Ford’s Ford: Story of a sur­vivor

Australian Muscle Car - - Resurrected -

Dur­ingthe 1970s, Sports Sedan rac­ing was a big deal, with huge crowds turn­ing up to watch some of the most pow­er­ful and in­no­va­tive ma­chines in the coun­try. For driv­ers in­ter­ested in mov­ing up from club rac­ing to big-time rac­ing it could also be rea­son­ably af­ford­able, as its ex­plo­sion in pop­u­lar­ity meant that two di­vi­sions were avail­able: Di­vi­sion 1 for the high-pro­file, hero cars, the big V8s, and Di­vi­sion 2, the do­main of the back­yard spe­cial builders the heart­land of Sports Sedans.

For a young Garry Ford, 1977 was the time to up­grade from his trusty XW Fal­con V8 – used for sprints and hill­climbs – into some­thing better suited to track work. He chose a Mk1 Es­cort that Ron Whi­taker had been rac­ing at Oran Park and Ama­roo. As Ron was nearly fin­ished build­ing a new Mk2 Es­cort, the tim­ing was per­fect. Garry bought the car as a ‘roller’ – less mo­tor and gear­box – as that suited his plans to use the warmed over 302 and to­ploader from his XW, to give the lit­tle Es­cort a bit more punch. In this way the Es­cort ad­hered to the clas­sic back­yard Sports Sedan phi­los­o­phy, which was: put a big en­gine in a small car, do what you can to get it to han­dle and stop, and go out and have some fun!

As Sports Sedans go, the Es­cort was nothing spe­cial, with stan­dard front strut and rear leaf sus­pen­sion, a pan­hard rod and the V8 en­gine set back a lit­tle into a re­cessed fire­wall. How­ever, it was ef­fec­tive.

With the as­sis­tance of me­chanic Bob Meally, Garry en­tered his first proper race on Au­gust 13, 1977 at Ama­roo. He not only qual­i­fied on pole for his first race, but he won it, beat­ing Ron Whi­taker in his new Es­cort. Be­ing on a bud­get, he mainly bought cheap, sec­ond-hand tyres from Barry Se­ton’s Capri, how­ever for the first round of the 1978 Aus­tralian Sports Sedan Cham­pi­onship at Surfers Par­adise, he splurged on a new set. This saw him post cred­i­ble sev­enth out­right against the top cars of the day. Not bad for a Di­vi­sion 2 car.

With fam­ily com­mit­ments loom­ing, Garry sold the car in late 1978 and it con­tin­ued to com­pete in the hands of var­i­ous own­ers.

Fast for­ward three decades now and Garry had a chance en­counter with the car – and then owner Jeff Daniels – at a Mt Cot­ton hill­climb event. He was able to buy his car back some 29 years after he sold it, still with the orig­i­nal driv­e­train that he had in­stalled all those years ago.

Since buy­ing it back, a new en­gine has been built and in­stalled. It’s also been re­turned to its orig­i­nal liv­ery and now com­petes reg­u­larly in His­toric and hill­climb events – and is very com­pet­i­tive at both. At the re­cent HRCCQ’s Au­tumn His­torics meet­ing at Mor­gan Park, Garry con­tin­ued to show how ef­fec­tive the lit­tle Es­cort can be, by not only beat­ing Mark Trenoweth’s XJ-S Jaguar, but also post­ing sim­i­lar times to the two Group A Sierra Cos­worths rac­ing in Her­itage Tour­ing Cars.

Gary is now watch­ing de­vel­op­ments in the grow­ing Group U scene with in­ter­est.

Makes you won­der how many other 1970s and ’80s vin­tage Sports Sedans are still out there, doesn’t it?

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