Not surprisingly, the plan to run the venerable Michelin XAS tyres in the Hardie-Ferodo 500 was abandoned before the inexperienced team made the pilgrimage to the Mountain.
“Garry [Rush], being local, did pre-race testing at Oran Park,” Damon Beck explains, “at which time the decision was made to use Goodyear racing tyres instead of hard-wearing Michelin radials, which were [intially] preferred by our adviser, Les Shepherd.”
Dealership staff worked long hours to transfer the running gear from the original car into the replacement shell and then the special QC engine. Several have described the weeks leading up to October 2-3 as a “circus”, with staff keen to impress Field to gain a spot as a pitcrew member.
Field says it was most certainly “a boy’s own adventure” for those having their first taste of competing in the big race.
Dynamometer technician Klaus Sayer, who took most of the candid shots presented on these pages, says there was plenty of hoopla at the Brookvale dealership immediately prior to the race, including the day the local media turned up.
A nice touch was the Mustang silhouette added to the Phase III MkII’s front fender panels.
Baldwin was a showman and he went to Bathurst with the expectation that his car could win. Failing that, he wanted his drivers to garner as much attention as possible.
A race that stops the nation
Through the 1960s and the bulk of the ’70s the Bathurst classic was a two-day meeting – practice on Saturday, the race Sunday. Grid positions were set on the basis of Saturday’s practice times.
So it was less than ideal when Saturday dawned windy.
“My first time on the track was in the first session on the Saturday at Mount Panorama,” Beck says. “There was a severe cross-wind and I did the requisite six laps to qualify without exceeding 100mph.”
Beck says he set the car’s fastest time of the day, 2.46.2, in the second session doing the minimal laps to save wear and tear on the car.
“I was delighted to be fastest and starting ninth was a bonus as there was only Leo Geoghegan (Charger) in other than GT-HOs ahead of us.”
The 2.46.2 was not far off the best of the dealer-entered cars, David McKay’s Finnie Ford machine in fourth. The three works Falcons were significantly quicker though, and Moffat’s pole time of 2.38.9 (three seconds quicker than John French in second) was on another planet.
Beck, who considered himself lead and starting driver, was in for a rude shock.
“I was quite surprised when, after qualifying, returning home to Katoomba via the workshop used by the team at the BP garage in Rocket Street, I was told that Garry would be starting the race.
“On Sunday morning I remonstrated with Bryan Baldwin, but he told me the matter was in the hands of Ian Field.
“Even so, I was happy to be in the event and determined to do the best I could.”
Field says today that it was plain to see that Rush was a star in the making.
“Damon and Garry were both talented drivers, no doubt. But Garry Rush was a brilliant driver. Within the team we reckoned he could have made a career out of circuit racing.”
The mood in the team on Saturday evening was positive, but there was one more scare awaiting them before the race, as Klaus Sayer explains.
“In those days, after Saturday practice you go into town to somebody’s workshop and service the car, which we did. It was at this stage the team discovered a ticking noise in the engine, something like a valve spring.
“Luckily we had a spare car. I remember this was late at night, so the pit crew, the ones allowed in pitlane – which was only a small number of our group – were sent off to bed. I wasn’t part of the main pit crew, as in the pitlane crew, so I was one of the guys who stayed behind and took a cylinder head off the spare engine and put it in the race engine. It was 4am or something by the time we finished. It was lucky we discovered it when we did.”