Colin Russell’s many racing achievements was building the engine that won the first Bathurst classic run over 1000 kays. That was in 1973, as a key member of Ford’s factory squad. When Ford disbanded its Lot 6 Mahoneys Road-based works team at season’s end Russell continued helping the privateer Moffat team. By 1977 he was a TAFE teacher by day, moonlighting as MFDT’s diff and gearbox guru.
“Every night after work – being TAFE – I’d head to the Toorak workshop until midnight,” Colin explained to AMC. “I’d always done diffs for Allan. In fact, he had one diff – as in the same physical centre – that he ran for six years. It was only for Bathurst, so it only got used once a year on a Sunday! He just loved it.
“Carroll Smith, who was a fantastic organiser, had the cars set up on a genuine cast-iron factory table where it was square in every position. Peter Molloy handled the engines – magnificently too, I might add – and it was a pleasure to be involved.”
Russell was a late Bathurst arrival in ’77, having to first fulfil his teaching duties. He picked up Moffat’s own Falcon GT, which Allan had left at Melbourne airport and drove overnight to the NSW Central West in the boss’s car.
It was a good thing the experienced Bathurst campaigner arrived at the circuit when he did.
“Unfortunately, after Saturday practice, Carroll, with the stress of everything happening, had got himself into a situation where he literally collapsed,” Colin Russell recalls. “I just had to get him back to the motel room; he looked like death warmed up to be honest with you.”
In Carroll’s absence, Russell says he organised a rotation system enabling the crew to head back to their digs for a freshen-up, to cope with a long night of final preparation and checks.
“We agreed that every nut and bolt on that car that could come off, would come off and that we would drill it and lock-wire it. We could afford to do this time-wise as we had no real problems. We’re glad we did.”
So what are Colin’s key memories of race day?
“I remember Allan getting out of the car after his double-stint and grabbing Carroll’s hand to say, ‘We’ve got them on toast’. The unfortunate thing was that Carroll, in turn, shook Allan’s (blistered) hand too hard and Moffat ‘cracked it’.”
Interestingly, Russell says Moffat wasn’t aware that, late-race, Smith had held out the ‘FORM FINISH 1-2’ message, as it was only shown to Colin Bond. Moffat, he says, was too busy dealing with his failing brakes.
When we asked Russell for his final words on Bathurst 1977, he recalls the team spirit that weekend, typified by a note that was left on the windscreen of the #2 Falcon.
“We, as in the mechanics, went off for a tea break on the Saturday evening. When we returned there was a note from Alan Hamilton and Colin Bond, which read something like: ‘Win or lose, your efforts are very much appreciated.’
“The guys thought that was great.”