Bob Mor­ris

Australian Muscle Car - - Maniac - 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.

It’s 50 years this year since I made my Bathurst de­but. I was part of the AMI works Toy­ota Corolla team [ED: car #56] in 1968.

I was the ju­nior driver and so I just did what I was told. I never had any say in any­thing. It was just: this is your car, this is who you’re co-driv­ing with, go out there and do it. That was ne by me; I was there to learn. The oth­ers, peo­ple like Bruce Hind­haugh, Brian Samp­son and Barry Fer­gu­son, had been in the fac­tory team a while; they were older and a lot more ex­pe­ri­enced than I was, and I looked up to them.

How that drive came about was that Bill Buckle was one of the fac­tory driv­ers, and he kept his Corolla from the ’67 race and mod­i­fied it into an Im­proved Pro­duc­tion car. He made it into a bit of a Buckle special, with a hot cam and other things, which were part of a hot-up kit for Corol­las he was sell­ing in his deal­er­ship in Brook­vale. When we were look­ing to get into a tour­ing car, my fa­ther said, ‘In­stead of get­ting a Mini, let’s get some­thing dif­fer­ent – so you might get no­ticed.’

Bill and my fa­ther were friends be­cause they were both in the left-hand-drive con­ver­sion busi­ness. So one day we took the Corolla out to Oran Park, Bill and my fa­ther, and we all had a drive – and I was faster than both of them. So Bill said, ‘I’m think­ing of step­ping away from the fac­tory drive as I’m busy with busi­ness, so I’ll rec­om­mend you to take my seat.’

To me, that was fan­tas­tic. I think I was about 18 or 19 at the time. Then I got a call from the Toy­ota guy in Mel­bourne ask­ing me to come down to Calder for a try out in one of the cars. So I went down there, did a few laps, and I must have been fast enough for them be­cause they put me in the car for Bathurst.

I did hear later that I nearly didn’t get the drive be­cause I had asked them whether they were go­ing to put a roll bar in the car for Bathurst. They ap­par­ently took that to mean that maybe I was too scared to drive at Bathurst!

As it turned out, we went up there and Bruce Hind­haugh and I won our class. Then in ’69 with Brian Samp­son we won again.

That sec­ond year, I started the race, and I re­mem­ber the rst-lap crash at the top of the Moun­tain. When I ar­rived there, there were cars go­ing ev­ery­where, and I stopped along­side John French in the Alfa. He was up­side down, and I was talk­ing to him to ask if he was al­right. Then they un­blocked the road and I daw­dled through think­ing ‘Oh well, the race is go­ing to be stopped.’ But when I got down to the pits, not go­ing in that much of a hurry, they’re wav­ing me on to keep go­ing!

Look­ing back, I think the best learn­ing curve for me at Bathurst was go­ing there in a Corolla. With a small car like that, you had to use ev­ery last horse­power on ev­ery cor­ner to get up the Moun­tain quickly. If you didn’t use every­thing the car had, and ev­ery inch of the road, you were slow.

At Bathurst, there were lots of places where you had to cross the road be­tween cor­ners to get over to the pre­ferred side for the brak­ing area. But in the Corolla, cross­ing the road was lit­er­ally like ‘cross­ing the road’, be­cause you had to be care­ful you didn’t cross the road in front of a faster car! Re­mem­ber that in ’68/ ’69, it was the start of the Monaros, so you’ve got ve-and-ahalf litre Monaros and GT Fal­cons com­ing up on you, and you’ve got a 60 horse­power Corolla…

You had to be re­ally care­ful of that, and try to not get in their way and cause an ac­ci­dent, but still go fast and race the guys in your class.

We raced Corol­las for AMI in the Bathurst 500 those two years, and at the lo­cal tracks and at Bathurst in Easter I ran the modi ed Corolla we bought from Bill Buckle.

My fa­ther helped mod­ify the Corolla; it ended up with a bit of a hy­brid rear end – we tted a Mor­ris Mi­nor diff cen­tre, so we could run a lim­ited slip diff. We put disc brakes on the front with Minilite wheels, but the gear­box was stan­dard.

It wasn’t that highly modi ed but it had over 100 horse­power, which wasn’t bad for an 1100cc en­gine. It also ap­par­ently was of­fi­cially the fastest Corolla in the world at the time. It did 127mph.

AMI was the Toy­ota dis­trib­u­tor, but they also had the Tri­umph and AMC agen­cies. From mem­ory they were also run­ning Tri­umphs at Bathurst in some years we were there with the Corol­las.

At one point my fa­ther and I were look­ing at get­ting an AMC Javelin to run as a tour­ing car. We had the Im­proved Pro­duc­tion Corolla and we were think­ing, ‘What’s the next step up?’ What would that be? What did AMI have in its sta­ble, and were they able to give us any sup­port? They had the Javelin, which looked pretty good.

We were talk­ing to AMI about run­ning a Javelin, but they didn’t want to come up with the money. I think run­ning their Corolla team for them was enough, be­cause even though they were ac­tu­ally spon­sor­ing our Im­proved Pro­duc­tion Corolla, just try­ing to get bits out of them for it was dif­fi­cult.

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