Phil takes off, but did Project B52?
I’d planned for last edition’s column to be my last Muscle Cars I’ve Known contribution. However, the editor was adamant I couldn’t end it all on a high point... [ED: Last edition’s 13 Rules of Muscle Car Ownership broke Phil’s previous record for reader feedback, split 50/50 between ‘Loved It’ and ‘Hated It’.]
When he wouldn’t take ‘no more columns’ for an answer, I suggested I tackle the topic of Allan Moffat’s Project B52 and whether his XB Falcon actually went to the United States for the KarKraft treatment in preparation for the 1974 HardieFerodo 1000. [ED: Well, it is the 40th anniversary of it this exciting race in 2014 and I wanted the welltravelled Phil to reminisce about the win by his favourite race driver, John Goss.]
40th anniversary? Who celebrates the 40th (or 20th) anniversary of anything except this magazine? Can’t have anyone feeling left out at the Muscle Car Masters.
Anniversaries are: 1st, 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th and 100th. That’s it.
Sadly, my recollection of watching the race is non-existent. I didn’t go to the track and I don’t remember a thing about the Channel Seven broadcast. I’ve resisted watching the newly released footage until after this column is written so I won’t pretend to remember things. My recollections relate more to the hype surrounding the event.
1974 was the year I bought the race programme for the first time. Then I left it on the bus. So 1974 became the year I bought the race programme for the second time. It seemed exciting to see a list of new cars driven by people you had only vaguely heard of, but there weren’t any photos of the cars. And what value were those programmes when so many cars and drivers would change after the printing deadline? Then half the cars never seemed to appear on TV. Hmmm, the good old days...
There seemed to be a lot pre-race publicity in
Phil Anders has watched more motor races than John Goss has worn neckerchiefs. Phil signs off with scepticism towards Moffat’s well-travelled XB Falcon.
1974, with the new L34 Torana on the covers of Wheels and Modern Motor and Moffat’s blue Brut 33 being featured in Racing Car News.
The Modern Motor shots of a gold L34 testing at Lang Lang struck a chord with me with a purposeful-looking oil cooler hanging out the front. When the cars eventually appeared in race trim, some L34s had a nicely shaped alloy scoop mounted under the front bumper which, curiously, I never saw on any road cars.
Ford imported a batch of 50 superseded Capri RS3100s that must have been hard to shift back in the UK. Modern Motor tested one at Oran Park done up in a half-hearted McLeod Ford race livery which I recall seeing at the Motor Show in August that year.
There were some weak suggestions that the RS3100 might be entered at Bathurst, which may have suited some smaller-budget teams. If the well-driven Datsun 240K could finish an impressive seventh, who knows how a Capri prepared by someone like Bo Seton could have gone in 1974?
Back in the era praised for its variety, cars like the six-cylinder Marina stood a chance of being accepted. I know it was a small-budget entry, and they no doubt got a lot of satisfaction from participating, but that must have been one of the least pleasurable cars you could choose to drive at Bathurst. I used to drive a Marina to work and it made the 30-minute trip seem much longer.
I recall a competition on the radio leading up to the race where listeners had to pick where the Tuff-Kote L34 Torana would finish. From memory the prize was a rust-proofing treatment of the listener’s car. Did anyone actually win the prize? I doubt that even Bob Forbes himself would have nominated ‘second place’. [ED: Wonder where that Tuff-Kote L34 is today?]
That was a conventional promotion compared to the one that Peter Wherrett devised. He somehow convinced the management at the ABC that his TV show’s Torque logo should appear on the Alfetta that he fancied running in the long distance races that year. The justification he used on his show was there was consumer interest in seeing how a car, newly released onto the Australian market, would go in racing conditions. I can’t imagine how much taxpayers’ money was spent on buying, preparing and racing the car. Or that it would ever happen today.
I was also a little surprised to see John Goss arrive at Bathurst with an XA Falcon. In between shooting ads with leggy Aunger girls, John had competed with the current-looking XB at Amaroo in 1974. It was odd that he went back to the older XA style when his sponsor was selling new XB Fords. I’d be vaguely interested to hear why. In 100 words or less.
Equally interesting is why the XA Falcon was able to be made fast and reliable enough to win in 1973 and 1974 yet with just a few exceptions (1977 of course), the record of the Falcon hardtops was very ordinary. Was the car so unsuited to racing that even several years of development wasn’t enough to get them to the finish line? [ED: Wet weather in ’74 meant slower speeds and reduced mechanical strain on Goss’s XA, which he considered a proven performer. Hurry up and get to your point.]
This was all a sideshow to the most outstanding event leading up to Bathurst in 1974: Allan Moffat’s publicity exercise for his Brut 33 XB Falcon. Plenty of photos appeared with the car on a pallet or inside a container at Tullamarine. But by the time it got to America, it appears that nobody had a camera. We didn’t even get a photo of Mark Donohue, one of the world’s leading drivers, who was supposed to have got behind the wheel. And all that testing seemed to go smoothly compared to what happened at Bathurst. How odd?
With Ian Geoghegan entered with fellow Craven Mild team driver Allan Grice in an L34, Moffat chose fellow Ford works driver Dieter Glemser as his co-driver. What must have a person of Glemser’s standard thought of the circus that ensued?
Moffat’s life must have become a lot less stressful when the RX7 came along…
As I said, this is the last Phil Anders column for now. However, I will return in 2024 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Goss/Bartlett HardieFerodo victory.