Bryan Bald­win: a rare breed

Australian Muscle Car - - Bathurst Muscle -

No story on Bald­win Ford’s Bathurst 1971 cam­paign would be com­plete with­out some in­sight into the man who funded it – Bryan Bald­win.

The word that most com­monly popped up to de­scribe Bald­win while re­search­ing this yarn was ‘ec­cen­tric’.

In­deed, there’s more than a hint of ec­cen­tric­ity in Bald­win Ford’s ‘For Sale GTHO Phase 3’ advertisement that ran in July 1972’s Mod­ern Mo­tor. The ad blurb reads, “Su­per­car, other­wise known as Bryan Bald­win, the mild-man­nered Ford dealer of Brook­vale, is sell­ing his Bathurst 500 GTHO Phase 3.”

Bald­win Ford ser­vice depart­ment dyno tech­ni­cian Klaus Sayer ad­mits he didn’t have a lot of face-to-face con­tact with the dealer prin­ci­pal but says that the ‘E word’ ap­plies.

“He was ec­cen­tric. I didn’t have much to do with him. We hardly saw him in the ser­vice area. He was am­bi­tious and liked his mo­tor rac­ing. Bryan had big am­bi­tions af­ter the race (in 1971) to come back big­ger and bet­ter in 1972, but he never got there.”

Garry Rush says Bald­win had un­re­al­is­tic, even naïve, ex­pec­ta­tions of Bathurst suc­cess.

“Bryan was a very pos­i­tive thinker,” the speed­way leg­end re­flects to­day. “He didn’t ac­cept any neg­a­tive thoughts. He wanted to go to Bathurst and win Bathurst. Ob­vi­ously Damon and I did too, but we knew it was go­ing to be hard to beat Mof­fat and works Ford team.”

So would Rush de­scribe Bald­win was ec­cen­tric?

“Af­ter the Bathurst race fin­ished, I walked back to the pits from the top of the Moun­tain. Bryan had a car­a­van in the back of the pits and he said to Damon and I, ‘Let’s go up there and pop a bot­tle of cham­pagne, be­cause we were go­ing to win that race.’

“Now, Al­lan Mof­fat was a lap and bit in front of us! But I don’t think Bryan knew about that. Bryan wouldn’t ac­cept any­thing neg­a­tive. If that’s what ec­cen­tric is, then I guess he was.”

The man who worked most closely with him was deal­er­ship ex­ec­u­tive Ian Field.

“He was a real char­ac­ter,” Field says. “He and his wife Zena were in the ads. She was a very vi­va­cious lady.”

Field says Bald­win was ex-Bri­tish Army and took great pride in the nick­name he earned as a sergeant ma­jor, ‘Butcher Bald­win’.

“He told me he was mid­dleweight box­ing

cham­pion in the Bri­tish Army.

“I left [the deal­er­ship] when he found re­li­gion. He went pen­te­costal.”

One time Field ac­cepted an in­vi­ta­tion from Bald­win for Mrs Field and he to at­tend a ser­vice at the boss’s church. When Field’s wife could take no more of the ‘Praise The Lord’ style of wor­ship, they upped and left mid-ser­vice.

“My re­la­tion­ship with him went downhill af­ter that and I left and went to work for Nick Poli­tis at City Ford.

“He was a very dif­fi­cult man to be in­volved with.

“And he never for­gave me for telling the driv­ers to ig­nore what he told them pre-race ‘to win or crash it off the top of the Moun­tain’. He said it in front of their wives.

“We thought he was kid­ding, but he meant it!

“He went into re­ceiver­ship and lost the fran­chise. He didn’t keep the fi­nanciers sup­port­ing him.”

Bryan Bald­win was man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Bald­win Ford for four years. A tip­ping point was when he opened a sec­ond deal­er­ship in the nearby sub­urb of Bal­go­wlah. It put too much strain on fi­nances and he re­signed, with the deal­er­ship pass­ing back to Ford Aus­tralia and trad­ing on un­der new man­age­ment as Pa­cific Ford. To­day Ti­tan Ford sits on the same Pittwa­ter Road site.

Bryan Bald­win com­mit­ted sui­cide in June 1975.

The Can­berra Times re­ported in April 1976 that Mrs Rosina Bald­win told the coroner’s court that her hus­band turned to re­li­gion about 18 months be­fore his death to help him over­come his fi­nan­cial prob­lems.

“Due to the eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion at the time and the fact that he had just opened a new deal­er­ship in Bal­go­wlah he needed more fi­nance than he could ac­quire,” she is quoted in the news­pa­per. “As a re­sult, he re­signed and the deal­er­ship passed back to Ford Aus­tralia. This had ap­peared to be a re­lief for him and to rid him of all the strain and worry.

“He had be­come de­pressed when he was asked to leave a job he had taken with an­other Syd­ney mo­tor firm only about two weeks af­ter he started.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Can­berra Times, the coroner de­ter­mined that Bald­win, 42, died on June 8, 1975 of “as­phyxia when he wil­fully hanged him­self with the in­ten­tion of tak­ing his own life.”

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