The Great Chase

Australian Muscle Car - - Mail -

Of the 12 GT-HO Phase IIIs de­liv­ered new to own­ers by Wright Ford Mo­tors, we’re con dent that the Yel­low Glow ex­am­ple sold to Kings­ley Hib­bard was the only one picked up from the deal­er­ship on the Fri­day of a race week­end and driven in­ter­state to race in a round of 1971 Man­u­fac­turer’s Cham­pi­onship.

That’s ex­actly what Hib­bard did. We know this be­cause the reg­is­tra­tion sticker still dis­played on the car to­day is dated Septem­ber 10, 1971. With the Sandown 250 sched­uled to be­gin at 1.55pm on Sun­day, Septem­ber 12, there was no time to lose in get­ting the brand new car to Mel­bourne for its race de­but two days later. What hap­pened next is an in­di­ca­tion of both Hib­bard’s haste and per­son­al­ity. And be­come the stuff of leg­end.

Late on that Fri­day evening – the car’s de­liv­ery day – the brand new GT-HO was trav­el­ling south at ‘warp­speed’ on the Hume High­way in re­gional Vic­to­ria when it drew the at­ten­tion of po­lice about 50 kilo­me­tres north of Mel­bourne’s out­skirts.

The po­lice car gave chase but was un­able to keep up with the Phase III, which was trav­el­ling at an es­ti­mated 140mph (225km/h). At that speed it would not have taken long to reach the Syd­ney Road at Camp­bell eld, where Hib­bard found po­lice wait­ing for him.

Hib­bard, with a rep­u­ta­tion for talk­ing as fast as he drove, must have man­aged to side­step any im­me­di­ate re­pur­cus­sions, as he was still able to con­test the Sandown 250 on Sun­day.

None­the­less, the then 33-year-old was thrown the book when he ap­peared in court three weeks later in Kil­more, Vic­to­ria: he was sus­pended from driv­ing for six months and ned $150. He pleaded not guilty to a num­ber of charges in­clud­ing hav­ing driven at an ex­ces­sive speed through in­ter­sec­tions, hav­ing ex­ceeded 45mph through Wal­lan and hav­ing driven dan­ger­ously.

Syd­ney’s Daily Tele­graph re­ported the fol­low­ing in its Oc­to­ber 6, 1971 edi­tion:

“First Con­sta­ble Colin Pavey said he fol­lowed Hib­bard from Pretty Sally Hill on the Hume High­way on Septem­ber 10. Ac­cord­ing to his speedome­ter (the po­lice car) was do­ing 135mph (217km/h). Con­sta­ble Pacey said he ra­dioed ahead for help and an­other pa­trol car in­ter­cepted Hib­bard. He said when he asked Hib­bard why he was trav­el­ling so fast, Hib­bard said he was ‘free­ing’ the mo­tor be­cause he was rac­ing at Sandown the fol­low­ing Sun­day.

“Hib­bard said in Court he won the Bathurst 500 in 1962 [ ED: This is not quite right. He won the sedan class in the event’s fore­run­ner, the 6 Hour Clas­sic]. The mag­is­trate, Mr. K. Burgess also ned Hib­bard $150. Au­thor­i­ties said later the States had a re­cip­ro­cal agree­ment on the sus­pen­sion of li­cences. If a li­cence was can­celled in one State, the driver could not drive any­where else in Aus­tralia dur­ing the sus­pen­sion.”

Mean­time, the Can­berra Times re­ported that Hib­bard told the court “his car was es­pe­cially built for high-speed rac­ing and was equipped with a mul­ti­tude of safety fea­tures.”

Be­fore we pro­ceed any fur­ther, it’s im­por­tant to note that ev­ery­thing out­lined above about this in­ci­dent is fact. How­ever, it’s widely con­sid­ered there is more to the story, es­pe­cially the man­ner in which our so-called Great Chase ended.

While AMC was re­search­ing this story we were told by more than one source that Hib­bard, when still alive, had out­lined fur­ther de­tails of this episode to them. Firstly, he said that po­lice

had been aware of his swift progress south much ear­lier in the trip, when still in NSW, and that he car­ried on obliv­i­ous to any trou­ble that was brew­ing. This, of course, was a time of der­e­stricted speed lim­its out­side built-up ar­eas, when po­lice tol­er­ated speeds not con­sid­ered to be ex­ces­sive or dan­ger­ous to pre­vail­ing road con­di­tions. It was in this con­text that Hib­bard said he was sur­prised to nd a po­lice road block on the Syd­ney Road (Hume High­way) at Camp­bell eld and told our sources that he pulled over and stopped, think­ing there was an ac­ci­dent ahead. He said he was then sur­prised to learn that he was the rea­son for the road block. The fact he was al­lowed to race that week­end at Sandown adds weight to this ac­count.

Far less fea­si­ble is an al­ter­na­tive ac­count with a Hol­ly­wood-style end­ing that is sim­ply too good not to re­lay here. This has Hib­bard try­ing to evade po­lice by en­ter­ing the grounds or car park of Ford’s Broad­mead­ows fa­cil­ity, hop­ing his brand new Fal­con would ‘blend into the crowd’.

Sounds fan­ci­fully, but makes for a great story. If you can shed any light on how Hib­bard’s trip to Mel­bourne ended, we’d love to hear from you at am­ced­i­to­rial@chevron.com.au

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