Shelby McLaren Ford XY Falcon GTHO Phase III
Shelby McLaren had travelled to Australia in March 2011 for work but as ‘chance would have it’ The Phillip Island Classic Festival of Motorsport was being held at the same time. Shelby had made sure he would be there as it was a very, very rare opportunity to see what he believed was one of the most beautiful Formula 1 cars of all time, the MkI Eagle Gurney-Weslake. Having recently thought about Dan Gurney’s win at Spa in ’67 he was eager to see how the car had faired some 44 years later.
Another car at the Phillip Island event brought back a very memorable moment that took place at Bathurst at the Hardie-Ferodo 500 in 1972. Shelby’s friendship with Allan Moffat meant that he had travelled to Australia to attend the race and as Allan had won the previous two Bathurst events he was confident of a third victory.
Ford were absolutely dominating the Class and the XY Falcon GTHO Phase III being powered by the thundering 351 cubic inch V8 was the car to beat. The first four cars on the grid were all Phase III’s but one car in particular stood out, Shelby’s eye had been drawn to the car all weekend, it was the wild violet Falcon sponsored by Bryan Byrt and driven by John French.
It was only a blocked fuel filter that stopped French from an almost definite second place to Moffat’s 1971 Bathurst victory and French was looking forward to the rematch but it almost didn’t happen. French’s Phase III Falcon had been taken off him at the end of ’71 and given to Norm Beechey to drive so it was only the intervention by Bryan Byrt in purchasing the Bob Skelton car that ensured the seat for French in 1972.
The race turned out to be one that Moffat would rather forget, he spun in the wet conditions early and suffered with penalties, eventually finishing 9 laps down. Peter Brock driving the HDT XU-1 Torana would go on to win the first of his nine victories at Bathurst on that day but the car that caught Shelby’s eye, that wild, thundering, purple beast of a Falcon was right behind him and John French came home to a well-earned 2nd place.
It was this memory that was the focus of Shelby’s discussion with John French at the Phillip Island event in 2011 when French was reunited with that Phase III. Shelby asked him how he managed to drive the entire race by himself and French told him that he had sandwiches and chunks of banana stashed in the console that he could snack on as he drove around!
Only Scalextric have released a range of the iconic Ford and Holden Australian Touring cars and they have proved to be very popular, not just in Australia, but the world over. There are about 15 of the XW/XY cars available with our car today, the XY Falcon GTHO Phase III, being labelled with the 2021 catalogue number C4263.