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.