Taking a back seat
Ferguson’s first event was in a Citroen Light 15 in 1953 sitting in the back seat as the team’s gate opener!
After a few events he started navigating for Stan Outon in a Peugeot 203. But young Barry was keen to drive and was using a Fiat 1100 in gymkhanas, hillclimbs and some local club trials.
He soon realised that VWs had some intrinsic advantages in rallies and bought a new 1200cc Beetle in January 1958 from Lanock Motors to do just that.
The NSW Rally Championship started in 1960 and Barry won his first in 1961 with Tony Denham in the Beetle. As a result Lanocks agreed to give Barry a new Beetle to rally in ’62.
“Doug Donaldson the MD at Lanock was interested in motorsport and decided it was a good idea to give us a car to run each year,” said Barry. The backing meant he never had to pay for his rallying again.
“I could prepare the car in a weekend at my Dad’s in Goulburn. You’d put a pair of rear shocks on the front, upgrade the headlights from 36 to 40watt, fit a skid plate, remove the hubcaps and block the brake adjusting holes,” he explained.
Living in Newcastle he met Ron Thompson who was a mechanic and auto electrician in his family business, C.W. Thompson and who would be important in those early VW years.
“Ron gave us some real advantages in those early VWs,” said Barry. “He converted our ’61 VW from six-volt to 12-volt and made it work, leaving the starter motor at six volts so you only had to touch the key and the car would start, while sixvolt cars would crank away and eventually fire.
“The big advantage was running two driving lights, shocking old Lucas Flamethrowers, initially, but at least better than a single 36-watt which was all the six-volt cars could cope with.”
Although not a mechanic Barry loved thinking things through, looking for ways to improve the car. An example was in fixing a problem with Beetle rear shockers popping the rubbers off the top mounts.
“I realised putting a big steel washer under the 17mm nut would solve it,” said Barry. “It was a small fix but meant we could press on while others had to stop to fix it,” he added.
“Ron also found a 12-volt aircraft landing light that he reckoned would make a very good driving light and he was right, they lit up the night and gave us another advantage over the opposition.
Another innovation was a VW industrial engine that was being used by Pioneer Concrete to power the agitator on its cement trucks. This ‘big block’ 1500 was a revelation offering more torque and power.
VW Australia gave Barry a special twin-carb 1600cc Beetle to win the Southern Cross in 1967, a grand finale to his VW career.
Main: Barry Ferguson was reunited with his old Bathurst 1966 Isuzu Bellett, now preserved by Brett Wild, at the Phillip Island Classic. More on this reunion next issue. Left: He caught the VW bug in ’58.