Australian Muscle Car - - Contents - FG

Rac­ing leg­end Fred Gib­son catches up with an old mate who’s span­nered for the greats. While Paul Gover re­calls be­ing nicked by GM’s speed cops – on their own test track!

Some­times you don’t know where to start, but for this col­umn it’s pretty easy. It’s a bit late now to wish you all Happy New Year, so in­stead I’ll wish you Happy New Sea­son – rac­ing sea­son that is. Thanks for your con­tin­u­ing in­ter­est in Gib­son Mo­tor­sport. I don’t know about you, but Chris­tine and I had a great break. One of the things we did re­minded me that while mo­tor­sport is a world­wide busi­ness, that world can some­times seem very small.

In early Jan­uary we were in­vited to a birth­day bash for my sis­ter Mar­garet up on the Gold Coast at the home of Bruce ‘Ri­cho’ Richard­son and his wife Nola, whom we’ve known for many a great year.

Bruce is an in­ter­est­ing guy in his own right. He’s in his late 70s now and is prob­a­bly best known to most read­ers of this mag­a­zine as the Ron Hodg­son Rac­ing me­chanic cap­tured by the TV cam­eras be­ing con­soled in the pits at Bathurst 1976. This was when the lead­ing Bob Mor­ris/John Fitz­patrick L34 To­rana, pre­pared by Bruce, looked like it would fall a lap or two short of win­ning, but some­how limped across the fin­ish-line to take a stun­ning vic­tory.

I’ve sug­gested to editor Luke that Bruce is de­serv­ing of a pro­file in AMC [ED: Sage ad­vice, FG, look for it later in 2016] as he has such an in­ter­est­ing story. For in­stance, when he was 21 he de­cided to up sticks and head for the UK, as you do. He told us it cost him £109 and he had to go via Naples. He’s got no idea how he made it from there to Eng­land!

But he sure knew what he was do­ing when he ar­rived there. Bruce went to work for a man called Reg Par­nell. Some of you may re­call that Reg, who was born way back in 1911, was a driver in his own right, al­though his ca­reer was badly set back by World War II. But he took part in six grands prix, in­clud­ing the very first World Cham­pi­onship race at Sil­ver­stone on May 13, 1950 – and came third for Alfa Romeo, whose other driv­ers were blokes by the name of Fan­gio, Fa­gi­oli and Fa­rina.

Par­nell then moved into team man­age­ment, and for sev­eral years had a close as­so­ci­a­tion with his fel­low English­man, Roy Sal­vadori. Roy did 47 grands prix, sev­eral of them in Coven­try Cli­max-pow­ered ma­chin­ery – and that’s where Ri­cho comes into it.

Reg Par­nell had a close as­so­ci­a­tion with Coven­try Cli­max, and Bruce looked af­ter Roy’s Cli­max en­gines when he was driv­ing for Reg. At one point the en­gine sup­pli­ers asked why they hadn’t seen any of Sal­vadori’s en­gines for re­builds for some time, and were told that Bruce was look­ing af­ter them him­self. That was un­heard of back in those days!

I’m not sure when Bruce came back home, but he worked for me at one stage when I drove the ex-Frank Gard­ner Brab­ham, the Tas­man 2.5-litre car com­plete with Coven­try Cli­max en­gine for Niel Allen.

Be­fore team­ing up with Niel, Ri­cho had worked for Frank Matich on his Lotus 15 and Jaguar D-Type; he was also in­volved in the con­struc­tion of the first Elfin sports car with Gary Cooper, which was the first of Matich’s re­ally good sports cars.

Bruce told me a lovely story about Frank, too. The Cli­max en­gines had a ten­dency to drop a rod, and one day at War­wick Farm Frank came scream­ing into the pits, revving the thing to death even though it was only run­ning on three cylin­ders. “Bruce,” he yelled, “put the bloody plug lead back on, will you?” Bruce took a quick look and told the boss to switch off – there was a rod hang­ing out the side of the block!

The same thing hap­pened to me when I was driv­ing Niel’s Brab­ham. Niel was blue­ing be­cause we had a Gold Star race the next day. Niel told Bruce in no un­cer­tain terms that he had to get the en­gine ready – and we found a so­lu­tion you might not man­age to find to­day. Alec Mil­dren was run­ning Cli­max en­gines him­self at the time, with guys like Kevin Bartlett driv­ing for him, and Alec was there. Yours truly was dis­patched to ask Alec if we could use one of his blocks; sure enough, Bruce re­built my en­gine overnight. Imag­ine ask­ing a me­chanic to do that th­ese days!

At that same party up on the Gold Coast the door opened and in walked a man I hadn’t seen for 35 years. Bob Beasley is his name, and he just came up and hugged me and asked me if I could re­mem­ber our last meet­ing. Nei­ther of us knew the other was go­ing to be there, so it was a ter­rific sur­prise. Bob was in the car busi­ness in Syd­ney back in the day and used to race a Su­per 7 at places like Catalina Park and Oran Park, where I was cam­paign­ing my Lotus Elan. Su­per 7s were all the rage – guys like the Howard brothers and Fatty Geoghe­gan raced them as well. Bob also had sev­eral mem­o­rable Bathurst cam­paigns in Fal­cons GTs and GT-HOs.

That un­ex­pected en­counter re­minded me that mo­tor­sport has such a knack of bring­ing peo­ple to­gether – and man­ag­ing to bring them back to­gether again af­ter so many years.

Just to fin­ish off on a more up-to-date note, I’m pleased to re­port that just be­fore Christ­mas we com­pleted the restora­tion job on a Sky­line which holds quite a sig­nif­i­cant place in Gib­son Mo­tor­sport his­tory.

When Chris­tine and I re­lo­cated to Mel­bourne in 1985, this Sky­line was sit­ting in the work­shop as a com­plete car. This was right at the start of the Sky­line pro­gramme, and we couldn’t race the car in 1985 be­cause the ho­molo­ga­tion hadn’t been taken care of. But Ge­orge [Fury] went on to drive the car as the Peter Jack­son Sky­line and it has been re­stored to its 1986 liv­ery.

It had been knocked about a fair bit in the in­ter­ven­ing years and it needed a full restora­tion, but that work is now com­plete – and for me that’s a great way to start an­other year in the Gib­son Mo­tor­sport story.

Rac­ing leg­end Fred Gib­son spent the sum­mer catch­ing up with old rac­ing mates.

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