This genuine XW Falcon GTHO Phase II has been winning shows recently, but go back 30 years and it was winning races
Although the full effect of the Australian muscle car war really hit its peak in mid 1972, it began getting into its stride back in 1963, when Holden released its S4 EH. The annual 1000-kilometre race held at Bathurst each year actually started out as a 500-mile race at Philip Island in 1960. There was no direct manufacturer involvement in that race, which was won by John Roxburgh and Frank Coad in a Vauxhall Velox.
That first race was fairly nondescript but it grew in popularity and, in 1963, was moved to the sleepy NSW town of Bathurst, where it was held on public roads. That ’63 event saw the introduction of Holden’s S4, the first Australian car built specifically to win that race. Although it failed to achieve its goal, it spawned a local performance car industry that quickly snowballed, but which was then all but snuffed out in 1972.
That little S4 Holden prompted Ford to retaliate, and in 1965 it hit Bathurst with its Cortina GT500. The rules at that time required either 100 locally built cars to be manufactured or 250 imported. Ford’s competition adviser, Harry Firth, set about building a small run, thought to be of around 120, of special Bathurst Cortinas, that went on to win that year’s event. However, the following season minimum production numbers for locally assembled cars was raised to 250, deeming the Cortina GT500 ineligible.