For years it was an object of fascination and discussion on classic car chat forums, but now the almost mythical Queensland chicken coop XA GT Falcon hardtop is about to find a new owner.
An online auction for the rare, but rusty, slice of Australiana ends on Wednesday night and it is already smashing expectations, starting from a $9 opening price to reaching above $300,000, without factoring in the 7.5 per cent buyer’s premium.
But although the XA coupe is dented, covered in rat faeces and likely to cost another $100,000 to restore, it has one of the great backstories of Australian motoring – bought new by a Darling Downs man who could not bear to part with it in his lifetime.
Its rarity comes from its production in the wake of the so-called Supercar scare of 1972, when a Sydney newspaper article prompted an outcry at plans by Ford, Holden and Chrysler to produce road cars that could reach speeds of more than 250km/h.
The goal of the car companies was to produce vehicles that were eligible for the Bathurst 1000 race rules, but the safety concerns and bad publicity saw them back off and keep quiet about what became the end of the line cars.
Instead, only a few of the supercar goodies from the sought-after GT Phase IV were equipped to production models like the V8 chicken coop RPO83 – which stands for Regular Production Option.
The cars came with Phase III-style enhanced carburettor and extractors, along with other modifications to enhance performance.
With less than 120 coupes built and one of only two produced in an orange colour which Ford described as MacRobertson’s Old Gold – a tie-up with the famous Australian chocolate manufacturer – the owner had famously refused all offers from car enthusiasts who wanted to liberate it from the chicken coop.
It has just over 120,000 on the clock and was taken off road and into the shed in 1988, the last registration sticker featuring Brisbane’s Expo 88.
Survivor Car magazine was one of the first motoring publications to detail the car’s history, with a former Telecom technician called Gordon from Darling Downs telling the publication he paid $7000 and traded in an XP Falcon to secure the uniquely optioned vehicle.
Gordon was 31 when he purchased the car and it features in his wedding photographs.
He recently passed away but told the magazine he bought the car in a “had to have it” moment.
It was a stance he maintained for the rest of his life as a succession of a would-be buyers approached him to sell.
The interest is indicative of a new breed of Australian car collector, inspired by US-style barn finds of rare and classic vehicles that have been left to decay.
Prices for iconic Australia cars took off around 2005 and, apart from a dip around 2010, have clearly outpaced similar markets for collectible vehicles in the US and UK, with the loss of local car manufacturing supercharging prices.
Classic car specialist at GraysOnline Rian Gaffy told The New Daily the chicken coop XA is “as Australian as it gets”.
Mr Gaffy said the market for such vehicles was a product of Australians over 50 wanting to revisit the thrills they saw their elders enjoying in the 1970s.
“A lot of the cars back in the early days … some of the guys had the cars and sold them, or it is something their fathers or uncles had and they want to get back to that sort of car.
That’s been happening a lot with these cars … the buyers are at that stage where they have a bit of super, or they get a bit of money off the house and they come back and buy them.’’
Mr Gaffy said many of the current bidders had indicated they would only do minimal restoration to the Falcon, with the real value being in its originality.
“I knew there’d always be a lot of interest in it because it is the most well-known GT in Australia, and the rarity of where it was sitting,” he said, adding the market for iconic vehicles had taken off in recent years and the coronavirus had boosted interest given people had less to spend their money on.
“I think at the moment a lot of people are not going overseas and they are not buying shares … they want to buy something that will appreciate.”