Phil takes off, but did Project B52?

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle Cars I've Known -

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.

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