the road and the track. I am a big fan of the Phase 1 model because of this particular car.
Phase 2 - The boy racer. It's lumpy cam means she is a bit cranky at times, but the sound of that engine certianly makes up for that! It has a heavy shift and clutch, not much different to the the Phase 1. The noticable extra weight in the front makes it not as easy to drive either. Some other drama's you can get are at idle when it loses it's brakes, due to the lack of vaccum with the big cam. This is something I found out about some time ago when rolling into a major roundabout in town, I went to apply the brakes, and there was nothing! Thankfully the car gods were smiling upon me as their just happened to be no cars in this usually congested intersection. It made me very aware of keeping the revs up when running around town. Still, any brake problems are quickly forgotten when you get into the throttle...This machine was not made for being a shopping, town car, get her out on a open bit of road and it just wants to go. The lovely torque given by the heavier Cleveland engine is something the boys who rode with me to the Pacific Ford dealership can now share my appreciation for.
Phase 3 - The beast. Having run this car around a few tracks I am beginning to know it very well. It is pure muscle car. With horsepower, alright brakes (better than none the others have), amazing shift, heavy as hell clutch, bicep workout steering, awesome acceleration and traction (thanks to those big Goodyears), race car vibrations ( from the solid engine mounts) and an exhaust note to kill for. It is the King of all GTHO Phase 3's. I have a huge amount of respect for this car, not to mention the likes of Moffat, Gibson, French and Carter who all raced them in this Group C trim back in the day. It's an absolute beast that requires full concentration to get the most from it, if you don’t, it will bite you, every single time!
Phase 4- If only... the only words I can think of every time I drive this car. So much better than any series production Phase 3. But not quite as good as the fully developed Group C phase 3's that were needed to replace it. If this car was ever released it would have been a great continuation of the GTHO name, showing the rest of the world that the boys at Lot 6 Mahoney’s rd (the Ford race shop) know how to build a true GT. But of course this was never to be. It ticks all the boxes, great engine, exhaust note, lighter and precise steering, nice shift, ok brakes, plus one extra in the handling department. Line up a corner; settle the car with the brakes, then turn in, which it does beautifully, with no scary vices. Then just before the apex, gently apply the gas.. to leave the corner with a slight amount of lock as you feel the special spring rates, adjustable shocks and panard rod all working to hold that rear end through the exit of the corner. It's a car that makes you look good and can be quite addictive I tell you! The only let down for me in the car is the tall first gear, she will never win a 1/4 mile drag, but this vice is also one of its great assets. Get her over 70km/h and the close ratio box comes into line with the specially tuned race engine, to give a driving experience that made my Dad rate this above any GTHO's he ever sat his bum in. Having experienced the different cars we have had in the collection it is something I can totally agree with. Long live the race Phase 4.
For me personally, it was a great thing to drive the old Phase 4 again. Dad used to take us for rides in this car as a kid; I vividly remember the excitement both Chris and myself shared each time we went out for a run. For Dad, I cannot imagine how good it must have been to own this car when new, it’s a weapon of a thing to drive even by today’s standards. Must have been like a intergalactic starship when it was new in the 1970's.
Historically, all these cars are equals, as they all helped create the GTHO legend by giving the Ford race team many well remembered wins, making for a very special era of racing. As many of you would be aware, we are pretty proud to have them all together here, with other “equals” of our nations fantastic racing history. It’s always interesting when putting these against other greats sitting in the shed, especially with the likes of the Super Falcon, Moffat’s Mustang and even the Brock A9X’s, but that might be another article to share with you all in the near future.
Till then, love your car,