“T

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle Man -

he best ama­teur driver I’ve ever worked with.”

That’s how le­gendary team man­ager Car­roll Smith – the man who over­saw Ford’s great­est mo­tor­sport­ing mo­ments in­ter­na­tion­ally (Le Mans 1966) and do­mes­ti­cally (Bathurst 1977); in both cases the win­ning team fin­ished 1-2 – de­scribed Alan Hamil­ton.

Hamil­ton was Colin Bond’s co-driver when the Mof­fat Ford Dealer Team XC Fal­cons gave the blue oval its finest mo­ment at Bathurst in ’77. It’s the re­sult that Hamil­ton is prob­a­bly best re­mem­bered for. That and tak­ing an un­der­dog Porsche 911 to within a point of the 1969 Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship, the first to be held over a se­ries of races, rather than a sin­gle event.

Hamil­ton and his fa­ther Nor­man were the Aus­tralian Porsche im­porters for 40 years and reg­u­larly used mo­tor­sport – in­volv­ing a long list of fa­mous names from the lo­cal scene – to move Teu­tonic metal.

His in­volve­ment in rac­ing has now stretched over half a cen­tury, from club racer to ca­pa­ble works team Bathurst co-driver and from team owner to His­toric rac­ing pa­tron.

Hamil­ton ex­celled in hill­climbs, a pas­sion­ate pur­suit in which he won four na­tional ti­tles. He was an ac­com­plished F5000 racer, though one of those thun­der­ous brutes al­most claimed his life and left a last­ing le­gacy.

“As a 14-year-old I drove the blue Spy­der at Fish­er­mans Bend with Alan Jones (son of top driver Stan) do­ing a few wheel­ies at the back of the track whilst the oldies were booz­ing up in the pits!” he re­calls.

If Hamil­ton ju­nior was be­ing groomed for the fam­ily busi­ness, no­body told him.

“All I wanted to do was drive rac­ing cars,” he re­vealed. “I started a me­chan­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing course. I worked 12 months for the lo­cal Cater­pil­lar agent, then I got into real es­tate but then the 1961 credit squeeze came. I went to work for my fa­ther who was un­der enor­mous pres­sure and mort­gaged to the hilt.”

Hamil­ton ob­tained his driver’s li­cence and rac­ing li­cence on his 18th birthday. Two days later he com­peted in a gymkhana at Tem­plestowe Hill­climb in his VW Bee­tle.

“Then I bought a ’58 Porsche 356A from a dealer in St Kilda,” re­mem­bers Hamil­ton. “It was in av­er­age con­di­tion and fi­nanced on hire pur­chase with­out my par­ent’s knowl­edge… un­til they signed the agree­ment! We split the gear­box cas­ing on the way to Collingrove Hill­climb!”

A lighter 356 Speed­ster with 130bhp fol­lowed, but soon a real rac­ing car en­tered the fray. A well­known spe­cial called the Wylie Javelin pur­chased sans en­gine.

“My first real race was in the Javelin. I drove it to Tar­rawingee on a dead­mans tow behind the 356 Speed­ster. I jacked up the Speed­ster, took out the en­gine and put it in the Javelin and raced. I slept in the Speed­ster. When rac­ing fin­ished I re­versed the pro­ce­dure and towed it home on Sun­day. It took 45 min­utes to change en­gines, but I only did it the once!”

In 1965 Hamil­ton trav­elled to Ger­many to work at the Porsche fac­tory for six months. At the end of his so­journ he pur­chased the 904/8 Bergspy­der that had fin­ished sec­ond in that year’s Targa Flo­rio but wisely swapped Alan Hamil­ton, who owns a win­ery to­day, was part of Ford’s most fa­mous mo­ment in lo­cal rac­ing.

He was fore­most a think­ing driver, whose race prepa­ra­tion and me­chan­i­cal sym­pa­thy served him well against more tal­ented driv­ers.

He also had many suc­cesses as a team owner, bring­ing out spec­tac­u­lar cars for lead­ing driv­ers.

Rac­ing for Hamil­ton was much more than just the in­dul­gence of a suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man.

While many re­mem­ber Hamil­ton as a Bathurst run­ner-up, he could well have been win­ner of the 1969 Hardie-Ferodo 500 for Ford’s new in-house works team, if not for an un­nec­es­sary pre­cau­tion­ary pit­stop. its com­plex flat-eight en­gine for a Car­rera six pow­er­plant.

The Bergspy­der re­ally put Hamil­ton on the map in 1966. He won the Aus­tralian Hill­climb Cham­pi­onship, fin­ished sec­ond in the Aus­tralian Sports Car Cham­pi­onship to Frank Matich and fourth and first two-litre car in the Surfers Par­adise 12 hour race.

For 1967 rcaing, Hamil­ton trans­ferred the Bergspy­der’s me­chan­i­cals into a 906 space­frame chas­sis. The roof had to be cut to fit his lanky frame. The 906 was un­beat­able in its class, only los­ing out to Frank Matich and Bob Jane. It fin­ished third in that year’s Surfers Par­adise 12 Hour. But by the end of the year the 906 was sold out of the coun­try to avoid cus­toms du­ties.

For 1968 Hamil­ton re­turned to the Porsche fac­tory for more work ex­pe­ri­ence. Here he man­aged to talk him­self into co-driv­ing Ger­man pri­va­teer Hans-Di­eter Blatzheim’s 911S at the Nur­bur­gring 1000.

“Blatzheim was rated by the fac­tory but I was 30 sec­onds a lap faster around the ’Ring. We fin­ished fourth in class and 28th over­all. I got sev­eral of­fers to drive at Le Mans and Spa but I had a ‘board meet­ing with my­self’ in the Black For­est and de­cided that rac­ing would be a hobby from now on.”

Spy­der-man, Spy­der­man, friendly neigh­bour­hood Spy­der­man. The 356 (with fa­ther Nor­man, above left) and 906 ver­sions were used to good ef­fect.

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