practical reason: the shell was delivered to the team with the Fairmont nose.
“The shell for the car came from Ford with a Fairmont grille and lights. I’m unsure why, but it did. So we simply used those items in building the racecar,” Dale explains. “There were lots of question marks hanging over the XC model’s homologation in the weeks leading up to Sandown. It definitely wasn’t a GT; wasn’t really a GS; wasn’t a Fairmont either. But with no clarity we just used what we had.
“We fronted to Sandown like that, but CAMS weren’t impressed. I pleaded that Ford hadn’t specified the model type to be raced in time until we were well into the build of the car. Anyway, they let us run like that, but with a stern, ‘Don’t front to Bathurst like that!’
“Everybody loved the square headlights; they looked so good.”
Sadly, results didn’t match the look. The car retired early.
“The right-hand front outer wheel-bearing failed as it went past the pits on lap six and it was unable to limp back to the pits. Leo Leonard walked back to the pits from the other end of the track,” he recalls.
Sudholz sent us the two inset shots showing the brand new car about to be loaded into Rusty French’s trailer for the first time ahead of a wheel alignment at Stillwell Ford and an afternoon of testing at Calder with Leo Leonard.
“Leo was a real pro; a lovely chap and we worked through a program. I had the car set up basically like the MFDT cars as they ran at Calder in March, so the baseline was good. Leo did a lot of laps, changed bugger all. He did some rear bar and shocks changes and we ended up pretty much where we started.”
At Bathurst, in XC Falcon GS500 guise, the car qualified a respectable 17th. It failed to cover enough laps to be classified as a finisher.
“The gearbox seized early in the race which we changed in pitlane, sitting up on air jacks – OH&S hadn’t been invented back then – which wasn’t very high and made the job that much more difficult. Anyway, we changed it and out it went again, down a lot of laps.”
The Rusty Fairmont lives on today, in its Bathurst 1977 spec, in the hands of Tom Vondrasek. It has hit the track once or twice in the Heritage Touring Cars class.
While Rusty French’s earliest Falcon assaults didn’t go to plan, he subsequently enjoyed backto-back Bathurst 1000 wins, in 2013 and 2014, as Prodrive Racing Australia’s co-owner. And to think, it all started with a Fairmont!