Wild horses couldn’t stop the Baldwin Ford team from racing in the 1971 Hardie-Ferodo 500. Literally. Well, a horse running wild at least. You see, a paddock escapee’s dash for freedom soon led to the nag’s grizzly demise when it was struck by a bright orange Falcon GT-HO Phase III on Sydney’s rural outskirts a month before the October classic.
Needless to say, the driver of the Phase III and his female passenger were lucky to survive, with the vehicle destroyed. Thankfully, the car’s rollcage stopped the roof from completely caving in and crushing the occupants.
Incredibly, the replacement shell was also involved in a high-speed crash en route from Melbourne a matter of days later.
It was as if the racing gods didn’t want the team, entered by Ford dealer Bryan Baldwin, to race on the Mountain.
That XY, driven on October 3, 1971 by Damon Beck and Garry Rush, did make it to Mount Panorama. Impressively, given its pre-race misadventures, it was running well inside the top 10 with just a dozen laps to go when the frontright wheel broke, robbing the seemingly cursed squad of a well-deserved result at the end of a tumultuous month.
It’s remarkable then that this Phase III survives to this day, especially when you learn of its postBathurst life.
Even more extraordinary is that the story of #61E from Bathurst 1971 has never been told in full. Until now.
It’s the colourful tale of an ill-fated attempt on Australia’s Great Race and the sad back-story surrounding the Northern Beaches dealership.
It serves to highlight Ford’s efforts to equip privately-entered Phase IIIs, particularly those entered by its dealers, with the very best running gear, to provide backup to its works effort.
The Raw Orange-coloured XY is now one of a handful of the 13 Phase IIIs that contested the ‘71 event to survive.
Its current owner only unearthed its tworace competition history after he purchased it a decade ago.
The story also highlights how a Phase III’s racing history is now revered rather than derided.
Read on for an insight into how a suburban dealership got all excited about a Bathurst campaign at the zenith of the muscle car era.