L– Part 2
ast edition we started the story of Ford’s Phase III GT-HO Falcon, the ill-fated Phase IV and the transition to the two-door. My business at the time, Road and Track, working with Waggot Engineering up in Sydney, was playing quite a big part in helping Ford with engines in the context of the new 1973 regulations, but I was doing a fair bit of other work for Henry as well.
Much of it centred on development for the twodoor Falcon, which was going to be homologated with disc brakes on the back – the first Falcon that had disc brakes as standard on the rear. It went through the range eventually, but the twodoor got discs as standard. That meant you could modify the brakes to put a racing brake on the back as well as the front.
Ford had a test car, an orange two-door, and Howard Marsden probably said, in his inimitable way, “Oh, I’ll have one of those!” But as soon as that happened the boys inevitably grabbed it and started doing work on it. By the time we ran at Sandown for the ManChamp round in September 1973, Ian ‘Pete’ Geoghegan co-drove this car with Bo Seton!
On the old Sandown circuit, where you went under the bridge, I came through, lap five or thereabouts… and there’s the orange two-door up on the bank, with a wheel gone and the disc brakes out there for all to see.
Pete had lost a wheel, and we soon found out why: it was the first one fitted with race-spec disc brakes on the rear; the boys at the workshop had to machine the rear axles to accommodate the brake set-up and one of the radii was too sharp, so it sheared off at that spot. It was a lesson learned, and I’ll never forget that orange car in all its glory up on the Sandown banking…
In his exclusive AMC column, the Ford legend gives us the good oil on the works Falcon two-doors in 1973 and the obstacles overcome.
In fact that orange two-door left us with quite a few tales to tell. I did lots of testing in it down at Calder and of course word gets around. David McKay, Australia’s first touring car champion and a well-known scribe in those days, was a good friend of mine, mainly because we looked after all the Ford press cars – and David’s mother’s! He came in one day and said, “Fred, this car you’re testing, I’d like to have a drive of it, I’d like to be the first journalist to drive it.” I said I would speak to HM and in the end it turned out quite strangely.
David and I flew down to Melbourne and went out to Calder so he could have a run in the Ford, which was almost a secret car, so there was no publicity about it. “You should take me round,” said David. Then he drove – and timed himself with a stopwatch round his neck! Can you imagine that? I thought that was really unique. He said, “I’ll just get my watch,” and I wondered what he was on about! He had been timing me when I was blazing round in the car on my own to make sure everything was all right. There he was, across the start-finish line – ‘Click!’ on the watch, then when we came round, ‘Click!’ again on the watch. “Not too bad,” he said. From memory, he was about two seconds slower than I had been.
Our first race was in August 1973 at Adelaide International Raceway, the first round of the Manufacturers’ Championship. The best thing that happened to us, probably, was that it rained: we were quick anyway, but the big advantage we had was CAMS now allowed wider wheels so we could go to, say, Moffat’s TransAm-sized wheels on it. Allan had the contacts at Goodyear so we had the good Goodyears, so to speak. At AIR it rained, we used his wets off the Mustang and blitzed them. We qualified on the front row, Allan had an electrical problem and I won the race – the first win for the two-door. After that we ran the rest of the ManChamp in the two-door car.
Moving to Bathurst, that year I blew an engine at the top of the Mountain. I knew what the problem was, having been involved in the engine development, but getting that information through was no simple matter. When you blew up at Bathurst back then you didn’t get brought back to the pits, you were stuck. I was up at the top, just before Skyline, before there was any fencing there: you walk over and it’s just the edge.
So I walked from the top of the Mountain right down the centre of the Bathurst track right back to the pits. It took a bloody long time, I had blackberries in my race overalls, but I wanted to let them know what I thought the problem was and how we were going to fix it and keep going. I said, “HM, I think we’re revving them too high: we need to drop the revs back to 6500.”
We did – and Pete Geoghegan and Allan won the race. So it was worth the walk!
People laugh now, but back in the Phase III days you drove the car by the oil gauge: come into a corner, turn, the oil surge would go away, the pressure gauge would go to nought, so you would have to put your foot on the throttle and wait, wait until the oil pressure came back again. Tell people that now and they look at you as if you were mad, but that’s the way we used to drive the car back then.
When the two-door came out, it had a bigger sump but it wasn’t the fix. Howard’s idea was a pump at the front, outside the engine; it was like a rubber ducky thing with hoses. When the oil surged left or right it picked it up and pumped it back straight on top of the oil pump. It wasn’t a dry sump pump, which wasn’t allowed, but it was in the regulations – just!
Two more races, both in November, at Surfers Paradise and Phillip Island, and the works team was no more.