New Zealand Classic Car - - Motorsport Flashback -

Baby Bertha

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

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