Holden’s Ford day

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle Man -

In

1969, Bob Holden be­gan his as­so­ci­a­tion with Syd­ney dealer Alto Ford, rac­ing an im­ported Es­cort Twin Cam in Im­proved Pro­duc­tion. For Bathurst he was drafted into the Dat­sun Rac­ing Team to share a Dat­sun 1000 with Bob Tof­folon. Alas, in prac­tice, Tof­folon got it all wrong in The Dip­per, de­mol­ish­ing the car, the fence and the tele­vi­sion cam­era tower in one go! It was an early shower...

With Ford go­ing gang­busters with the Fal­con GT, Alto Ford was one of only six deal­ers na­tion­ally to set up a High Per­for­mance Di­vi­sion. Holden was bought in to man­age it.

“We were the only dealer to make any money sell­ing prod­ucts from Ford’s High Per­for­mance cat­a­logue for the Fal­con GT, Capri V6, and Es­cort Twin Cam. While I was there I spied the bat­tered XW GT-HO that Bill Brown in­verted at Bathurst in 1969. Prin­ci­pal Ge­orge Al­tomonte got me an­other body and we reshelled the GTHO and I raced it four times. We were go­ing to up­grade it to Phase II spec­i­fi­ca­tions, but Ge­orge sold it from un­der me. He said he would get me an­other one. So I ended up with a red Phase II for Bathurst.”

The 1970 Hardie-Ferodo 500 was a case of what might have been. Holden re­cruited fast Es­cort racer Bill Fan­ning as co-driver in the Alto Ford GT-HO.

“He wore out the brakes in prac­tice! I be­lieve Fan­ning was ‘rac­ing’ some­one in prac­tice and cooked the brakes, with­out me know­ing. He came in with a punc­ture. The prac­tice ses­sion fin­ished early due to a crash and we didn’t go out again, so I didn’t know there was a prob­lem. I had no brakes af­ter the 15th lap and de­cided to do the whole race (solo). With­out brakes we fin­ished way down.”

For the record, Bob’s sole Bathurst in a V8-pow­ered car net­ted him 14th place out­right and fifth in class.

Bathurst 1972 kicked off a se­quence of 11 con­sec­u­tive starts in the Oc­to­ber clas­sic aboard Es­corts. The last of these was the most stressful, dra­matic and suc­cess­ful. Race or­gan­is­ers ini­tially knocked back his ’82 en­try due to a re­vised class struc­ture and Bob had to do some fast talk­ing – and driv­ing – to have his en­try accepted and then make the cut in qual­i­fy­ing. He made the field with a last-minute des­per­ate lap and was re­ward in the race with a re­spectable 15th out­right and fourth in class be­hind the Nis­san Blue­bird Turbo and a cou­ple of Ford Capris.

While his Es­corts were out­gunned up the Moun­tain this pe­riod, it was of­ten a dif­fer­ent story in the ATCC. Holden fin­ished fourth out­right three years in a row, 1972-74, and went one step bet­ter in ’75 af­ter be­ing in with a chance of win­ning out­right at one point. While a favourable class point sys­tem helped, Holden’s Es­cort al­ways showed well on the tighter, shorter cir­cuits.

The record books show that the Syd­neysider fin­ished a stel­lar sec­ond in the 1982 ATCC to Dick John­son with con­sis­tent class plac­ings when sev­eral fron­trun­ners went AWOL due to tech­ni­cal breaches or other ad­ven­tures. Bob would also come within a cou­ple of points of win­ning the 1982 Aus­tralian En­durance Championship.

Bob Holden Mo­tors also ran a suc­cess­ful For­mula Ford team. Stephen Brook (1980) and Phillip Rev­ell (1981) won the Driver to Europe Se­ries in the team’s trusty Lola T440. Bob also gave his For­mula Ford young guns free runs at Bathurst in one of the two Es­corts the team en­tered. Driv­ers like Mike Quinn, Wally Storey and David Earle also ben­e­fited from Holden’s vi­sion for driver de­vel­op­ment at a time when the con­cept barely ex­isted.

For 1983 there would be no more Es­corts. Holden agreed to pre­pare and co-drive the Daily Planet-spon­sored Toy­ota Cel­ica with Bri­tish star Gor­don Spice. There was in­suf­fi­cient time to pre­pare the Cel­ica prop­erly and it broke its crank­shaft on the warm-up lap at Bathurst and didn’t start the race. It was, how­ever, the start of his Toy­ota pe­riod.

He may be the small car king, but he raced a Phase II at Bathurst 1970 for then em­ployer Alto Ford.

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