Vale Bob Jane

Australian Muscle Car - - Contents -

Bob Jane was a tow­er­ing gure in the his­tory of Aus­tralian mo­tor­sport.

Bob Jane died on Septem­ber 28, 2018, af­ter a lengthy bat­tle with prostate cancer. He was 88.

Bob Jane’s record as a driver is sur­passed only by a hand­ful of fel­low greats. Yet that is but one as­pect of Jane’s multi-faceted con­tri­bu­tion to and achieve­ments in Aus­tralian mo­tor­sport. He was a giant of the sport – as a driver, a pa­tron, as a cir­cuit owner and a pro­moter.

As a driver, Bob Jane was a four-time Great Race win­ner. He won the 1961 Arm­strong 500 along­side Harry Firth in a Mercedes, the pair back­ing up the fol­low­ing year in a Falcon – the rst Great Race win for the fa­mous Ford name­plate. Firth and Jane tri­umphed again in ‘63 in the rst Bathurst 500, this time in a Cortina GT, and Jane got the job done again in ’64 in a Cortina with Ge­orge Reynolds as co-driver. More than 50 years on Jane re­mains the only driver to have won the Great Race four times in suc­ces­sion.

He was also a four-time Aus­tralian Tour­ing Car Cham­pion – in ’62 and ’63 in Firth-fet­tled Jaguar MkIIs and later in the fa­mous ZL1 Ca­maro in 1970 and ’71. With the Ca­maro, Jane has the un­usual distinc­tion of win­ning con­sec­u­tive ATCCs in the same car, but pow­ered by com­pletely dif­fer­ent en­gines. In 1970 he won us­ing the ZL1’s orig­i­nal al­loy 427ci V8 but had to swap it for a cast-iron 350ci for 1971 un­der a change of CAMS rules that were never logically ex­plained at the time (lead­ing to sus­pi­cions it was de­signed speci cally with nob­bling the big Chev in mind).

Jane re­turned with the Ca­maro the fol­low­ing year de­tuned to the then-new Group C rules, only for his win in the Calder ATCC round to be scrubbed by CAMS on the ba­sis that the Ca­maro did not meet the min­i­mum lo­cal sales num­ber (in any case, it wasn’t even in GM-H’s model lineup).

Th­ese were nei­ther the rst nor the last con­fronta­tions Jane would have with the con­trol­ling body of the sport.

As a cir­cuit owner and pro­moter, Jane’s runins with CAMS are leg­endary. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s he was at log­ger­heads with CAMS over is­sues such as to­bacco spon­sor­ship (Jane had ac­cepted spon­sor­ship from the Vic­to­rian gov­ern­ment’s anti-to­bacco pro­gramme, putting his Calder and Ade­laide In­ter­na­tional Race­ways at odds with the pro-to­bacco CAMS – as a con­se­quence nei­ther venue was granted CAMS cham­pi­onship events for some years) and, more crit­i­cally, pub­lic li­a­bil­ity in­sur­ance.

On the latter, Jane was ve­he­mently op­posed to what he saw as an un­healthy mo­nop­oly en­joyed by the con­trol­ling body. Jane’s view was that he and the other cir­cuit own­ers should be free to ne­go­ti­ate their own in­sur­ance deals – and po­ten­tially at a cheaper rate than the one CAMS com­pul­so­rily se­cured on their be­half. Jane saw the CAMS’ way of do­ing things as amount­ing to a re­straint of trade.

It ended in court, and with Jane mov­ing to es­tab­lish his own mo­tor­sport sanc­tion­ing body in op­po­si­tion to CAMS. The later evo­lu­tion of this body, the Aus­tralian Auto Sport Al­liance

(AASA), con­tin­ues to­day as an ef­fec­tive al­ter­na­tive to CAMS.

In busi­ness Jane’s style was not un­like the way he con­ducted him­self on the track: tough, pug­na­cious, but also smart. Over the jour­ney he col­lected his share of de­voted friends as well as bit­ter en­e­mies. His on­go­ing feud with Allan Mof­fat is leg­endary, and one which of­ten spilled over on the track (and some­times the courts). Mo­tor rac­ing by na­ture is sport that can foster in­tense ri­val­ries and even outright con­tempt, but Aus­tralian mo­tor sport has prob­a­bly not seen any­thing like the Jane/Mof­fat en­mity be­fore or since.

In terms of Jane’s on-track ca­reer, he is prob­a­bly equally fa­mous for the ex­cit­ing cars his race team put to­gether. Beasts such as the be­winged LC To­rana XU-1 with For­mula 1-style Repco-Brab­ham V8 power, the HQ Monaro GTS 350 that started out as an Im­proved Pro­duc­tion re­place­ment for the Ca­maro but went on to en­joy huge suc­cess as a Sports Sedan, and the Chev Monza that re­placed the Monaro.

As a pa­tron of the sport, Jane was generous to say the least. By the early ‘70s his car deal­er­ship and tyre re­tail­ing busi­nesses were boom­ing, but in trade­mark Jane fash­ion he wasn’t afraid to in­vest the pro ts in the sport he loved.

Jane was a canny busi­ness­man but there’s no doubt that his in­volve­ment in the sport as a spon­sor was in uenced as much by the heart as the head.

He was in­stru­men­tal in John Har­vey’s suc­cess­ful tran­si­tion from speedway cham­pion to road rac­ing star. Har­vey drove a suc­ces­sion of Jane’s cars for Jane’s team: the Bowin P8 Chev For­mula 5000 and McLaren M6 sports car in ad­di­tion to the To­rana Repco, the Im­proved Pro­duc­tion Monaro and the var­i­ous Jane Se­ries Pro­duc­tion Monaros and To­ranas. But Har­vey was far from the only driver to bene t from Jane’s guid­ance and sup­port. Bob Jane T-Marts over many years was a proli c spon­sor of a range of driv­ers – and even events, with the com­pany tak­ing nam­ing rights spon­sor­ship of the Bathurst 1000 from 2002 to ’05.

When a bold plan was hatched to eld an Aus­tralian-en­tered Porsche 956 in the ’84 Le Mans 24 Hours for Peter Brock and Larry Perkins, it was Jane who com­mit­ted to the project as the prin­ci­pal spon­sor.

The im­por­tant role Jane played in es­tab­lish­ing an Aus­tralian For­mula 1 Grand Prix is one that isn’t al­ways ac­knowl­edged. But the fact is that the not-in­con­sid­er­able in­vest­ment he made in bring­ing in cur­rent F1 stars to race in the Aus­tralian Grand Prix held at the Jane-owned Calder cir­cuit in Mel­bourne from 1980 to ’84 had the ef­fect of en­er­gis­ing our hopes of se­cur­ing an F1 race. The Jane-funded Calder AGPs demon­strated what was pos­si­ble – and the South Aus­tralian La­bor ad­min­is­tra­tion was only too happy to pro­vide the gov­ern­ment as­sis­tance re­quired to se­cure such an event.

Calder never got to host an F1 grand prix. But it did feature on the in­ter­na­tional stage in other ways. Jane had long dreamed of bring­ing NASCAR rac­ing down un­der, and in the late ’80s the dream was re­alised with the con­struc­tion of the 1.8km Thun­der­dome com­plex ad­ja­cent to the Calder road course. It was the rst banked oval su­per­speed­way built in the south­ern hemi­sphere, and in 1988 it hosted the rst NASCAR event to be held out­side of North Amer­ica.

Into the early ‘90s NASCAR rac­ing at the Thun­der­dome (which in­cluded the home-grown Com­modore-vs-Falcon AUSCAR sec­ond di­vi­sion) boomed.

It was not to last, how­ever; by the late ‘90s the huge crowds that had packed the venue for the early years were lit­er­ally a thing of the past. Stock car rac­ing was last held on the Thun­der­dome in the early 2000s.

Sadly, just as the Thun­der­dome has laid more or less dor­mant for the best part of the last 20 years, so too did Jane’s per­sonal and busi­ness life un­ravel in his later years.

In re­cent times there had been a bit­ter bat­tle for con­trol of Jane’s busi­nesses with son Rod­ney, who even­tu­ally emerged in con­trol of the Bob Jane T-Marts op­er­a­tion – which to this day car­ries his fa­ther’s iconic im­age and name.

Bob Jane de­clared bank­ruptcy two years ago, not long af­ter an­other le­gal dis­pute with Rod­ney, this time over Bob’s at­tempts to es­tab­lish a ri­val tyre busi­ness un­der his own name.

Jane died a some­what di­min­ished gure but his mo­tor­sport le­gacy re­mains as huge and as im­por­tant as ever. It is hard to think of any one per­son that has made any­thing ap­proach­ing the con­tri­bu­tion to the sport Bob Jane has made – and that’s over and above all those race and cham­pi­onship wins.

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