36 Right Said Fred
Fred Gibson recalls a character from the privateer ranks who was one of Bathurst’s best entertainers. This bloke’s greatest Bathurst result was also, conversely, his worst! Theme song: anything by Right Said Fred.
Istarted telling you last issue about my old friend Joe Moore, the publican-turned-pedalpusher who combined the hospitality industry with a racing career off his own back in the 1970s and early ’80s. In 1976 Joe built a new hotel, the King George Tavern, at the corner of King and George streets in Sydney’s CBD. He was blazing a bit of a trail: it had four bars, a cocktail bar, restaurants and terraces modelled on what Joe had seen on a trip to the Rockefeller Center in New York.
By then he was a familiar face at race meetings as well. We – as in my Road and Track business – looked after his the GT-HO Phase III and then he moved into an A9X Torana, a purchase that we set up for him. It was a Peter Brock car sponsored by Pattersons, the Melbourne car dealership. Me being who I am, wanting to know we got the right car, as soon as Brock finished racing the car one weekend we put it on the trailer and took it home!
Not only did Joe campaign that car himself, but Christine (Gibson, my wife) also drove it with him in some long-distance races.One weekend in 1978, Joe, due to unforeseen circumstances, couldn’t drive the next day at Oran Park. So Christine and I co-drove it in the Rothmans 500.
We were leading that 1978 marathon – 222 laps! – against HDT and everyone else, and at one stage we looked like winning, which would have been a first in Australia for a husband and wife, but we didn’t make it to the finish.
During those years Joe struck up a friendship with the race promoters, helped by being involved with us – we had a full-time mechanic at Road
In his exclusive AMC column, the Ford legend recalls one of the great characters he helped to scratch his racing itch.
and Track to look after his cars—and he got in Bathurst 1000 head honcho Ivan Stibbard’s ear, as Joe often did.
He was right, too; back in those days when we went to Bathurst there was nowhere to have a coffee or anything in the old pits.
The upshot was that Joe established another King George Tavern – right in the pits at Bathurst in 1978! It was just a marquee and a kitchen annexe to start with, but eventually they built a permanent brick structure complete with a large restaurant and bar and its own beer garden. Some of the team principals would book their whole team in there of a night. Joe had kegs of beer on tap.
It was all part of being at Bathurst, and those memories are something Joe started. It’s a shame that it’s gone now because it was a genuine part of Bathurst history.
But Joe was still keen to keep racing, so when the XD Falcon came out, he bought one which we race-prepared for him and me for Bathurst 1980. We didn’t finish that race for reasons I can’t recall now. That’s the car which was involved in the crash that stopped the race in 1981, although he and Christine finished officially sixth, so it had a fair bit of history.
With that car written off, we built an XE for Joe. When I was otherwise engaged driving a Nissan Bluebird a good friend of mine, Bruce Richardson, who worked for Frank Matich for years, team-managed Joe’s car. Graham Moore drove with Joe for a couple of years, and a Bob Muir had a run too, in 1984, the last year the XE was eligible.
Joe was one of those hands-on people: he’d carry the kegs, help the guys run the pub, and when he moved into the King George Tavern it was just three bare concrete slabs in the new Amex Towers. He and his staff did all the work on the project with the help of tradies. Joe was fit, had a medical every year, worked hard, and then just died in his sleep nine years ago. It was tragic that he didn’t live longer to fulfil everything that he was capable of.
Joe enjoyed his motorsport and he loved competing – he was as game as Ned Kelly: if you said he should be doing something he’d go and do it. “That corner there, Joe, you’ve got to go through full bore”, and he’d do it. He raced at Bathurst, Oran Park, Surfers Paradise, Warwick Farm and Amaroo Park, many of the biggest venues in our sport. He also used to love racing at Surfers Paradise and many people won’t know that in late 1980 he loaned Dick Johnson his car to drive there, because Dick had famously crashed his Tru-Blu Falcon car at Bathurst just a few weeks before.
We started the Joe Moore story with beer and I reckon that’s how we should finish. Joe, Marjie and his two sons Anthony and Scott started an Aussie pub in Vietnam! Just for something to do: a dead-set Aussie pub – Marjie and Joe lived upstairs, he imported all the gear you’d need to have the beer on tap and make it authentic. Frequent visits by the various police and sometime closure for unjust reasons, one of which was the ongoing fee by each authority to retain a small awning over the front door, made viable trading near impossible. That would be a red flag to Joe because he was being shafted – he told me about the bribery and corruption over there – and he and Marjie just left everything there and came home.