Forbes 500/1000: the outright campaigns
Things got a little more serious in 1971 as Forbes went to Bathurst for the first time in a potential outright winner, an E38 Valiant Charger, with John Millyard as co-driver.
“I was living in Drummoyne at the time, and Selke Motors was the local Chrysler dealer, and they sponsored me, along with fuel and oil additive company, Bardahl.”
Forbes qualified 13th, third fastest of the 10 E38 Chargers. It was a promising start to the weekend but, unbeknownst to Forbes and Millyard, they went into the race with what amounted to a ticking timebomb under the Charger’s bonnet.
“Chrysler was pretty serious about winning the race,” Forbes explains. “Some time before Bathurst, they sent a guy up from Adelaide to see us: he wanted to see the engine. I had the engine out of the car and all the bits were at Lynx Engineering being balanced and blueprinted. So I took the Chrysler guy over to Lynx, and he wandered around and had a look. He spent an hour or so there, and then off he went. There were a few Chargers in Sydney: Graham Ryan, Bob Beasley, I think, and the man from Chrysler obviously went around and saw everyone in Sydney who was running a Charger at Bathurst, checking their engines.
“That was fine. But in the race, the engine started to knock and lose oil pressure. I had a pretty good record with building my own motors, and I couldn’t see what was happening here – I thought everything would have been fine with that engine. The poor old Bardahl guy, he freaked out: ‘be careful what you say!’ he said, worrying that people might think it was the Bardahl oil additive that caused it.
“We didn’t know what it was, but later that day at Bathurst the chief at Chrysler came up and asked us what had happened. I told him, and he said, ‘Had you seen our engineer, did he come up to see you about the engines?’ I told him that he had come and seen us. Then he said, ‘Did he tell you about the problem with the cylinder heads?’
“Apparently in one batch of heads, the combustion chambers were cast slightly out of position, just fractionally offset from where they should have been. It meant that when the piston came up, it just touched the face of the head a little bit. So, we’d done all the practice, qualifying, and the 46 laps of the race with that engine, and