Col­umns

Australian Muscle Car - - Contents -

Leg­end colum­nist Bob Mor­ris re ects on ’71, while Aaron Noo­nan seeks His­toric changes.

Alot of peo­ple wouldn’t re­alise this, but I’m prob­a­bly the only driver in the Se­ries Pro­duc­tion era to have raced a fac­tory To­rana XU-1 and a fac­tory Fal­con GTHO Phase III. In 1970 I’d driven for the Holden Dealer Team with Peter Brock at Bathurst. Then in 1971 Al Turner, who was run­ning Ford’s rac­ing depart­ment, ap­proached me say­ing, ‘We want you to be in a Ford, and this is what we’re go­ing to do for you.’

I could have stayed with Harry [Firth] and not taken up the Ford of­fer, but at the time Harry’s book was al­most full. He had Colin [Bond] and Peter; I drove for him on three or four oc­ca­sions but they were only spas­modic drives. I got on re­ally well with Harry but I couldn’t see a fu­ture there. There just wasn’t room for me in the team at that time, and I didn’t want to wait around pick­ing up the odd drive here and there.

But what Al Turner was of­fer­ing was very at­trac­tive: full fac­tory sup­port, with spares and en­gines to run in NSW. For me, it was a pretty easy de­ci­sion to go with Ford.

Al or­gan­ised for my Phase III race­car to be built at Lot 6, along­side their two fac­tory cars and David McKay’s car. But be­tween then and when I went to pick the car up, Al Turner had been moved on to a dif­fer­ent post­ing at Ford, and Howard Mars­den had been brought in to re­place him.

When it came to the crunch, Howard just said, ‘Here’s your car, go and do your very best.’ All the other things promised by Al Turner didn’t even­tu­ate, and I just ended up with a car – that they (Ford) owned.

With Howard, I don’t think it was any­thing per­sonal that he had against me; I think it was prob­a­bly just a case of him be­ing too busy to help us. I think he was dropped in at the deep end by Ford: here’s your Phase IIIs, now go and win Bathurst. He’d come from Eng­land and wouldn’t have known any­thing about Fal­cons or the lo­cal driv­ers. He was fresh off the boat, and Bathurst was about a month or so away. So I can un­der­stand that he had his hands full, but I was dis­ap­pointed that Ford’s word turned out to be not that good.

We took it to Oran Park to do a shake­down about a week be­fore Bathurst – and blew the en­gine. We didn’t have a spare. It didn’t even have a spare tyre when we picked it up; it was: ‘Here’s your car, go away.’

So we rang Lot 6, and I think it was Bill San­tuc­cione I spoke to. He was the only one still there as the oth­ers had al­ready left to go to Bathurst. He said, ‘The only en­gine we’ve got here is the test en­gine on the dyno. You can have that if you want it.’ So we drove down overnight and picked up that en­gine, took it back to Syd­ney and put it in the race­car, and I drove it straight to Bathurst.

I was en­tered to drive with my fa­ther, Ray, but that was only as a pre­cau­tion. The plan was al­ways for me to do the race solo. The dyno en­gine only lasted about 80 laps, so it was a dis­ap­point­ing day, al­though I did set the fastest lap of the race.

The Phase III was such a big hairy car, lots of power but with skinny 6-inch wheels they didn’t have much rub­ber on the road, and the brakes were fairly tem­po­rary! It had a Detroit Locker diff, and that made them very tricky to drive. You’d go into a cor­ner and it’d be un­locked, and then when you put your foot down out of the cor­ner it just goes BANG and the diff locks up. It took a bit of driv­ing to get used to that. Not so much at Bathurst, but with the tall gear­ing they were pretty speedy down the straight – speedy enough for the front wheels to come off the ground over the last hump.

For the race, we’d back off be­fore the last hump, just to try to slow down a bit for the brak­ing area. You would lose a bit of time do­ing that, but it was worth it if it meant you had a bet­ter chance of not go­ing straight ahead at Mur­ray’s Cor­ner.

I can re­mem­ber at the end of Con­rod one lap putting two feet on the brake pedal, and push­ing so hard that my bum was com­ing out of the seat! You’d be pray­ing the thing would slow down enough so you could get it round the cor­ner. And then you’d think, ‘I got away with that one; what’s it go­ing to do the next time around?’

I raced that car for the rest of the year and a bit into 1972, but in the end we didn’t have the money to keep run­ning it. I also felt we were left a lit­tle bit high and dry by Ford. The only rea­son I took up Al Turner’s of­fer was be­cause of all the sup­port he was of­fer­ing, but which didn’t even­tu­ate.

Look­ing back, it’s funny with the way things can go, be­cause a sim­i­lar thing hap­pened with me and Ford about 10 years later, when Ed­sel Ford II’s time in Aus­tralia came to an end. But that’s an­other story…

Bob Mor­ris is Aus­tralian mo­tor rac­ing roy­alty, one of just 16 driv­ers to have won the Bathurst clas­sic and ATCC/Su­per­cars ti­tle. AMC is hon­oured to have the 1976 Hardie-Ferodo 1000 and 1979 ATCC win­ner as our leg­end colum­nist.

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