It’s just on 10 years since Gerry Marshall passed away at the age of 63. The Englishman was the archetypical larger-than-life character whose biography was aptly title thebeer. He had phenomenal car control, and although mostly known as a ‘tip top’ man, he managed to squeeze his massive frame into a front-engined Aston Martin Grand Prix car for Historic events late into his career, and made it talk. Arguably his most famous car was ‘Baby Bertha’.
That car came about because her predecessor had been such a disaster. Linked at that time to Vauxhall, Marshall combined a Ventora (imagine a latter day ‘coke bottle’ Victor) with a Repco F5000 engine — and so was born Big Bertha. That combo wasn’t cutting the mustard, so a smaller starting point came in the form of a Firenza — in went the Repco and, voila, Baby Bertha. With the superb skills of Marshall chauffeuring, it was close to unbeatable in British modified saloon car racing in the mid ’70s, and it was a delight to see ‘ her’ in person at Phillip Island — despite originality having been compromised slightly as the Repco had been replaced by a Chevrolet mill.
On the Monday following the Phillip Island weekend, we drove back to Melbourne Airport on a route that took us past the Grand Prix track. In fact I could see the stand I watched from last year. The three of us aboard wondered aloud if we were perhaps a little hasty when we made our bookings — would we regret not staying on for the Grand Prix? And then I watched the turgid affair that was round one of the 2015 World Championship, and I was delighted that I’d sidestepped