Whad­daya­know?

Australian Muscle Car - - Contents - Paul Newby

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.

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