Sur­vivor and its driver

Australian Muscle Car - - Bathurst Survivor -

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.