Mus­cle Mail

Australian Muscle Car - - Contents -

Read­ers drop us a line on their mem­o­ries of the Gal­la­her Fal­con XR GTs and just about ev­ery­thing else that was in the last is­sue.

Romeo’s is a Toorak tra­di­tion – an Ital­ian bistro way past ever be­ing re­garded as the lat­est buzz-place but still beloved, in a com­fort­able sort of way, by reg­u­lars. Its web­site, last up­dated in 2009, boasts that it’s where stars come to eat and there’s pic­tures of Shane Warne, An­dre Agassi, An­thony Mun­dine and Missy Hig­gins to sup­port the claim.

There’s no pic­ture of the bloke in the cor­ner, the most reg­u­lar of reg­u­lars, who wan­ders down the hill from his home 750 me­tres away for the guilty plea­sure of gelato. He prefers it that way even though de­spite the years there’s not too many din­ers who don’t recog­nise him.

The larger-than-need-be spec­ta­cles and the ever present can of Coke (now Diet) confi rm his iden­tity.

Four times Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pion, four times Bathurst vic­tor, win­ner of the Se­bring 12 Hour and so on… Al­lan Mof­fat is on his home turf. He’s lived in Toorak and its en­vi­rons for nigh on 60 years and right now he’s at the epi­cen­tre of his world. His work­shop of al­most half a cen­tury at 711 Malvern Road about two kilo­me­tres away, now sold and in the fi­nal stages of unit-block de­vel­op­ment, is about as far as his com­fort zone ex­tends.

For all his gi­gan­tic pub­lic per­sona, Mof­fat is a re­served man, aware of his achieve­ments but not boast­ful about them, shy to the point of be­ing vul­ner­a­ble to mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion as ar­ro­gant.

He was once: ar­ro­gant, that is. When he rode the wave of Ford ver­sus Holden ma­nia that de­fined ‘win on Sun­day, sell on Mon­day’, he wore his lofty dis­dain like a defiant shield, dar­ing peo­ple to pen­e­trate it. But no more. He’s go­ing through a re­nais­sance and the fans he used to at best avoid be­cause his mind was on his mo­tor rac­ing (or at least briefly address be­cause he knew he had to do it), are now those he gen­uinely ap­pre­ci­ates. Char­lie O’Brien tells the story of how he tricked Mof­fat into com­ing out of his mo­torhome where he was (tra­di­tion­ally) hid­ing at Bathurst by telling him an old friend from the States just wanted a few mo­ments, only to be con­fronted by a mass of fans, with no es­cape.

These days, at his­toric races and at Su­per­car meet­ings the long­est queues are for Mof­fat au­to­graphs, and he du­ti­fully com­plies. He’s spanned gen­er­a­tions. Grand­fa­thers, fa­thers and sons are all likely to line up, along with wives and girl­friends.

Truth be known, he loves it – al­though, not wish­ing to break the habit of a life­time, he’d not ad­mit it.

Guest colum­nist John Smailes has com­men­tated, pub­li­cised and re­ported on mo­tor­sport for five decades. Through­out this time he’s ob­served at close quar­ters the in­trigu­ing ca­reer and per­sona of Al­lan Ge­orge Mof­fat. Who bet­ter then to help bring Mof­fat’s long-awaited au­to­bi­og­ra­phy to life.

You wouldn’t want him to any­way. There’s a cer­tain pub­lic per­sona he’s de­vel­oped and Mof­fat wouldn’t be Mof­fat with­out the drawl, the wry sar­donic com­ment, and the steely glare.

In­creas­ingly there’s a wave of nos­tal­gia sweep­ing our sport far more tan­gi­ble than a warm fire­side feel­ing.

Car mod­els, posters, pic­tures, cloth­ing – ‘merch’ of all sorts has be­come big busi­ness. Mof­fat is in on it, not so much to cash in but to pre­vent oth­ers get­ting a free ride on his name.

To stave off un­scrupu­lous op­er­a­tors who sim­ply take the names of the greats with­out at­tri­bu­tion – and that in­cludes Brab­ham and Brock – Mof­fat has be­come a trade­mark and he’s do­ing sen­si­ble deals with peo­ple who want to do the right thing not only by him but by the fans.

To shut down a wave of Face­book pages in which he’s had no in­volve­ment he’s started his own ‘Of­fi­cial Al­lan Mof­fat’ site and its at­tract­ing pre­cious pic­to­rial mem­o­ra­bilia from sup­port­ers around the world.

This year he’s go­ing to be su­per busy at Bathurst. It’s the 40th an­niver­sary of the 1-2 ‘form fin­ish’ and Su­per­cars is look­ing to re­vere the leg­ends of the moun­tain. Frosty’s Fal­con will be in the retro-white-blue-and-red colours of the ’77 XC Fal­cons, and Tick­ford has de­vel­oped a lim­ited edi­tion Mof­fat Mus­tang of which only 77 will be made. And then there’s the book. For his en­tire life he’s run a mile from putting it down on pa­per. He’s op­er­ated his life and his busi­ness – and it’s im­pos­si­ble to dis­tin­guish be­tween the two – so close to his chest that the mere sug­ges­tion of re­veal­ing his in­ner thoughts was an ever present threat. The next deal just could not be done if peo­ple knew what had hap­pened in the last one. The devil, for Mof­fat, has al­ways been in con­ceal­ing the de­tail.

And then he turned 77. Nice co-in­ci­dence re­ally, cel­e­brat­ing the ’77 win at Bathurst in his 77th year.

We’re sit­ting in Romeo’s – Al­lan, me and our mu­tual mate Peter Car­pen­ter who worked with Al­lan in his Mazda days and has been a close friend ever since, while build­ing mon­strous V8 en­gines which he takes an­nu­ally to Bon­neville to shoe­horn into salt flat rac­ers.

Carpy has set up the lunch, but it’s Mof­fat, un­usu­ally, who’s do­ing most of the talk­ing. He’s talk­ing about his boy­hood in Saska­toon, his youngest brother who died trag­i­cally in a home ac­ci­dent while Al­lan was at school, his first car – a ’35 Ford For­dor in South Africa, his first girl­friend (Eve­lyn, same name as his Mum), how he was part of Jimmy Clark’s win­ning Lo­tus pit crew at the ’65 Indy 500 (he handed Clark a Dixie cup of wa­ter at his one pit stop).

He’s open­ing up, more than I’ve ever known him. And then I re­alise, he’s au­di­tion­ing.

Carpy, on cue, gets up and leaves the ta­ble and Al­lan fixes me not with a steely glare but with a face full of trep­i­da­tion and says, “Would you like to write my book?”

It’s as if he thinks his story might not be good enough. As if half a cen­tury – more – of set­ting the gold stan­dard for raceteam de­vel­op­ment, for spon­sor­ship ac­qui­si­tion, of race-win­ning and of be­ing what Ed­sel Ford called, “the most de­ter­mined white man I’ve ever known”, counts for noth­ing.

It was a priv­i­lege to say yes. It was even more so to sit with him in ses­sions over six months laugh­ing, cry­ing, learn­ing more about mo­tor­sport from the in­side and from his per­spec­tive than I thought I’d ever know.

Mof­fat has ful­filled an im­por­tant obli­ga­tion to his craft by al­low­ing this book to be writ­ten. It’s in his own words – an au­to­bi­og­ra­phy – and as I wrote it I chan­nelled Al­lan Mof­fat, a scary propo­si­tion which led my wife to ask when I walked through the door each night: “John, or Al­lan?” It’s called, ap­pro­pri­ately, Climb­ing

the Moun­tain and it will be launched at Bathurst. JS

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