Bryan Baldwin: a rare breed
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.”