Strong thought-pro­vok­ing con­tent, myths de­bunked, facts only, no nu­dity. Writ­ten by Ben Ste­wart.

Australian Muscle Car - - Rated -

FNo rac­ing please, we’re Gen­eral Mo­tors

or a long pe­riod of time GM-H was bound by the par­ent company’s global ban on di­rect in­volve­ment in mo­tor rac­ing. But why was this the case and how did it come about? The ban can be traced back to a ‘gen­tle­men’s agree­ment’ in the 1950s be­tween the ‘big three’. But on the Aus­tralian mo­tor­sport scene, the Ford Mo­tor Company didn’t ap­pear to be bound by it and nei­ther did Chrysler Aus­tralia. How come? It would ap­pear that a case of dou­ble stan­dards was in play. Both Ford and Chrysler proudly ran fac­tory teams, with cars based on road-go­ing mod­els, at pres­tige events such as the Bathurst 500 and 1000 races. Why was there never a fac­tory Holden team as such, un­til the ad­vent of the Holden Rac­ing Team in the late 1980s?

June 6, 1957 marks the date when that gen­tle­men’s agree­ment was ar­rived at by the Au­to­mo­bile Man­u­fac­tur­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (AMA) that in­cluded Chrysler, Ford and Gen­eral Mo­tors Cor­po­ra­tion – the big three au­tomak­ers in the United States. It was an anti-rac­ing res­o­lu­tion where di­rect fac­tory in­volve­ment would not oc­cur. It also ex­tended to the point where the ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­tur­ers them­selves would agree not to build spe­cial rac­ing ver­sions of their prod­uct lines.

The agree­ment had come about for sev­eral rea­sons. A ma­jor in­flu­ence was the tragedy at Le Mans in 1955 when a Mercedes left the track at high speed and killed in­no­cent by­standers. Eighty-three spec­ta­tors and driver Pierre Levegh per­ished at the scene with 120 more in­jured in the most cat­a­strophic ac­ci­dent in rac­ing his­tory.

How­ever, in 1961 new Pon­tiac Mo­tor Di­vi­sion head Se­mon E (‘Bunkie’) Knud­sen de­clared he had a di­vi­sion to re-build and rac­ing was go­ing to be a part in that. Pon­tiac would re­lease some se­ri­ous com­pe­ti­tion-based prod­uct in an ef­fort to take on Ford who had re­versed their com­pli­ance with the 1957 agree­ment. The fa­mous tag line, “What wins on Sun­day sells on Mon­day”, cour­tesy of Ford dealer Bob Tasca Se­nior, had been coined dur­ing this time. Knud­sen was a petrol­head and would in time head up the Ford Mo­tor Company. His pro-per­for­mance ap­proach would even­tu­ally ex­tend down un­der and to the ma­jor shake-up in Ford Aus­tralia after the de­feat at Bathurst in 1968, and the de­par­ture of Harry Firth from the company.

In De­cem­ber 1962 came the trig­ger that ce­mented the in­fa­mous GM global ban on par­tic­i­pa­tion in mo­tor rac­ing. Leg­endary Chevro­let en­gi­neer Zora Arkus Dun­tov tested the Grand Sport #001 Corvette at Se­bring that month with promis­ing re­sults. This car was in di­rect re­sponse to the suc­cess of the Ford-pow­ered Cobra. News of this test­ing reached GM’s chair­man, Fred­eric Don­ner, and in Jan­uary 1963 he de­creed that all rac­ing ef­forts were to cease im­me­di­ately. Don­ner penned an in­ter­nal pol­icy let­ter dated Jan­uary 21, 1963 that started the ball rolling.

At a press con­fer­ence on Fe­bru­ary 16 came the an­nounce­ment that GM would not go rac­ing.

Don­ner fronted the large press gallery with the fol­low­ing state­ment: “Ever since the AMA adopted – I think you can term it a rec­om­men­da­tion – back in 1957, we have had a pol­icy on our books and we haven’t had any change in it.”

Don­ner was sub­se­quently ques­tioned on the fact that the Pon­tiac Mo­tor Di­vi­sion was in­volved in at least one form of mo­tor rac­ing and that

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