Trevor Meehan tells us why his Bathurst 1972 campaign aboard a GT-HO Phase III failed to make the grid despite qualifying seventh fastest. It’s a follow-up to our ‘Sunday Too Far Away’ quest from two issues ago.
In Whaddayaknow issue #84 we asked what happened to various 1970s Great Race challenges that hit the track for practice, but ended up hitting the highway out of Bathurst before Sunday’s race. One such entrant was Trevor Meehan, who, aboard a Falcon GT-HO Phase III set the seventh fastest time in practice for the 1972 race but failed to grid-up on Sunday. We wondered why, so we tracked him down, dropped him a line and asked why such a fast car went MIA before the flag dropped?
Trevor Meehan was a very quick privateer who had very little luck in his six Bathurst campaigns. Before we tell the tale of Meehan’s 1972 HardieFerodo 500 misadventure, his last Bathurst, here is a brief overview of his career.
Meehan, from Sydney’s southern suburbs, was a rapid club racer in Minis and sports cars, such as the Mini-Din, which made the front pages of Sydney’s Sunday papers after a cataclysmic accident on Conrod at Easter Bathurst 1966. He was thrown from the car and fractured his pelvis in 13 places.
His first three Great Races were in small-fry Fiats (850 and 124) before he took a gap year in 1968 having lost his road licence.
In 1969 Meehan was racing a Mini Cooper S at local Sydney tracks but hedged his bets for Bathurst by also entering a Reef Green XW Falcon GT-HO. Concerned about brakes and reliability, he opted to run the Mini as he believed he had a shot of winning the class. Famously, the green GT-HO, registered TM-098, was loaned to Wheels magazine as Broadmeadows refused to provide press vehicles in the light of emerging supercar concerns in the media. Sadly Meehan’s co-driver Mal Brewster crashed the Mini Cooper S in the race.
Meehan entered a Zircon Green GT-HO Phase II in 1970 with Racing Car News journalist Peter Wherrett, long before he became a household name. The Rowell Thiele Fordsponsored GT-HO was a genuine contender, circulating in the top three before hampered by a misfiring engine.
For 1971 Meehan entered a yellow GT-HO Phase III, again under the Rowell Thiele Ford banner, with experienced Mini racer Bob Cook as co-driver. Alas Cook, more used to class cars, was intimidated by the big Falcon. According to Meehan, he wore out the brakes in ten laps. The car was retired after 55 laps. “(Fellow racer) Garry Cooke came up and said to me; ‘you’re driving like an old moll!’ But it was ‘Cooky’ driving not me.”
To be fair to Cook, race reports indicated the GT-HO was already suffering from brakes issues during Meehan’s initial stint.
Sadly the yellow Phase III was crashed at the Surfers Paradise 250 shortly after Bathurst.
For 1972 Meehan entered a number of Series Production races in a Bronze Wine GT-HO Phase III owned by Gypsie Carpets and therein lies an interesting tale, as the 81-year-old Meehan reflects today.
“I was a chippie (carpenter) in those days and next door to my business was a carpet store called Gypsie Carpets owned by the Waterford family of Sea Breeze Hotel fame. Ken and Ron Waterford bought what they believed was a QC (factory blueprinted) Phase III. We ran the car at the Sandown 250 and it overheated. In the Oran Park 100 lapper it did the same thing.
“So I took all the specifications down to Howard Marsden at Ford and he said to me; ‘It’s not a QC engine Trevor; this is what is incorrect.’
“We had to replace the radiator, tailshaft, diff, etc and it costs a motza. We were sent a bill (from the dealer) for $16,000 for a car that cost $6000! When the Waterfords bought the GT-HO they were given a letter by the dealer that it was identical to the ones raced at Bathurst, but it wasn’t. So a solicitor’s letter was sent to the dealer and it was sorted.” So what happened at Bathurst in 1972? “When I entered the 500 I put myself with co-driver TBA. I had intended to talk to Frank Radisich, (father of Paul) about being my codriver. But because I had a co-driver listed as TBA and had also pulled out of the previous year’s race, they (race organisers the ARDC) made me a reserve.”
Come Saturday Meehan officially qualified seventh. Experienced F5000 racer Radisich was only a couple of tenths slower.
Regardless of where they qualified, being a reserve consigned the duo to rear of the grid, which angered Meehan.
“I had a blue with Clerk of Course Fred Pierce. They made me qualify and then wanted me to start from the back of the grid with all of the smaller cars. They may as well given the frontrunners a lap start!
Meehan concedes he was pigheaded, but he has no regrets for not starting what would have been his last race.
“I was getting a bit long in the tooth and it was costing me a lot of money. I had little assistance and I couldn’t afford it anymore.
Trevor does not know what became of that Waterford-owned Bronze Wine-coloured Phase III. As to the yellow Phase III (his Bathurst 1971 car) that he rolled at Surfers Paradise’s Rothmans 250 meeting in November that year, he says it was put up for sale after it was repaired, but stolen from the caryard before a new (legitimate) owner could be found.