Australian Muscle Car - - Induction -

Farewell Tuckey, Willo and AA

You went out in prac­tice, per­haps tast­ing that mag­i­cal mo­ment when you were the first car to roll a wheel on that cir­cuit for that year. You wound up it up go­ing up the Moun­tain and lazed across the top, giv­ing the brakes an easy time over Sky­line. You lifted a hand to the flag mar­shals thump­ing their chests in the cold, with breath hang­ing in the air, saw the odd flag break out from the scat­ter­ing of early prac­tice spec­ta­tors who sat up above you, and then swung down through For­rest’s El­bow, vir­ginal at that mo­ment, clean of rub­ber marks, and let the sweet kid run out to within a cen­time­tre of the Armco on the out­side as you straight­ened for the run down Con­rod Straight with the still cold brakes squeal­ing in the morn­ing chill and gen­tly locked over in Mur­ray’s, to hear the rip­ping­cal­ico sound of the ex­haust as it came back off the steel fence when you took it up the lit­tle rise and past the con­trol tower for the first time.” No one writes like that any­more. Ac­tu­ally, no jour­nal­ist has ever cap­tured the essence of Mount Panorama – be it from the driver’s seat, lounge chair or spec­ta­tor mound – bet­ter than Bill Tuckey. He was peer­less in paint­ing a re­al­is­tic and colour­ful pic­ture of rac­ing at Bathurst, most no­tably in Aus­tralia’s Great­est Mo­tor Race. The suc­cess of this sem­i­nal 1981 book spawned 31 year­books on the event, the first dozen or so au­thored by Bill, bashed out in the type-writer era.

Bill, one of the orig­i­nals of Chevron Pub­lish­ing, this mag­a­zine’s found­ing pub­lish­ing com­pany, passed away, aged 80, on May 7, a few days be­fore we put this edi­tion to bed.

Although I only met him a hand­ful of times, his writ­ing’s in­flu­ence on me was pro­found. His vivid de­scrip­tions of peo­ple and places, in­ci­dents and ac­ci­dents, acted as a trac­tor beam, draw­ing me into the sport. His writ­ing added mys­tique to things that, on the sur­face, may have ini­tially ap­peared mun­dane.

What pre­vi­ously were merely trips to Bathurst be­came, after read­ing Bill’s sto­ries, spir­i­tual pil­grim­ages thanks to the al­most myth­i­cal qual­i­ties he gave “what old-timers still call Bald Hills.”

A fort­night be­fore Bill died, an­other master com­mu­ni­ca­tor closely as­so­ci­ated with the Great Race passed away – Race­cam car­rier and im­promptu com­men­ta­tor Peter Wil­liamson. Willo’s death was a shock as he looked as fit as a fid­dle at last year’s Mus­cle Car Masters, whereas it was widely known that Bill had been an ill man for many years.

While Tuckey was the master of long-form de­scrip­tions, Wil­liamson was the king of the emo­tive and de­scrip­tive one-liner. His most fa­mous ut­ter­ances were de­liv­ered while his Cel­ica ha­rassed big­ger cars as it charged down the Moun­tain. These were stab­bing state­ments which, if you jot­ted them down on pa­per, in­vari­ably ended with ex­cla­ma­tion marks.

The ex-Wil­liamson, now Chris O’Con­nor-owned Cel­ica was fit­tingly dis­played at his ‘farewell’.

A third great in­flu­ence on my for­ma­tive years as a young race fan and fu­ture jour­nal­ist departed this earth in this same pe­riod – Auto Ac­tion mag­a­zine. I pur­chased my first is­sue of AA as a wee lad of 11 be­cause the cover screamed: “In­side: Bathurst 1981 en­try list.”

Later I be­came a let­ter writer, colum­nist, then an in-house mem­ber of staff.

Like so many oth­ers in this busi­ness, was my spring­board onto other things.

I can’t be­lieve the mar­ket for a truly independent weekly print or dig­i­tal mag­a­zine com­pletely dried up. Maybe it hasn’t and AA will be re­born un­der new own­er­ship. Hope­fully that’s the case. We’ll see.

I’ll leave you with an­other Tuckey snap­shot from the Oc­to­ber clas­sic’s ear­li­est days, tak­ing his au­di­ence behind the scenes so they gained a full ap­pre­ci­a­tion of what it was like to be track­side two nights be­fore the an­nual big race.

“Bathurst is... Fri­day night and in the mem­bers’ car­a­van park, strat­egy behind closed car­a­van cur­tains, the clank of beer cans on a lam­i­nated table top, the pa­tio light of a Con­rod Straight house gleam­ing out on the patched bi­tu­men where to­mor­row no pedes­trian might tread. It is the mum­ble of a po­lice mo­tor­cy­cle in the Esses at mid­night, head­lights on the red soil of McPhillamy Park, knuck­les on a car­a­van door (‘Does any­one know where Fred Glen­hunty is?’).”

And so it goes... Auto Ac­tion

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