Go West

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle Man -

The 1968 rac­ing sea­son was a re­mark­ably suc­cess­ful one for Phil West. He won Bathurst’s 1968 Gold Star round in a Repco V8-pow­ered Brab­ham open-wheeler at the venue’s an­nual Easter meet­ing.

Then, six months later, he was run­ner-up in the Hardie-Ferodo 500 in the fac­tory-sup­ported Holden Dealer Rac­ing Team’s best per­form­ing Monaro GTS 327. West and New Zealan­der Jim Palmer were the only other pair­ing to com­plete the full 130-lap dis­tance that day, fol­low­ing home Monaro pri­va­teers Bruce McPhee and Barry Mul­hol­land.

Truth be known, West and Palmer’s #24D may have ac­tu­ally greeted the che­quered flag first, such was the in­ac­cu­racy of the lap scor­ing of the era. We’ll never know.

Nonethe­less, vic­tory and sec­ond place in Bathurst’s two big­gest races of 1968 were mighty achieve­ments for a pre­vi­ously un­her­alded twenty-some­thing driver. The world was surely West’s oys­ter as the 1970s ap­proached.

Yet, within 12 months of fin­ish­ing run­ner-up to Kevin Bartlett in the 1968 Aus­tralian Driver’s Cham­pi­onship, West was gone from the sport for good.

The late Barry Lake, a renowned mo­tor­ing writer who also raced against him, once high­lighted that West “per­formed one of the great­est dis­ap­pear­ing acts I’ve ever known.”

AMC #67’s story on the HDRT in early 2013 high­lighted his Hou­dini act and put the call out for in­for­ma­tion on West’s where­abouts.

Twelve months later – in early 2014 – he dropped AMC a line and in­vited us to pay him a visit to dis­cuss his time in mo­tor­sport.

So we sent Paul Gover to chat to West at his home in South East Queens­land to ask him why he pulled the shut­ters down on his rac­ing ca­reer just as it was get­ting into gear.

We learn more about his three Bathurst 500 cam­paigns, which in­cluded miss­ing out on a drive when Bill Brown and his XW-GT-HO got caught up in the mas­sive first lap crash of 1969.

West shares his mem­o­ries of driv­ing a For­mula 1 car at speeds ap­proach­ing 300km/h at Mount Panorama, with stretches that were lit­tle more than a glo­ri­fied goat track.

We also learn that his rac­ing en­deav­ours paled into in­signif­i­cance in many ways com­pared to land­ing air­craft on the HMAS Mel­bourne!

You don’t win in an F1 car at Bathurst with­out the right stuff. This is Easter 1968. Six months later Phil West fin­ished sec­ond in the Bathurst 500 (top). Soon after he gave up rac­ing...

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