Ab­so­lutely fab­ri­ca­tor

Australian Muscle Car - - Muscle Man -

Ge­orge Smith is a fab­ri­ca­tion ge­nius. He has built about 80 fa­mous race­cars, in­clud­ing nine Bathurst win­ners and three rally cham­pi­ons, for the likes of Al­lan Mof­fat, Nis­san, Peter Brock and HRT.

Many race fans will re­call the pit fire at Bathurst in 1978 that mo­men­tar­ily torched Al­lan Mof­fat’s XC Fal­con Co­bra and sent a young me­chanic to hospi­tal with se­ri­ous burns. That was Ge­orge Smith. But ap­pear­ing on the front page of a Syd­ney news­pa­per was not his great­est claim-to-fame. Build­ing a raft of win­ning race (and rally) cars made Smith a revered name within the sport.

Work­ing away dili­gently while the likes of Colin Bond, Al­lan Mof­fat, Ge­orge Fury, Peter Brock, Craig Lown­des and Mark Skaife hogged the lime­light has never been a prob­lem for Smith. For more than four decades he’s been happy to be the en­gi­neer­ing force be­hind some leg­endary cars and ti­tles – in­clud­ing a Brock-match­ing nine Bathurst 1000s and three Aus­tralian Rally Cham­pi­onships to prove his ver­sa­til­ity.

Smith’s car-build­ing tal­ents have to date amounted to about 80 race machines, start­ing with the HDT To­rana Sports Sedan in 1974, through the fa­mous Mof­fat Ford Dealer Team Fal­cons that dom­i­nated the 1977 sea­son, five rally cars and Holden Rac­ing Team’s Com­modores dur­ing its glory years. Not to men­tion Nis­san Blue­birds and a Brock Sierra.

It’s an im­pres­sive body of work for a young me­chanic from Launce­s­ton who took a chance, moved to the main­land, de­vel­oped his skills and be­came the go-to man for race teams need­ing his ex­per­tise and flair. And at age 63 he’s still hard at work help­ing a new team – Char­lie Sch­w­erkolt’s Team 18, headed by old mate Jeff Grech – get es­tab­lished in the tough world of mod­ern Su­per­cars rac­ing.

Ge­orge was born in Launce­s­ton in 1954, the son of lo­cal foot­ball hero Hec Smith, who played for Tas­ma­nia in the 1920s and ’30s. The best and fairest medal in North­ern Tas­ma­nia was named af­ter Hec and he’s in the state’s Hall of Fame. Hec died when Ge­orge was a teenager, but the old rail­way en­gi­neer clearly passed down his love of things me­chan­i­cal be­cause his son only ever wanted to be a mo­tor me­chanic.

Be­ing a Holden fan, Ge­orge ap­proached lo­cal dealer Mo­tors about an ap­pren­tice­ship but was too young, so went away to com­plete Year 10, re­turned and was hired. He soon got the taste of mo­tor rac­ing and has never looked back…

Fan­tas­tic Mr Fox

Ge­orge Smith’s ticket to the big time came from Harry Firth, who used Mo­tors’ work­shop when the HDT raced at Sym­mons Plains in 1974. Ge­orge was al­ready help­ing a mate with a speed­way stock car and had been en­trusted with the work­shop keys. So when Firth asked for a gofer to help ‘The Fox’ and chief me­chanic Ian Tate run Brock’s To­rana XU-1 at Sym­mons, the deal­er­ship’s man­age­ment picked Ge­orge ahead of 40 other me­chan­ics.

It was a dream week­end for the 20-year-old and he helped Tate fix a head gas­ket prob­lem, en­abling Brock to win the race. The fol­low­ing year Firth specif­i­cally asked for Ge­orge, and HDT again won, with Bond in the L34.

“I must have made a bit of an im­pres­sion [in ’74] be­cause they were rapt with the way the whole week­end went and the fol­low­ing year they ac­tu­ally asked if I’d help again. At the end of that day I worked up the courage to ask Harry if he had a job avail­able. His ex­act words were, ‘Cock, get your­self to Mel­bourne and you’ve got a job’.”

With child­hood sweet­heart Jan and three­year-old daugh­ter Angie, the young fam­ily moved to Mel­bourne, where Harry put him to work in his road car work­shop, mak­ing the new­comer earn his stripes with HDT on week­ends.

But Smith re­ally wanted to get into rac­ing, so when Harry re­luc­tantly agreed to a

Left: All smiles for Ge­orge Smith as he re­flects on a ca­reer with the sport’s best teams. Sun­glasses on the grid at Bathurst ’86 mask the ef­fects of the mam­moth Mof­fat crash re­build.

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