Rac­ing his­tory & slid­ing doors

Australian Muscle Car - - A9x Pair -

The rac­ing lives of Steve Per­rott’s pair of Philips-spon­sored To­ranas are fas­ci­nat­ingly com­ple­men­tary when you stop and look through the files. The four-door’s main year of rac­ing was in 1979 in Char­lie O’Brien’s hands, though he ac­tu­ally started that year rac­ing his ex-Bob Mor­ris, Ron Hodg­son four-door A9X re­painted in Philips colours. Pe­riod sources ac­count for him run­ning early in the year at Ama­roo in the AMSCAR Se­ries and also fin­ish­ing run­ner-up in the Sandown round of the Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pi­onship in the ex-Mor­ris car in Philips colours. He ad­ver­tised this car for sale mid-sea­son, though we haven’t been able to pin­point in time for the is­sue’s deadline at what point in ’79 he moved into the four­door Per­rott now owns.

O’Brien had fur­ther podium fin­ishes in the ATCC that year aboard a four-door with a third place at both of his home Queens­land round at Surfers Par­adise and Lake­side help­ing him to fifth in the over­all cham­pi­onship points.

There was also the very awk­ward mo­ment at the Hang Ten 400 at Sandown later in the year where he (driv­ing a four-door, we pre­sume to be Per­rott’s) and team­mate Garth Wigston (in the hatch­back) crashed one an­other into in­stant re­tire­ment. Ouch! That scene is shown be­low.

The team en­tered and prac­tised the four-door at Bathurst but parked it for race day, in­stead rac­ing the hatch­back.

The four-door scored vic­tory in the fi­nal Cham­pi­onship of Makes en­durance race in ’79 at Surfers Par­adise, with O’Brien beat­ing a field that didn’t fea­ture all of the heavy-hit­ters of the era, be­fore Wigston ran it in the Win­field 25s event to round out the year at Baskerville in Tasmania.

The four-door also had ear­lier ap­peared in 1978 in the hands of Bruce Gowans at the Calder ATCC round and fin­ished sec­ond in that year’s Roth­mans 500 en­duro at Oran Park in the hands of he and Wigston.

This par­tic­u­lar car hasn’t ap­peared on track for some time, but will be wheeled back out in Novem­ber for the Gee­long Speed Tri­als in Vic­to­ria.

“We’re just fresh­en­ing a new en­gine for it at the mo­ment,” says Per­rott. “I haven’t raced it for quite a num­ber of years, it’s been sit­ting up on stands at the work­shop.”

On the other hand, the hatch­back is un­der­stood to have been the team’s 1978 and 1979 Bathurst race­car that ac­tu­ally did very lit­tle rac­ing apart from its as­saults on Mount Panorama. In ’78 Wigston qual­i­fied it for the in­au­gu­ral Hardies He­roes shootout and he and Wayne Ne­gus were run­ning fifth be­fore it broke the crank­shaft. In ’79 Wigston and O’Brien were sit­ting in a com­fort­able sec­ond place be­hind Peter Brock be­fore a failed pin­ion seal caused a leak­ing diff. A rear axle was re­placed and they came home eighth over­all.

When AMC in­ter­viewed O’Brien way back in is­sue #39, he revealed a ‘slid­ing doors’ mo­ment that could very well have rewrit­ten Bathurst his­tory.

“Ev­ery­one knows Brock won Bathurst by six laps, but not the rea­son he won by six laps.

“We were on the same lap with about an hour to go. HDT and Gown-Hind­haugh both got their gear­boxes and diffs built by Gen­eral Mo­tors at Fishermans Bend. I used to go down there and pick them up. You didn’t drop off a unit and get the same one back; they all got fresh­ened up and you got what you got. With an hour to go, the pin­ion seal let go in my diff, but it didn’t let go in Brock’s diff. So that race could have gone ei­ther way.”

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