Lon­don call­ing

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle man -

In

1968 the Lon­don to Syd­ney Marathon cap­tured the world’s at­ten­tion. The Daily Tele­graph’s mo­tor­ing editor, famed racer David McKay, con­vinced owner Sir Frank Packer and editor in chief, David McNi­chol to co-spon­sor the event and to run a team.

The plan was for three Monaros with McKay, for­mer AGP win­ner Doug White­ford and three-time world champ Jack Brab­ham as the lead driv­ers.

A few months out, McKay thought the teams were set­tled and flew to Europe. In the mean­time Brab­ham with­drew and McNi­chol had to find an­other crew and more spon­sor­ship. Cas­trol’s Mike Jen­nings agreed to sup­port the team and sug­gested Barry Fer­gu­son, Doug Chivas and nav­i­ga­tor Dave John­ston as crew. No doubt helped by Cas­trol’s fund­ing and short on time, McNi­chol agreed.

In Lon­don, McKay was un­aware of the change and when the draw re­vealed the third Monaro crewed by Fer­gu­son, Chivas and John­ston, he was livid. The sit­u­a­tion meant McKay gave no favours to the rally ring-ins in ‘his’ team.

“David had his vi­sion of how the team would run and any sug­ges­tions were dis­missed out of hand,” said Barry. “For in­stance he in­sisted on Lu­cas driv­ing lights, which we knew were hope­less and by the time we got to Bom­bay he re­alised we were right, so we or­gan­ised some of our air­craft land­ing lights to be ready for us in Perth.

McKay was part­nered with Ge­orge Reynolds and David Lid­dle, while the White­ford car had Reynold’s brother-in-law, Ed­die Perkins and Jim Hawkins on board.

The Fer­gu­son Monaro, de­spite a mis­fire most of the way to Bom­bay, was 12th ahead of the nine-day trip to Fre­man­tle on the SS Chu­san, just one place be­hind even­tual third placed ri­val, Ian Vaughan’s Fal­con GT.

It had been tough so far cov­er­ing 10 coun­tries and al­most 11,000km in a lit­tle over six days and the respite on the ship was in­valu­able be­cause the rally proper would be­gin in WA.

It was a mad three-day dash across the con­ti­nent and Fer­gu­son had a good run across the Nullar­bor un­til the Flin­ders Ranges, where a re­tain­ing plate on the left-hand rear came adrift and the wheel and half-shaft started pop­ping out on left-hand cor­ners.

“You could see the axle was about a foot out­side the guard when you went around left han­ders and some­how we nursed the car to Cur­na­mona Homestead,” said Barry.

Des­per­ate to get word to the Holden dealer in Bro­ken Hill, Dave John­ston wanted to avoid alert­ing the Ford team, which was there in force. He spied the lo­cal cop stand­ing proudly near his Holden pa­trol car.

“Dave said to him: ‘You’re a Holden man then?’ And he an­swered, ‘Bloody oath!’ So we asked him to get a mes­sage to the Holden dealer in Bro­ken Hill.”

The Po­lice ra­dio-re­layed the mes­sage to the dealer who had a new Monaro in the show­room. He’d re­moved the diff and was pre­par­ing to drive to the con­trol at Min­gary when Ron Thomp­son, from New­cas­tle, turned up want­ing to know where the con­trol was. He told Ron he was about to take the rear-end out to the end of stage for Barry Fer­gu­son’s Monaro. Thomp­son replied that they could load it into the back of the ute be­cause Barry was a mate and he would help fit it.

“We had no idea whether help would be on hand but as we stopped at the con­trol there in front of us was the C.W Thomp­son ute with the smil­ing Ron wait­ing to fix our prob­lem, it was amaz­ing.”

Ron and the vol­un­teers stripped out the rearend and in­stalled the new one, cost­ing an hour but they were still go­ing, un­like McKay whose Monaro had been tipped over by Ge­orge Reynolds, back in the Flin­ders.

Fer­gu­son, Chivas and John­ston came home in 12th, two places ahead of White­ford/Perkins/ Hawkins in the other Monaro in what was the big­gest mo­tor­ing ad­ven­ture of the time.

Top: The much-hyped Lon­don to Syd­ney Marathon shot Barry to lo­cal mo­tor­sport star­dom. Above: That’s Fergie with his arms folded.

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