Shot from a cannon: car #109
It’s a long list. In fact it’s a bloody long list, but I want to share a few of the items on that list with you. I think it will give you a feel for the kind of work we do at Gibson Motorsport these days, and it will certainly open your eyes to the variety of automotive machinery that comes through the workshop.
It will also raise a very interesting question, one I plan to return to in my next column. The question is: when is a car a genuine car? When is it a restoration? When is it a replica? Are there any other R-words we should add to that set of options? The authenticity of historic racing cars is paramount if we are to protect our racing heritage, and it’s a subject that’s very close to the Gibson heart.
Coming back to this column, the question is: where to start? Here, from the nine-page list – yes, nine pages – are a few of the major items. ‘Inspect and service Ford Falcon gearbox’ – always a good place to start! ‘Inspect and service Ford Falcon differential’ – the natural follow-up to that first item. ‘Top loader shifter linkage set’, ‘cylinder assembly clutch master’ – the list goes on and on.
And then we get to the trim: ‘Repair/replace damaged area of vinyl to both front and rear seats’, ‘Dashboard fascia XY GT’, ‘Falcon boot carpet black Classic’, and of course we can’t forget the exterior and the respray. When I tell you the paint in question was Yellow Ochre, that may give you a clue as to the identity of the car I’m talking about: car #109.
That was the number carried by a 1970 Falcon XY GT in a unique event that took place in Australia more than 20 years ago. Now you’ll notice I didn’t say ‘race number’, and that was quite deliberate.
The Cannonball Run was very specifically NOT a race. It was a high-speed road trial. Not only that, but it was the only event of its kind ever sanctioned in this country. It was, in large part, the brainchild of my old friend Allan Moffat. Staged in the Northern Territory, it took place in 1994. And a Yellow Ochre Falcon XY GT was right in the thick of it.
By that time it was a venerable 24-year-old. A repair – one of those R-words – had left it in worse condition than it was before and the Falcon ended up at a wrecker’s yard. Then along came Murray Alcock, who grafted all the GT bits and pieces onto a decent 500 body and painted it… Yellow Ochre.
Quoted in another magazine, Alcock was happy to acknowledge the radical difference his work made. “I made it a replica,’ he said, ‘but it is a very good, exact replica.”
Four years later it was good enough to become entry #109 in the Cannonball Run, prepared for the event by Murray and his friend Noel Kennedy, a handy spannerman in his own right. They did a great job: everything was reconditioned, including the standard four-speed Toploader, the diff with its taller-than-standard ratio, the wheels, the brakes (with GT HO-spec rear drums) and the 36-gallon factory fuel tank.
Best of all, they did the Cannonball Run and measured the stages with something that will ring a bell for a number of die-hard fans: a mechanical Halda. At times they averaged 240 km/h on the way to 35th place overall, including a section win.
Eventually the car was sold to Fred Bartell, a familiar name among XW/XY enthusiasts, then to Sydney dealer Tony Kassiotis, and finally to the man who brought it to us: Bruce Garvie, a builder up at Roma in Queensland.
Bruce knows Allan Heaphy well and asked him what needed to be done to restore – R-word – his new car. He’d been planning to enter the ParisPeking Rally with it – until he discovered the entry fee was $40,000!
The Falcon came to us on New Year’s Day, 2015, and we worked on it in phases right through to June. The engine was fine, it just needed a bit of cleaning up, but then we embarked on our list that ran to nine pages. Some of the parts are not original, they are replacements (R-word), for example the 36-gallon fuel tank, but it is now, as I would put it, as original as it can ever be again.
Bruce and his wife picked it up and promptly drove it all the way back up to Queensland despite the fact that it’s got a manual box and no power steering! To me that car is one of the most interesting examples of what Gibson Motorsport can do. Whether we call them originals, replacements, replicas, restorations or whatever, we believe firmly in giving cars back to their current owners in a condition that will take their breath away.
Unfortunately for them, it also takes some of their money away! Back at the time of the Cannonball Run, Murray Alcock reckoned he and Noel had forked out around $18,000 during their own repairs to the car. Our nine-page list and invoice ran to over forty grand… which simply underlines how valuable these cars can become over the years. And anyway, Bruce reckons he might just be ready to listen to offers for car #109. If you or someone you know might be interested, please feel free to contact Alan Heaphy here at Gibson Motorsport.
And watch out for more on the subject of restorations, replicas and all the other R-words next time.
Racing legend Fred Gibson and his men still help keep classic Fords on the road