Unsung heroes, secret tweaks & Moffat's cheek
1-2, thank you
It was unquestionably Ford’s finest hour at Bathurst. And arguably the defining image of the company’s 90-year history in Australia. Ford fans will forever remember the two Falcons crossing the finishing line together, just centimetres apart, on Sunday October 2, 1977 to win the Hardie-Ferodo 1000.
On the flipside, they are the machines that Holden fans still see in their deepest and darkest of automotive nightmares.
Close your eyes and you can hear their 351 cubic-inch Cleveland V8 powerplants rumbling around Mount Panorama, having left the Toranas in their tyre tracks.
Open your eyes and you can instantly recognise the simple white Moffat Ford Dealers livery with red and blue stripes running from nose to tail. Just one flash and any muscle car fanatic or Australian race fan instantly knows what they are looking at.
These are two of the most recognisable cars in local tin-top racing history. The Seven Sport vision of the #1 car – driven by team owner/driver Allan Moffat – and the #2 car, piloted by the talented Colin Bond – side-by-side down Conrod Straight on the 163rd and final lap has been replayed more times than perhaps any other piece of ‘Great Race’ historic footage.
Moffat’s car, wounded and limping with a brake problem – after factory Porsche Le Mans ace Jacky Ickx had worked them hard during his stint – crossed the line first, with teammate Bond
playing the part of the loyal back-up and crossing in second place.
“Had there been a Holden on the horizon, if it even looked like we were being threatened, he would have gone through into the lead so fast with my blessings it didn’t matter, but by that stage I’d had a few wins under my belt, I knew the significance of winning, I also knew the horror of losing and wasn’t inclined to change the way we finished,” Moffat told AMC.
“The front brakes went metal to metal and the pistons started to melt, and popped something out. The pistons had gone out so far that the hydraulic seal jumped out of the caliper and as such all the brake fluid poured out and the smoke I saw was all the brake fluid on the hot rotor. It only took three or four brake applications and the brake fluid reservoir was empty.”
These were the cars that grabbed a hold of Australian touring car racing in 1977 by the throat – and squeezed the life out of it.
If anything, they actually did too good a job in achieving the winning objective, sparking archrivals Holdens into life to bolster their Torana program for the following season and thus take away the joyful days of blue oval fans for the years to follow.
Heading it all was none other than Moffat. Then a three-time Bathurst victor, he’d endured the tough times after the withdrawal of Ford as a factory entrant at the end of 1973. Forced to push on without the backing of Broadmeadows, the following years were lean as the horde of Torana L34s out-numbered and outraced the almost absent blue oval runners.
But the tide was beginning to turn in 1976, and the pathway to what ultimately became the first form finish 1-2 in Bathurst history actually began in terrible circumstances over twelve months beforehand.
Forced to replace his racing XA GT Falcon and transporter, after they were burnt out in a fire on their way to the Adelaide International Raceway round in mid-1976, Moffat began a project known as ‘Project Phoenix’.
From the ashes of his destroyed car came another car, (its build outlined in AMC #26) and this one arrived in a striking yet simple white livery with ‘Moffat Ford Dealers’ painted down its flanks and backing from head office and its dealer network.
Then the next piece of the puzzle came together with the signing of Colin Bond for 1977,
swapping from Holden to Ford after eight years with Harry Firth’s Holden Dealer Team squad.
Add to that the procurement of American Carroll Smith as team manager – a then 44-year-old New Yorker who had racked up plenty of experience with Shelby Racing in Ford’s US racing program in the 1960s – and the two-car Moffat Ford Dealers Team looked a winner on paper. This was the beginning of the road to Bathurst domination.
Much has been written about the 1977 Great Race over the years, with the drivers’ memories covered extensively. Therefore we’ve endeavoured to provide fresh insights into the MFDT campaign, including the driving forces behind Ford’s funding, Smith’s contribution and the life stories of the two famous chassis. Thankfully both cars live on today ensuring, as the curtain comes down on almost a century of Ford’s manufacturing in this country, memories of the company’s finest hour will endure.
October 2, 1977
The 1977 Hardie-Ferodo 1000 stands out as one where the result for the first two cars was numerically perfect.
The two Moffat Falcons were the only cars on the lead lap at the end of the 163-lap race, with the #1 Allan Moffat/Jacky Ickx car coming home victorious after starting third on the grid.
The second-placed Colin Bond/Alan Hamilton car started on the front row beside Peter Brock’s pole-sitting Bill Patterson Racing Torana A9X and finished in the same position.
It took only six laps for the two Fords to run 1-2 in the race’s early stages and they were able to control the pace after the new A9Xs of Brock, Allan Grice and company had set a cracking pace before problems with the-then two-raceold cars emerged. Both Moffat and Bond drove double stints (the former copping a rather nasty blistered hand), before handing over to their respective co-drivers, who each ran a stint.
Belgian, Ickx, a Le Mans 24 Hour winner and more used to precise F1 and sportscar Right: Jacky Ickx arrived in Bathurst fresh from his third consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans victory and with eight F1 GP victories under his belt. Bottom left: Colin Bond’s co-driver Alan Hamilton was Moffat’s partner for the 1969 race. machinery, had given the brakes in the lead car a fair caning, forcing Moffat to limp home in the latter stages as they cried enough. But no one other than Bond was a threat and the #2 pilot played the last part of the race with a straight bat, crossing the line alongside team owner Moffat for a memorable finish.
In fact, 1977 was the first year that crossentering within teams was permitted by the rulebook and, while the co-drivers circulated, Moffat had offered Bond the chance to take over one another’s cars for the final stint. This would ensure each would be victorious, regardless of which car crossed the line first.
However, 1969 winner Bond elected to stick with his own mount and it would be another six years, 1983, before the first three-man team (Peter Brock/Larry Perkins/John Harvey) would be crowned Bathurst victors after taking advantage of the cross-entering rule.
Originally, Moffat had envisaged Bond would be his Bathurst co-driver from the start, however Ford Motor Company management dictated each pilot their own car with a co-driver, robbing Bathurst of a dream-team line-up.
This scenario would have robbed the team of the chance to have two cars in a position from which they could finish unchallenged in first and second. Ford’s ‘split decision’ was vindicated.
“I fully expected he and I would drive the same car at Bathurst, but Ford management wouldn’t have a bar of it,” Moffat told AMC.
“They wanted him in another car and their exact words I think were they didn’t care who we had as co-drivers, and that’s why I chose Jacky.”
Bathurst bonnet barney
Ford introduced its XC Falcon range in July 1976. Conspicuous by its absence was a GT model, upon which Ford’s touring car contenders had been based since 1973, the first year of the Improved Production Touring Car rules.
The Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) officially recognised the transition from XB to XC as being valid from July 1, 1977, some twelve months after the XC range’s launch. The change of model was limited to body and trim variations. The previous ‘GT’ model designation was also replaced by ‘500 GS’ in CAMS’ recognition documents.
It takes a leap of faith to associate the largely forgotten XC 500 sedan (with GS Rally Pack) or the GS coupe, with Ford’s frontline touring car fighter, but such were the vagaries of Group C homologation at the time.
Cosmetic upgrades would not have been enough to stay one step ahead of the new Torana A9X. Lessons learned during three and a half seasons of racing the XB were incorporated in Ford’s request for an ‘Evolution’ of the new XC Falcon 500 GS, mostly upgrades designed to enhance race durability.
The XC Falcon GS Evolution package, which was “now fitted as standard equipment to Hardtop Model Falcon 500 GS” included: new front and rear spoilers; spring tower base and reinforcement bracket; steering idler arm support bracket; twin row water pump and crankshaft pulleys; and transmission oil cooler incorporating electric pump, lines and cooler.
Changes allowing extra wheel and tyre clearance – and greater degrees of negative camber – were also officially in place for the XC 500 GS Evolution hardtop’s debut at Sandown’s HangTen 400 in September 1977. Moffat missed qualifying after an engine failure in practice and started off the rear of the grid, rising to third by race end, albeit two laps behind winner Peter Brock and his brand new A9X. Bond was fifth.
This result stung Ford into lodging an amended set of homologation papers requesting another ‘Evolution’ of the Falcon Hardtop 500 GS. In the document, it was claimed that “the following items are now fitted as standard equipment to Falcon GS Hardtop sedans with effect from 1st October .” These ‘Bathurst’ evolution items included: a hood scoop (reverse facing or cowl induction like the A9X), a thermatic twin-fan kit and air-ducting to the front brakes, inclusive of duct and flexible tube.
Leading Ford teams arrived at Bathurst with these items fitted, but after a sizeable barney, scrutineers dug their heels in and demanded that they were removed. The specific reason is unclear – Group C homologation was always as murky as the Yarra River that flowed just a few blocks from the MFDT’s Malvern Road workshop.
In a period magazine article, engine builder Peter Molloy maintained that the hood scoops were good for 25bhp.
Today, the bonnet of the #1 car in the National Motor Racing Museum bears the witness marks of the patch job from having to remove the scoop before raceday.
The second evolution was made valid from October 17, 1977, allowing Ford teams to use the new equipment to good effect in the remaining rounds of the ATCC.
The heart of the matter
So much of the technical story of the Moffat Ford Dealers Falcons of the 1970s revolves around the 351 cubic inch Cleveland engines that powered the roaring Fords.
Allan Moffat had engaged Sydney engine builder Peter Molloy to look after the powerplants in his hardtops, with the motors prepared ‘up north’ and transported in crates down to Moffat’s Melbourne base or, sometimes if need be, directly to the race track.
Molloy’s team of technicians also prepared engines for Dick Johnson’s Bryan Byrt Ford Hardtop at the time.
This approach – of out-sourcing engine preparation – is completely normal in the modern era of V8 Supercars. (For instance, Red Bull Racing Australia currently source their motors from KRE Engines and previously, in their Ford days, from Stone Brothers Racing.). But back in 1976/1977 it was something quite different to ‘the norm’.
“There were some terrible, intrinsic problems with the Falcon, with the Ford sumps we had to run,” recalled Moffat to Wheels magazine in a 1994 article.
“When we accelerated out of the corners, all the oil would go to the back and blow the engines. We tried everything known to man and truly, the 1-2 finish in ’77 was the eventual reward for the energy and effort that had gone into it.”
Brad King was a young apprentice with Peter Molloy in 1977. His son these days races Formula Ford but back then he was a wide-eyed kid stoked with being part of the team – even if it meant a very, very late Saturday night preparing for the big race.
“After a very successful practice and doing the final preparation on Moffat’s engines, I was given the task of building up two complete sets of rocker arms to last the 1000 kilometre race the next day,” he recalls.
“That was 32 individual arms, 16 for Moffat’s car and 16 for Bondy’s. Back then we used production-based homologated parts and the 525 horsepower 351 Clevelands had pushed those exact same rockers as used in GT-HO Phase IIs to their very limit. The Phase II Clevelands only made 330 to 345 horsepower at best in 1970.
“So, seven years later with another 200odd horsepower running through the same component, they were overheating and the half -moon skid fulcrum turns blue and welds itself to the rocker arm which then fails. It all collapses apart and then the pushrod is thrown out followed by the solid lifter, which results in an instant loss of oil pressure and I need say no more!
“Ford delivered two large packing crates – one full of hundreds of rocker arms, the other full of rocker fulcrums. I sat down with a tube of Bearing Blue, a fine machining paste, and proceeded to mate up a rocker arm assembly. I then had to hand airgrind oilways on each fulcrum and polish them to reduce as much sliding friction as possible.
“After six hours I had finished and fitted them to the Falcons – it was 4.00am on the Sunday!”
King later left Molloy’s employment but reconnected with Moffat in 1979 when the by-then privateer ran in Federation Insurance colours.
“We were lobbying Ford in 1977 hard for more improvements because we knew what was coming (from Holden),” he recalls.
“We needed better rockers, better conrods, so it could be revved harder; but Ford was not keen on it. Moffat was left on the same amount of money. We pressed the engines harder trying to be more competitive.”
Of course, more revs a minute meant more strain on the powerplants. And the increase in cornering speed, from the improvement in tyre technology, also meant that oil surging was a major, ongoing nightmare.
“In 1979 they were surging quite badly,” recalls King.
“We did different sumps, we went out of our minds trying to get them to stop surging. There was huge lobbying in that era for dry-sumping and roller rockers to be let in.”
Left: What a way to spend a public holiday Monday! Peter Molloy and his apprentice, Brad King, at post-race scrutineering. Right: The non race-spec engine bay in the winning machine today. Below right: Ford Australia’s sales and marketing director Max Gransden spent the weekend with the MFDT.
A read through Carroll Smith’s notes postBathurst 1977 shows that the Ford team really didn’t see itself pre-race as a steamroller of brilliance that day at Mount Panorama – in his mind the opposition steamrolled themselves. And it’s not hard either to spot his military background in his tone and style of writing.
“While no real opposition was experienced, this is more due to stupidity and mismanagement on the part of Brock and HDT than brilliance on our part, and it must be realised that MFDT will be in big trouble in 1978 unless major improvements are made to the Falcons,” he wrote.
Smith outlined seven key areas for future improvements: engine output and reliability, reduction in rotating inertia, reduction of unsprung weight, reduction and redistribution of vehicle weight, increase in chassis torsional rigidity, improved drivability/road holding and increased braking capacity.
It was all spelt out for Ford as to what they had to do to remain on top of Australian touring car racing – but they didn’t stump up the bucks to support it.
Moffat had asked for an increase in funding, though the suits at Ford merely thought he was playing up the problem to squeeze more funding out their door to line his own pockets.
He was trying to furnish the results sheet with some more Ford success, and knew what was coming from the other side once the A9X was fully developed, but instead found himself with a similar budget to the year before. And that was that. “Two days after the 1977 Bathurst race, I was in Max Gransden’s office and even though we may have still been basking in the glory of the Bathurst 1-2, I said to him that we needed to get serious about next year,” Moffat told AMC.
“In Max’s mind and in the minds of a lot of other people on the third floor we’d had an easy win and we had such an arsenal they thought ‘great, the same amount of money for 1978 will be fine’.
“I can remember leaving the room and saying ‘this is going to be a disaster, Max. We’re going to get blown off the face of the map because Holden are mad as hell and when they get mad they spend money.’”
Naturally there are also all sorts of stories that abound about those hardtops and how the speed – and reliability – was extracted from them at a variety of tracks around the country.
There are tales of a big-block 390-cubic-inch aluminum engine that was run at infrequent events, some suggesting it was even on board at Sandown in early 1977 for Bond’s debut in the new car in a non-championship event where scrutineering was lax.
After all, there were plenty of Ford executives on hand to see their new man in action, and a check of the tape shows that he really did romp away from the field…
There are stories of specially ‘fudged’ tyre markings on the Goodyear tyres – the fact they had markings on them of 15-inches, allegedly, hid the fact they were bigger, so the story goes.
There’s chat about lightened panels (Carroll Smith’s notes for improvements post-1977 refer to maximum use of alloy hidden panels!) and all sorts of other weird, wacky and unsubstantiated claims.
Getting anybody to talk on the record about any of it?
Singing Carroll’s praises
Carroll Smith, after a stint in the Navy, raced formula cars in Europe in the early 1960s before coming to the conclusion that his abilities lay in the preparation and engineering of racecars rather than driving them. Upon returning to the United States he was enlisted by his namesake, Carroll Shelby, and oversaw the preparation of the Ford GT40s that won the 1966 and 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans.
When FIA rule changes caused the cancellation of the GT40 program, he moved to Tony Adamowicz’s 1969 Formula A (aka F5000) championship-winning team and established his racing consultancy business, involving a series of short-term projects – including for Team Matich here in Australia – and the writing of race engineering books.
So how did Smith come to work for Moffat for season 1977?
“I had known Allan for many years and then someone sent him my book,” Smith told Chequered Flag magazine in 1977. “That’s when he contacted me and asked me if I would run the team. Previously I had been here with Matich and I also thought it would be good for my family.”
He says in that interview that his brief was to “prepare two cars that wouldn’t break and would handle. I also had to get a crew together. The ones I selected were young and had never seen a motor race. They’re now the best team I’ve ever worked with. Fortunately I didn’t have to worry about the drivers – they’re the best two in the country.
“We have had fantastic support from Ford Engineering in Geelong and I’ll miss that when I go back home. It’s ten times better than any factory support I have had before.”
As to his boss, he said, “We occasionally had a frank discussion from which neither of us would back down. But generally things went very, very smoothly – I ignored his temper tantrums and he ignored my slow plodding.”
Chequered Flag asked him why he was heading home after just one season?
“My wife, who has a doctorate, could only get a 12-month leave of absence from lecturing, so we’ll go back and I’ll run someone else’s team. I’ve had several offers but I won’t make up my mind until I get home. I don’t really mind where I am as long as it’s with racing people. It’s the men that make racing.”
One of those he befriended at MFDT was his right-hand man Dale Sudholz, who worked for the team for the first six months of 1977.
The pair remained good friends and in regular contact until Smith’s passing from pancreatic cancer in 2003. Not long after this, Sudholz was surprised to receive a box from Smith’s family in the US which contained Carroll’s memorabilia
and files from his year in Australia. Among them were copious notes and his overalls from raceday at Bathurst in 1977. Needless to say, they offer an incredible insight today into Smith’s approach and we are indebted to Sudholz for providing them – and his many other insights – for this story.
“Carroll was here for one thing: to win Bathurst,” former MFDT mechanic Sudholz says today. “He was a master at car preparation and developing the systems and people around him. I consider myself very lucky to have worked with him for that six months.
“He had a policy of teaching new dogs new tricks. He didn’t want ex-Ford racing people; he wanted young capable race mechanics or mechanics new to motorsport in the team. He didn’t want people with preconceived ideas – or even bad habits.
“[Team mechanic] Andrew Bartley had just finished his apprenticeship and it was his first racing job – the first of many. I was new to racing too, coming from Stillwell Ford’s service department.
“It was a great era and Carroll was the man who pulled it all together. We remained friends to his dying day. Carroll was grooming me to take over his job at the end of 1977 – that’s where it was heading.”
But it wasn’t to be, with Sudholz leaving mid-year. Still, he has clear memories of Smith’s modus operandi.
“I recall him sitting down at lunchtime with the CAMS manual in one hand and a mug of this thick, black coffee in the other. And he would read the manual and ask me, ‘Dale, what does this mean in the Aussie language. So I would try and interpret for him and we’d have a laugh at the differences between here and the States. One of the things that tickled Carroll Smith’s fancy about the rules in Australia was that, in the States the rulebooks said what you could do and that was it. In Australia they told you what you couldn’t do – and everything else was open to subjectiveness.
“One of the things that Carroll got right into was the ruling about the roll-cage not adding structural strength to the vehicle. But the method of attachment was free, which meant you could drill as many holes in the cage as you liked and bolt it to as many panels as you wished inside the vehicle!”
Needless to say, Smith opted to build car #2 with lots of attachment points!
Not that the design of the roll-cage itself had changed from when hardtops had first hit the track.
“That rollcage design dates back to the XA days and Allan’s win in 1973. Allan always said that it was the roll-cage that saved him when he had that barrel-rolling accident at Phillip Island in the 500 that wrote off the Bathurst winner. So, there’s a headline for AMC – you could say that the 1977 1-2 cars had a cage design that saved Allan Moffat.
“It was a design done in-house through Ford’s special vehicles department. The hoop is behind the driver’s head and actually goes through the seat and picks up the tops of the wheel arches, putting some strength into that area, and goes right down to just above where the rear spring hangers are. Now, the only cars with a cage built up like that are the two MFDT cars, the car we built up that became Bill O’Brien’s XC Falcon and the Rusty French hardtop that I built when I left Moffat’s team in mid-1977.”
Was MFDT really a dealer team?
the 1970s ‘Holden Dealer Team’ was something of a misnomer. The glamour Torana squad operated by Harry Firth and, later, John Sheppard, was a factoryfunded operation given the dealerflavoured moniker as part of Holden’s efforts to deftly dodge their Detroit masters’ dictum of ‘no motor racing’. It wasn’t until Holden pulled its financial support at the conclusion of the 1979 season that the HDT became a genuine ‘dealer team’ with a group of franchisees directly backing the reborn Commodore-era HDT owned by Peter Brock. This was in return for the rights to sell the Brock road cars.
But what of the Moffat Ford Dealer Team? Genuine dealer-backed squad? Or a nice sounding name for an outfit that was actually funded by Broadmeadows and Allan Moffat’s other sponsors?
When we asked Moffat if Ford dealers contributed to a fund or whether his squad was just a dealer team in name, his answer was characteristically cryptic. But it serves to identify one of the two key figures within Ford who would give blue-bloods a competitive two-car squad to cheer for in 1977.
“The dealers wouldn’t pay off their own bat,” Moffat replied. “Max Gransden was affable enough. He said, ‘you leave the team’s finances to me. I know how to get the money out of the dealers... you will get twenty grand per month.’”
Max Gransden was Ford Australia’s sales and marketing director of the day and Moffat’s biggest supporter within Broadmeadow’s senior management – which was otherwise lukewarm to racing.
The other blue oval heavyhitter who deserves recognition for creating the financial platform which led to Ford’s greatest racing moment, was ex-open-wheel racer, Bib Stillwell.
The four-time Australian Drivers Champion created a sensation when he transferred his big Melbourne dealership from Holden to Ford in the 1960s. Former Ford Australia president, Geoff Polites, later described the switch as “one of the major occurrences in Ford redeveloping its dealer network and building the Falcon as a major product line in the Australian market.”
Stillwell’s influence grew further when he became chairman of Ford’s National Dealer Council, a position he held in 1976.
It was Stillwell who prompted Gransden to formalise an arrangement that would put Ford back in the winner’s circle in touring car racing.
So says Dale Sudholz, who worked for Stillwell Ford until January 1977, when he moved to the MFDT as crew chief under team manager Carroll Smith for the first six months of season ’77. Sudholz left the team prior to the endurance races, subsequently building an XC hardtop for privateer Rusty French and then becoming a Ford dealer himself in regional Victoria, from 1980. While his dealership in Heathcote was tiny by comparison to the likes of Stillwell’s, Sudholz (pictured with wheel) did serve on dealer bodies as a representative of country franchises. This sequence of roles gives him a unique knowledge of how the MFDT came about, was financed and operated.
“Bib Stillwell was the chairman of Ford’s national dealer body at the time, 1976,” Sudholz confirms. “Within that was the FDAF – the Ford Dealer Advertising Fund – where every car that got wholesaled to the dealer by region saw an amount of money go into the fund. I was on that committee for almost 20 years, from 1980. We would generate quite a bit of money for various purposes, such as retail advertising.
“Bib, being an ex-racer himself and running his own race team at the time, said to Max Gransden, ‘We really need to be doing something in response to the whole Holden Dealer Team structure – we need a works team. I understand that the FoMoCo doesn’t want to be involved directly, but let’s have our own dealer team like Holden do.’ So what was formed out of that was
the Moffat Ford Dealer Team for Sandown in 1976.
“Just prior to this, Carroll Smith had been in Australia. He had a meeting with Max Gransden; Colin Bond was in the office, Bib Stillwell as well. That’s where the Moffat Ford Dealer Team was born,” Sudholz reveals.
“Each car that rolled out of the factory generated an amount that went into an account, and Ford matched that money dollar for dollar.
“Max would come to the races and physically have a cheque in his pocket to hand over when the cars were at the track and ready to race. But the whole system needed to work – cars wholesaled – for money to trickle into an account for that cheque to be drawn.”
The MFDT, despite the injection of regular payments from Ford, was facing a budget shortfall mid-1977 as the team transitioned to the XC model. This led to Sudholz leaving the team mid-season and Moffat securing Camel Filters sponsorship. Ford was less than thrilled when cigarette branding was added to the cars. Other dealers further kicked the tin to ensure the team carried on.
“Some other dealers gave Moffat a little extra in the second half of the year and it was via their parts accounts from Ford,” Sudholz added.
Given Bib Stillwell’s role in the Moffat Ford Dealer Team’s establishment, it was ironic that his dealership’s service department lost one of its key personnel to the race team.
“I went with Bib’s blessing to chase my desire of working for a major racing team,” Sudholz laughs today, “which was important as, when I left, there was every chance I would need to go back to him asking for a job!”
The racing life of car #1
car that would ultimately claim Ford’s most famous Bathurst win – and have a hand in two ATCC titles – was actually born out of a total disaster the previous season. After the withdrawal of the Ford factory from racing, the XA GT Falcon raced by Fred Gibson was given to Moffat to race over the following seasons. But it was completely destroyed in a transporter fire while en route to the Adelaide touring car round in 1976, forcing Moffat to borrwo John Goss’ car to keep him in the title hunt.
That led to ‘Project Phoenix’ and from the ashes rose a new XB GT (its build outlined in AMC #26) that Moffat debuted in Moffat Ford Dealers colours at the Hang Ten 400 at Sandown and which had been built at his famous Malvern, Melbourne, workshop.
He finished second on debut to Peter Brock and even had a very special guest for a hot lap pre-race – none other than Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser!
Aussie international, Vern Schuppan, signed up to drive at Bathurst and the new car claimed pole, but engine dramas sidelined them when the crankshaft pulley broke, thus giving the water pump no drive and cooking the motor.
It was later revealed that the failed pulley was one of the items salvaged from the Adelaide fire, which somehow ended up fitted to the Bathurst race engine.
Moffat finished off 1976 on a high – champion in a year where the endurance races counted towards the ATCC.
The history books show he was on fire in early ‘77, racking up five straight round wins in the first five rounds of the season at Symmons Plains, Calder, Oran Park, Amaroo and Sandown.
It’s largely overlooked today that Kawasaki motorcycle ace Gregg Hansford, still racing bikes in 1977 but eying a move onto four wheels, tested at Oran Park early in the year.
While he would later drive with Moffat in Mazdas and Sierras, Hansford would never get to race a Moffat Falcon at the highest level. He did turn laps at Lakeside in unofficial practice at the ’77 ATCC round.
The two cars underwent an update after the sprint races to bring them into line with the showroom equivalent, the XC model.
Again the endurance races counted towards the ATCC (and again Bathurst was not part of the title chase), so the #1 car appeared as an XC at Sandown where it started from the back of the grid after engine problems and finished third.
Its victory at Bathurst followed and then further ATCC/enduro wins in Adelaide, and at Surfers Paradise, before the car again sat out the finale at Phillip Island given Moffat had already clinched his second straight crown. In fact, Moffat wrapped up the title earlier in the series than any other driver in ATCC history.
The Bathurst winner made one more appearance in December ’77 at the Winfield 25s touring car event at Baskerville in Tasmania, where Colin Bond drove Moffat’s car in the threerace sprint event as the boss had endured a tough, long season.
Moffat again ran the car in 1978 to defend his crown, but it soon became clear the lack of a funding increase from Ford and the rise of the A9X Toranas would be a hill too high to climb.
Engine failures wiped the #1 Ford out of the first two ATCC rounds and his decision to fit roller rockers – not permitted under the rules – saw him robbed of victory from the Sandown round and suspended for six weeks as engines became the focal point for the Fords for the year.
The car that had dominated the previous year could only muster a single win in the 1978 ATCC at Lakeside before it became a Cobra in time for the endurance races.
Above left: The Bathurst winner comes to life in mid 1976 in Moffat’s famous Malvern Road workshop. This page: It’s remarkable that it survives today given it was Moffat’s ride for over three years and four consecutive Bathurst assaults. It clocked up 467 racing laps on the mountain.
Gearbox problems took it out at Sandown, while a pit fire and low oil pressure put Moffat and Jacky Ickx out at Bathurst.
Just a week later it became a drag racer, as Moffat took the #1 car to Heathcote Park in Victoria and punched out a 13.3-second pass on the quarter mile. Imagine a modern V8 Supercar team popping into the drags on their weekend off between Bathurst and the Gold Coast these days!
Another engine failure eliminated the #1 Cobra in Adelaide and a seventh place at Surfers Paradise’s enduro rounded out a miserable year.
With Ford funding gone, the XC Ford was repainted black with Camel backing and Moffat again endured nothing but engine-related misery in 1979. The Ford badge even disappeared from the front of the re-numbered #25 Falcon, replaced with one that said ‘Allan Moffat Special’. Moffat only appeared in four ATCC rounds in ’79, a solitary fifth place at Sandown his best showing.
The big black Ford returned for the endurance races, but again engine problems wiped it out at Sandown and Bathurst, where John Fitzpatrick was co-driver.
The Sandown Raceway blow-up reportedly saw a rod fly so cleanly out of the side of the block that it hit the guardrail!
The expiration at Mount Panorama would be the final time the ’77 Bathurst winner would race and Moffat placed all of his cars for sale at the end of that season, with an asking price of $30,000 on the Federation XC.
The ‘afterlife’ of car #1
Moffat didn’t find a buyer for the Bathurst 1977 winner at the conclusion of the 1979 season. So when he put together a deal to run a new XD model in 1980 in the lead-up to Bathurst, the engine, gearbox, clutch, rear axle assembly and suspension were all transplanted from the idle two-door.
The body shell was stored at privateer racer Warren Cullen’s wrecking yard in Melbourne for a time before Moffat donated it to what is now the National Motor Racing Museum at Mount Panorama in 1984.
Terry Morgan, now the Bathurst Regional Council workshop manager who maintains the cars for the NMRM, vividly remembers when the 1977 race-winning Falcon arrived at its new home in the 1980s.
“It arrived here in Camel and Federation black, red and yellow colours and had been sitting here in Bathurst for quite a while in a local truck and tractors yard,” he says.
“We had the car painted in the Moffat Ford Dealers colours by the local TAFE. The interior and the seats were in it but the back axle was gone. It had a standard diff in it and a standard Falcon front end.
“It sat here for a while before the late Peter Gannon, our city engineer, sat down with Moffat. Moffat wouldn’t talk to anyone other than Peter. We gave Peter a list of questions that he put to Allan and he came back with a list of what we required to put it back into race trim, right down to the correct steering box ratio, narrow springs in the rear, etc.
“Moffat actually supplied some of that stuff and we later sold the surplus to the bloke in Adelaide who was putting the #2 car back together.
“There wasn’t a lot of gear in it, so we had to go shopping. We got BBS wheels from Moffat but they were only fronts. The rear wheels had American Lincoln studs and they were a lot bigger on the rear axle, so we had one set of wheels and two that wouldn’t fit the diff we had tracked down for the car!
“So we got a set of wheels off John English, who had bought the yellow XD off Moffat after he’d finished with it. We told John we needed the hub centres for the axle – he said he had two centres but they were coffee tables in his beer garden mounted on a bit of pipe! So he said he’d send them down and they are now on the car.
“The engine also came from John out of the XD. The configuration is not ’77-spec, it’s more 1980 spec with roller rockers that weren’t allowed in 1977. We’ve never stripped the engine, it came with all the bits ready to go, but we had to track down a carby.”
Unlike other historic racecars, the 1977 Bathurst winner most certainly is not fully original.
“Other than the shell there wouldn’t be a lot of original parts to that car [as it raced at Bathurst 1977],” Morgan tells AMC. “There’s never been any question about that. Moffat gave us the remnants of the ’77 winner and we’ve rebuilt it back to where it is now.
“It’s another machine that if we could ever have the budget to do it again, we’d do it better, strip the interior and paint it. It had been through a number of configurations in its life.
“The engine bay is not accurate, we sprayed it because it looked a bit tired. It should be black but we sprayed it white, more for looks given it’s now sitting in a museum.
“It had a Momo four-spoke steering wheel on it, which was wrong and Moffat picked it. We
knew it was supposed to be a three-spoke but we couldn’t get one.
“We went back to John English and he said he had the one off the ’77 car in a Ford pickup! So we swapped him for a standard pickup wheel and he sent the original to us. It’s had another leather cover hand-stitched over it by a local upholsterer.
“The history of the car is in the shell really. It’s never been represented as the car that won Bathurst as it came off the track.
“It was a bit of a sick and tired old car by the time it ended its race career. But there’s Moffat DNA everywhere throughout the car and John English was really good in helping us it get to where it is now.
“All in all, we’re very happy with the old beast. It’s a great attraction to the museum.”
On-track appearances for the #1 Falcon are rare and few and far between, though Moffat did slip behind the wheel of his old racer at Bathurst in 2002 and on the Gold Coast, as part of the Legends demonstration at the V8 Supercars event there, in 2010.
Earlier that year the car had travelled to the United Kingdom and ran at the famous Goodwood Festival of Speed, as part of a celebration of Bathurst-winning cars.
It remains at the NMRM, where AMC was able to photograph it, and is owned by the Bathurst Regional Council.
The life of car #2
in early 1977, the Falcon XB GT that would eventually become an XC and play a crucial part in the Bathurst 1-2 was built as a virtually identical sister car to the 1976 championship victor.
It was given its first shakedown at the You Yangs Ford test and proving ground early in 1977, with Bond putting the car through its paces, including laps through makeshift chicanes at the 4.9-kilometre bowl with its two long straights and high banked turns.
After sampling both the new and existing car, Bond elected to opt for the brand new Ford for his debut with the MFDT at Sandown’s Rothmans South Pacific event in February. He promptly qualified on pole (carrying the #9) and won both races in a perfect debut with his new team.
Bond and his now-number #2 XB GT finished runner-up to Moffat in four of the first five ATCC rounds in 1977, underlining that the Holden teams were simply no match for the roaring Fords.
The ATCC did not have a round in Western Australia that year, but the Bond #2 car did make a trip west midway through that season.
With his own #1 car disassembled, given it was subject to protests and technical checks by CAMS, the Bond car became #1 and Moffat raced it in the Karquip Masters 300 at Wanneroo in May. Run in five equal parts of 30 minutes (thereby avoiding mid-race refueling), the event was unique in that street tyres were compulsory! Moffat finished fourth overall on combined results with no less than six spins in the final leg!
Bond got his car back in time for the ATCC’s sixth round AIR and he used it to good effect, winning the round.
Just as he’d sampled the Moffat #1 car, bike ace Gregg Hansford drove Bond’s car on a few occasions as he collected signatures on his car racing licence. This included a preliminary Sports Sedan race on the Saturday of a 2+4 meeting at Sandown that featured the Australian
Sports Sedan Championship. An appearance at a Calder Park club race series event (where it sported #98) gave him his first win, though it wasn’t much of a challenge in a field of over-twolitre Sports Sedans nowhere near the level of the Moffat Falcon.
Reports of the time suggested a Mount Panorama co-drive in the second car was out of the question due to a clash with an Australian road racing motorcycle round in Perth on the same day as Bathurst.
Bond drove the #2 Falcon for the remainder of the 1977 ATCC and it was converted to XC specification in time for Sandown, where Bond finished fifth.
He was runner-up at the AIR enduro which followed the famous 1-2 finish at Bathurst, before engine problems left the #2 Ford a non-finisher at Surfers Paradise.
Bond could have very well won the finale at Phillip Island while running as the sole MFDT entry, but a front tyre failure two laps from the end forced him to settle for fifth.
Bond returned to drive the #2 Falcon in 1978, but the ATCC was miserable for both of the MFDT cars, though there was some consolation for the 1969 Bathurst winner as he won the final ATCC round in Adelaide. He also took the #2 Falcon to a win in the non-championship Better Brakes 10,000 event at Amaroo where everyone who mattered, bar the Holden Dealer Team, was present.
The car sat out the first Manufacturers Championship round at Oran Park given Bond was competing in the Bega Rally, and it became a Cobra in time for the Sandown endurance race.
But the change of colours wasn’t enough for Bond not to retire from the Sandown enduro, with wheel-bearing failure, and Bathurst (with Fred Gibson co-driving) with gearbox problems that led to them being so far behind, team boss Moffat elected to withdraw the car rather than watch it circulate many laps off the leading Peter Brock Torana A9X.
The #2 Falcon would claim one more win before the end of its racing days as Bond won the Rothmans 250 in Adelaide, despite an off-song engine and worn Goodyears.
It was perhaps apt that its final race in the Surfers Paradise enduro would see it retire with a blown engine, summing up the team’s season.
The ‘afterlife’ of car #2
The Bathurst 1977 runner-up sat on the sidelines in 1979 and was advertised for sale at year’s end for $20,000.
A few years later it was sold with race running equipment removed and standard road gear in its place.
How many owners it had after that is a little hazy, but it ended up the hands of sports car collector and historian, the late John Blanden, in South Australia. After he passed away, it was placed up for auction and was acquired by the Bowden family in May 2004.
It has since been restored to its 1977 livery and specs.
If you look closely at the #2 car as it now sits in the Bowden’s collection on the Sunshine Coast, you can still see remnants of its time as a Cobra.
“The first, or perhaps second, owner after Moffat was a panel beater and he re-sprayed the car, but to his credit he was either a bit tight or looking far into the future and he didn’t go back to bare metal,” says Chris Bowden today. “You can still see the Cobra scheme under the paint when you look into the light at the right angle.”
Bowden confirms that the 1977 Bathurst runner-up indeed was full of road car gear after its racing life, but retained some of its racing heritage up front.
“Blanden bought it pretty much as it was when we bought it, with road gear in it, but quite surprisingly it always had the correct front end in it,” he says.
“Literally the driveline was removed, engine, gearbox, full-floater diff. It had a standard 351 in it, a top loader and nine-inch but it was all street stuff, nothing racy.”
The project of returning the #2 Falcon to 1977 was helped largely by former Moffat mechanic, Dale Sudholz. Some of Carroll Smith’s original notes, that the late American’s family had passed on to Sudholz after his death in 2003, proved invaluable.
“Carroll Smith was clearly a prodigious note taker, his handwritten notes on those cars had all sorts of information that was crucial,” says Bowden. “Spring rates, sway bars, tyre pressures, everything, the whole enchilada!
“We had been all guns blazing at restoring the car, then we spoke to Dale and he told us about these notes so we waited to receive those so we could move forward with great accuracy. They listed compression ratios, inlet manifolds, even the part numbers for the top loader! It was amazing the levels he went to in recording his notes,” he tells AMC.
“We pulled it apart and built it back up again exactly to the spec Moffat and Smith had her on the startline for Bathurst 1977.
“It was a good feeling not to have to ‘wing’ any parts of history. Occasionally you have to take a leap of faith on cars when you don’t have all of the information available, but that car ended up being like a big Mecanno set – all the instructions were there so it wasn’t as hard as it could have been.”
The engine bolted into the #2 Falcon is a four-bolt 351ci motorsport block that David Bowden had spare.
“Finding one of them would have otherwise been difficult, so that was a bit of a blessing,” says Bowden Jnr. “We had the 4V heads, the correct long-tailed close-ratio top-loader, all those types of Ford performance parts that had dried up, we had them in multiples.
“We had the John Goss coupe from 1979 as a bit of a template for the tricky areas. Those cars had a very narrow leaf spring so they could fit the massive rear tyres, so we took them to Mark King of King Springs and he did an absolute replica of the rear springs.”
Bond drove it at the Legends event as part of the 2010 V8 Supercars event on the Gold Coast. But just to put a different spin on history, that time it was Bond who flashed past Moffat and took the chequered flag first for a 2-1, rather than a 1-2!
The last word
has had the pleasure of interviewing Allan Moffat about his most famous Bathurst victory on several occasions, including for the first issue of this magazine, in 2001. This was when he explained how he drove the first stint of the race with his harness undone. Gripping the steering wheel tighter than normal led to blisters on his hand. He was asked about the famous image of the cars side by side on Conrod Straight, and why he believed it has struck such a chord for Ford enthusiasts.
“It was one of those things. The fact we had those big numbers on the roof and the ‘1-2’ were just millimetres apart on Conrod. The fact that it has been used a number of times and certainly the Ford Motor Company has used it in their own internal promotions.”
Fast forward now to a chat we had late last year, just metres away from car #1 in the National Motor Racing Museum – and 50 metres from Conrod Straight. Again, we returned to the topic of the enduring image.
“It’s part of the memorabilia that’s in the workshop that I’ve gone to every day all my adult life,” he said, as a tear came to his eye.
Although relations between Bond and Moffat were strained for many years due to a dispute, settled out of court, over Bathurst 1977 prizemoney – Bond in AMC #46: “We agreed we wouldn’t discuss it publicly” – it’s clearly water under the bridge now for both men.
“On the very last lap Colin drew alongside and put his nose in front at the end of Conrod,” Moffat smiles. “At that point I sent a telepathic message to him saying, ‘Colin, remember who is paying the cheque…’
“He was a fantastic asset to the team. Colin’s contribution was absolutely superb. He was always so pleasant to be around. He was a true teammate.”
Above: Carroll Smith (far right) and crew wait for the two cars to appear around Murray’s Corner. The pitcrew included Colin Russell (holding wheel), plus future Dencar partners George Smith (partly obscured by Russell) and Denis Watson (no cap). Left: The winning Falcon lives on at the NMRM. Below: We long for the days when the field stretched around Murray’s Corner, as it did in ’77.
Above and top right: Carroll Smith was the common denominator in Ford’s greatest motorsporting moment domestically (Bathurst) and internationally (Le Mans 1966). In both cases the winning team finished 1-2.
Above: The roll-cage design, specifically the hoop behind the driver, might look dated by today’s standards, but it was ‘crash-proven’ by Moffat.
Above left: Bib Stillwell was the driving force behind Ford’s MFDT funding. Inset right: Moffat says one condition of the Ford’s formalised backing was for him to sell the DeKon Chevrolet Monza in which he was contesting the 1976 Australian Sports Sedan Championship.
Its digs at Bathurst have improved over the years, where BRC’s gurus worked hard to sourced components. As an aside, one of the cars in this shot will feature on AMC’s cover next issue.
Top left: Carroll Smith and his right-hand man Dale Sudholz in February 1977, with the new season fast approaching and a second car to complete.
Above: Birds of a feather flock together once or twice a decade in their retirement. This is race weekend in 2002, when Ford celebrated the 25th anniversary of its biggest Mountain moment.
Above: Moffat turned a lap in the old girl on the morning of the 2002 race. He and Bond were part of Ford’s BA V8 Supercar launch. Below: Moffat’s most recent trip to Bathurst was for the Aussie Muscle Car Run.