Australian Muscle Car - - Bathurst Muscle -

The best-laid plans went awry when dis­as­ter struck the team about four weeks out from the big race.

Garry Rush re­mem­bers the fateful day well,

The horse came across the top of the bon­net, peeled part of the bon­net back and took ev­ery­thing off

back to the B-Pil­lar. The roof was only cen­time­tres above the steer­ing wheel. If the roll­bar hadn’t been in the car they would have been dead

as both Damon Beck and he were in Bryan Bald­win’s of­fice brief­ing the first-time team owner on their per­sonal prepa­ra­tions for the race.

“Bryan, be­ing new to mo­tor rac­ing, told us to go and get prac­tis­ing! We had to tell him that you re­ally can’t go and do that in these cars. So he said to us, ‘I’ll give one [a Phase III] to you, and you can drive it to Queens­land and back to be­come more fa­mil­iar with it. So he sup­plied us with a Phase III each!

“Damon took the car we were go­ing to race at Bathurst and he left the deal­er­ship a bit ear­lier than I did be­cause he was liv­ing up at Ka­toomba, which is a good cou­ple of hours drive from Brook­vale. He might have left at about 5pm.

“I stayed at the deal­er­ship talk­ing to Bryan and other people. About an hour later Bryan re­ceived a call from Damon in­form­ing us that he’d had an ac­ci­dent. He said he was go­ing along Wind­sor Road, near McGraths Hill, head­ing to­wards Ka­toomba and a horse had stepped out in front of him.”

Beck and his fe­male pas­sen­ger were ex­tremely lucky to es­cape. Top: Klaus Sayer’s shot of Pittwa­ter Road, Brook­vale a week be­fore the big race. Ti­tan Ford sits on this site to­day. All aboard the 151 bus to Mona Vale – we bags the front seat on the top deck. Above: The ARDC’s ac­cep­tance let­ter of Bald­win’s Bathurst en­try. Left: A proud Bryan Bald­win takes the lo­cal press for a spin. Note the lo­cal paper’s snap­per next to the Fair­lane.

“If the roll­bar hadn’t been in the car they would have been dead,” says team man­ager and deal­er­ship ser­vice man­ager Ian Field. “The horse came across the top of the bon­net, peeled part of the bon­net back and took ev­ery­thing off back to the B-Pil­lar. The body was a write-off so we got onto Ford to get a re­place­ment body.”

One of the deal­er­ship ser­vice depart­ment staff who re­mem­bers the car re­turn­ing to the Brook­vale work­shop is Klaus Sayer, who says the re­mains were a bloody mess in more ways than one.

“The roof caved in. The car knocked the legs of the horse out and the body came over the bon­net and took the Shaker off and went into the wind­screen. Be­cause we had the rollcage in there, it stopped the roof from com­ing down on Damon and his pas­sen­ger. The roof was only cen­time­tres above the steer­ing wheel. From mem­ory Damon had only a cou­ple of in­juries to his hand.”

An SOS went out to Ford for a re­place­ment body, but as Field out­lines an­other dis­as­ter quickly pre­sented it­self.

“Howard Mars­den or­gan­ised for us to have an­other body painted in the same colour. So some­body from the deal­er­ship drove to Mel­bourne to pick it up, but on the way back the trailer got side-swiped on the Hume High­way and that new body fell off the trailer and down into a gully. So we had to pull it out of the gully, get it back to Syd­ney and get it re­paired by a lo­cal panel beater. It was just un­der two weeks be­fore the race when we got it all back to­gether.”

But wait that’s not all, with the team man­ager him­self tempt­ing fate and nar­rowly avoid­ing pre­race dis­as­ter num­ber three.

“Three of us de­cided to take it from Syd­ney to

Swan Hill to run it in,” Field chuck­les. “I re­mem­ber Les Shepherd lost it in the rain at one point. Then I was driv­ing be­tween Hay and West Wya­long, at, let’s say, con­sid­er­able speed, which you did in those days, when the rear tyre ex­ploded.

“We had the Miche­lin XAS tyres on the car [for the run to Swan Hill]. We fig­ured we could do the race on one set of tyres. Our strat­egy was to not change tyres and there­fore save a hel­luva lot of time, re­mem­ber­ing that chang­ing wheels was not as easy back then as it is to­day. We fig­ured that what we lost to the cars with slicks we’d make up by spend­ing less time in the pits. It was a big call, but that’s what we de­cided to do.

“Prob­lem was that the Miche­lins weren’t rated for the speeds the Phase III was ca­pa­ble of do­ing...

“I’ve got this men­tal im­age to­day of driv­ing along on the Hay Plain and feel­ing the tyre ex­plod­ing and look­ing in the rearview mir­ror and see­ing the car fish­tail­ing all over the place. And I can hear Les Shepherd in my mind to this day say­ing, “D-o-n-t t-o-u-c-h t-h-e b-r-a-k-e!” as he was hang­ing onto the roll­bar.

“Any­way, we stopped and there’s this bloody big piece of tyre em­bed­ded in the guard. The steel-belted ra­dial just came apart.

“On the way back to Syd­ney, the third driver went through a tum­ble­weed go­ing flatout and it was so abra­sive all the paint­work on the front of the car was sand­blasted off it.

“So by the time we got to Bathurst the car was def­i­nitely run in,” Field laughs. Right: The re­laxed-look­ing crew se­cured an im­pres­sive ninth on the 60-grid. It was a boy’s own ad­ven­ture for the mostly novice race crew.

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