Luke West

Edi­tor

Australian Muscle Car - - Contents -

The day af­ter each AMC is­sue goes on sale just won’t be the same now Harry Firth has passed away. Let me paint the pic­ture... The phone would ring, I’d pick up and hear, “Luke, it’s Harry Firth.” Me: “G’day Harry, how are... H: “What’s writ­ten in your mag­a­zine is not true.” Me: “Oh! Which story are you re­fer­ring...” H: “I’ve told you be­fore that any time you write about my cars, you must speak to me to get the facts.”

There were times when Harry’s calls were mer­ited. There were other times when I could not ap­pease him by ex­plain­ing, quite rea­son­ably I thought, that driver X was en­ti­tled to his opin­ion on topic X. Harry was adamant that his name was copy­righted and AMC couldn’t print it with­out his per­mis­sion.

Harry got par­tic­u­larly cranky with me last year when we in­tro­duced then colum­nist Phil An­ders’ page with the line that Phil had owned “more mus­cle cars than Harry Firth’s had hot din­ners.”

Ad­mit­tedly, it was a bit cheeky on my be­half, but was a light-hearted throw­away line and cer­tainly not a dig at him.

Harry re­sponded in let­ter form, high­light­ing that he was 95 and had been “eat­ing hot din­ners once a day, three times a week from when I was 20 years old. So that’s 150 meals a year for at least the last 70 years, which equals 10,500 hot din­ners. There’s no way your man has had that many mus­cle cars. Nor can I re­call read­ing he has achieved any­thing in life. I can­not re­mem­ber meet­ing or speak­ing with him. To me this is a deroga­tory state­ment show­ing a com­plete lack of re­spect for my stand­ing in the world of mo­tor­sport.”

I apol­o­gised to Harry for up­set­ting him and as­sured him there was no lack of re­spect for him from AMC. I think that comes through in our trib­ute, start­ing p67.

In com­pil­ing that list of his achieve­ments I re­ceived fan­tas­tic as­sis­tance from Don Kin­sey, one of three gents who de­liv­ered eu­lo­gies at Harry’s fu­neral. Ob­vi­ously it was too big a task for one per­son!

Don’s duty was out­lin­ing H’s ser­vice in World War II, which was un­known to most people be­yond the Firth in­ner cir­cle. Mean­time, Peter Otzen pro­vided an in­sight into Harry’s child­hood, while Ian Tate cov­ered rac­ing. But it was Harry’s six years in the 2nd AIF that was the real eye-opener. It also ex­plained a lot.

“We – as in so­ci­ety – are only now re­ally com­ing to re­alise the full ef­fects of post trau­matic stress dis­or­der on for­mer ser­vice­men,” Don said to me dur­ing one of our con­ver­sa­tions. “Given some of the things that Harry ex­pe­ri­enced dur­ing the war, they pos­si­bly ex­plain why he was can­tan­ker­ous at times and didn't suf­fer fools gladly.”

As un­com­fort­able as some of my con­ver­sa­tions with Harry were, I al­ways hung up the phone mar­vel­ling at how spritely he was for a nona­ge­nar­ian. I never thought I’d write this, but to­day I’m glad I re­ceived those calls from H.

Harry, AMC sa­lutes you.

Sadly, Harry was not the only rac­ing leg­end we lost in re­cent times. Sir Jack Brab­ham ob­vi­ously holds a spe­cial place in mo­tor rac­ing his­tory, but his con­tri­bu­tions to Aus­tralia’s her­itage of home­grown high-per­for­mance are more ex­ten­sive than you might ini­tially think.

Firstly, if his 1966 World Cham­pi­onship in the Repco-pow­ered Brab­ham BT19 is not a mus­cle car story then I don’t know what is. A decade later he en­tered Bathurst folk­lore when his (and Stir­ling Moss’s) stranded To­rana was struck on the start­line by a hap­less Dolomite. More on these cars in fu­ture edi­tions, as Sir Jack died just be­fore this edi­tion closed for press. Hence, please ex­cuse the fact this page is the only nod to Brab­ham in this is­sue.

As to road cars, we mustn’t for­get that Jack Brab­ham Ford in Bankstown or­dered and re­ceived the only XA Fal­con GT-HO Phase IV roadie. Then there’s the Jack Brab­ham Spe­cials – his deal­er­ship’s al­ter­na­tive to the XY Fal­con GT. The lat­ter was a wolf in sheep’s cloth­ing if ever there was one.

Tell us what you think about this edi­tion’s se­ries of cover sto­ries. Be warned, any­one whing­ing about the Magna’s in­clu­sion as a ‘wolf in wool’ with­out ac­tu­ally hav­ing read the yarn can ex­pect to re­ceive both bar­rels. Harry’s taught me well.

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