Ford’s Ford: Story of a survivor
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?