86 V8 Sleuth

Australian Muscle Car - - Contents -

Chan­nel Seven com­men­ta­tor and chas­sis his­to­rian Aaron Noo­nan tracks the where­abouts of Glenn Se­ton Rac­ing’s ear­li­est Fal­cons. Theme song: Robert Palmer’s ‘Look­ing for Clues’.

Fol­low­ing the sur­prise ap­pear­ance of AJ Foyt at Liver­pool Race­way in Jan­uary 1975, driv­ing a VW-pow­ered speed­car no less, an­other US leg­end Johnny Rutherford was booked for an Aus­tralian tour the fol­low­ing sum­mer. He also raced a ‘lawn­mower’ as these cars were some­times de­scribed.

Like Foyt, Rutherford was a mul­ti­ple In­di­anapo­lis win­ner (1974, 1976 and, in the fu­ture, 1980) and ac­cord­ing to his com­peti­tors, an ex­tra nice guy. As a vet­eran pro racer he was happy to race any­thing, any­where. He’d pre­vi­ously raced NASCAR stock­cars and USAC sprint­cars with suc­cess, on dirt and on pave­ment.

His most dra­matic race at Can­berra was up against Aus­tralian speed­car cham­pion Ge­orge Tat­nell, in an event billed as the 2CA Tourist Tro­phy. The pair ran nose-to-tail through­out, tap­ping bumpers, with Tat­nell just beat­ing the Amer­i­can cham­pion to the line. Tat­nell rated this as one of his sweet­est vic­to­ries.

In 1977 Rutherford re­turned to Aus­tralia to drive a Ron Hodg­son team To­rana A9X at Bathurst, shar­ing the car with Amer­i­can lady racer Janet Guthrie. They re­tired af­ter 13 laps and never came to grips with the Moun­tain.

Other Amer­i­cans to race at Can­berra in­cluded ‘Sleepy’ Tripp, Larry Rice and Hank Butcher, all in speed­cars, plus Gary Pat­ter­son in sprint­cars and su­per mod­i­fieds. GP didn’t like driv­ing those ‘taxi cabs’ as he called them.

There was also a host of sedan stars com­pet­ing as part of the USA team. Big Ed Wil­bur is the most mem­o­rable of these, as much for his tal­ents as a stand-up co­me­dian as for his con­sid­er­able driv­ing skills.

The Amer­i­cans’ re­sponse to rac­ing in Aus­tralia’s cap­i­tal city was var­ied.

It was Pat­ter­son who once told the Fraser Park crowd… “I only went out for the main (fea­ture race) to keep faith with all the GP fans in your na­tional cap­i­tal, which is such a great place that even your politi­cians get out of it at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity.”

Top: Big Ed Wil­bur. Right: Sleepy Tripp. Be­low: Ge­orge Tat­nell bat­tling Amer­i­can leg­end Johnny Rutherford for the 2CA Tourist Tro­phy.

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