Survivor and its driver
In 1966, Harold Holt was PM, St George took the last of its 11 consecutive premierships and St Kilda won its one and only VFL flag, while at Bathurst the diminutive Mini Cooper S herd blitzed the Gallaher 500. 1966 was also a year when Ford Australia president, Bill Bourke proclaimed Aussies would never buy Japanese cars because they would be too embarrassed to park them in the RSL car park! Little did he know...
Interestingly, the 54-car field at Bathurst that year contained 12 Japanese cars, including three Isuzu Belletts.
NSW Bellett distributor Griffon Motors, under the aegis of Bruce Fraser, and Victorian equivalent Canopus Motors, both offshoots of VW distributor LNC, were keen to run the Bellett 1500 in class B of the 1966 Gallaher 500.
“Bruce Fraser’s experience with me and my VW counterpart from Victoria, George Reynolds, led him to ask us to pair up,” recalls Barry Ferguson, featured in-depth last issue.
“George had been the favourite for the ’63 500 after winning his class in a Beetle at Phillip Island in ’62. When Bill Ford and I won class A at Bathurst in ’63 in the VW, George reckoned we were cheating and protested, but it was dismissed and our win was upheld.
“Later I think George realised that he had been out-strategised and we became good friends and when we were asked to drive together in the Bellett in ’66 we both jumped at it,” says Barry.
Ferguson’s memory of the ’66 race is that it was generally uneventful, however he reckons that the Bellett severely lacked speed, with its little 1500cc four-cylinder sadly wanting in the power department. That said, this Bellett was clocked at 101.1mph (162.7km/h) down Conrod Straight during the race, the fastest speed for a car in Class B that year.
They also found the swing-axle independent rear and the brakes diabolical.
“The rear end was dreadful. The camber changes were enormous and if you weren’t on your game it was very easy to spin the thing,” he reckons. “The brakes were awful, I reckon they must have recycled rickshaw drivers’ thongs as the linings, they were drums all round and as the day wore on the pedal got longer and the braking distance increased which really knocked our times around,” Barry adds.
“However they were as reliable as the sun coming up, just not quick enough. We finished 13 laps behind Rauno Aaltonen and Bob Holden in the winning Cooper S, which meant we were 21st outright and fifth in class B, which was won by Don Holland and Peter Cray in a Mini Cooper – not the S,” Barry said.
“Colin Bond made his second start that year in a similar Bellett, partnering Arthur Treloar, coming home six laps behind us taking eighth in class and 30th outright. Bondy had driven the previous year in a Bellett as well and finished in exactly the same place, 30th outright.
“They were good little cars and a lot of the problems were sorted out in the Bellett GT which we later ran in a Surfers Paradise 12 Hour, but ’66 was my one and only Bathurst in a Bellett,” he recalls.
With such vivid memories of that “one and only” outing, Barry was delighted to be reunited with that very car in recent times. It’s owned by Victorian Bellett enthusiast Brett Wild. How Brett came to own the car, then discover and confirm its past life is quite a story.
“The car was found in a backyard in rural Victoria in 2010,” Brett Wild explains. “It’d been owned by the same gentleman for 30 years. As he was cleaning everything out due to a council crackdown, he just gave me the car...
“I didn’t know that it was once a Bathurst racecar at that time – and he had no idea either – but it showed signs of being raced at some time.
“After a lot of investigating, both on the car itself and by sourcing all sorts of info, I was 90 percent sure it was the Ferguson/Reynolds Bellett.”
But still it nagged at Brett that he couldn’t be 100 per cent sure it was #29B from Bathurst ‘66.
Then came the breakthrough he hoped for. This occurred two years ago at the Phillip Island Classic, where he had the car on display.
“A scrutineer from Bathurst 1966 viewed the car and found it still has the marks he left on it that weekend as part of the ‘approval’ process.” Halleluiah! A year later at the same venue Barry Ferguson was able to help shed light on other things Brett had found on the car that had left him puzzled.
Over time Brett has been able to piece together information from many sources on the
Barry Ferguson was delighted to be reunited with the Isuzu Bellett he raced in the Bathurst classic 50 years ago.